It is ironic that in a city like Karachi, which welcomes people of various ethnicities, casts and creed with open arms, there is a divide of sorts. Everyone doesn’t treat their fellow citizens equally and they hold biases on the basis of one’s social, cultural and religious backgrounds.
However, every now and then, efforts are made to reduce these differences and bring people together on some level that is possible. And what could be a better way to highlight such concerns and provide some food for thought then through media?
Television, films and other mass mediums have a bigger reach and impact, particularly in the age of social media, where online content has a wider audience than anything else. One recent effort in this direction is a web series, called Hum Aapas Mein that was screened at multiple spaces across Karachi.
Written and directed by Sabeeh Ahmad, Hum Aapas Mein was screened at (minimum) five different locations in Karachi in the last two weeks. Starting from Ibrahim Hyderi, the series was made accessible to the people of Lyari, Mauripur and Sachal Goth in the following days/weeks while it is scheduled to screen in Baldia Town, Sakhi Hassan and other locations too.
Instep managed to make it to the first community screening (earlier this month) that took place at Chataai School in Ibrahim Hyderi on October 5. Hum Aapas Mein revolves around the theme of “building valuable bonds between communities” and “establishing peace and harmony together”.
Produced by Mehrdar Art and Production, it is an eight-episode series that follows the lives of families living in a neighbourhood and highlights “how we are all different in a good way”.
At first, they think they are very different because of religion, cast and colour but later – as they get to know more about each other – they realize they are all the same.
At the screening, people residing in Ibrahim Hyderi, mostly children and men came together for this rare experience and thoroughly enjoyed it. They shared their views on the series and the subject it dealt with post the screening. Some of them also pointed out how these stereotypes exist in society and how they have been a victim to it.
Speaking to Instep about the target audience post the screening, Fahim Shad, CEO at Mehrdar Art and Production, shared, “The web series is targeted at audiences of all ages and genders because Karachi, being the sixth most populous metropolis in the world, plays host to millions of residents. These residents are divided along ethnic, sectarian and cultural lines, and often refuse to interact with people belonging to different backgrounds in their neighborhoods. This lack of cohesion is used by extremist groups to spread negative information about others, which results in further fragmentation of society. The extremist groups exploit these divides to generate a support base for themselves.”
He continued, “To reduce community members’ vulnerability to extremist groups’ narrative of division and segmentation, it is essential to make them aware of why it is in their
benefit to live in harmony with their neighbours belonging to diverse backgrounds.
So we produced humour-based content which has been a hit over decades in this region and also because, it works for viewers who aren’t very literate but can still relate.”
When asked about the places they chose to screen the series, Fahim responded that they didn’t intend to take Hum Aapas Mein to suburban areas but after some ground research, they learned that there a few areas in Karachi that are isolated to date. They realized the need for the series to be shown there.
“We then located some of these key venues for screenings,” he told Instep, adding, “Audiences in such vicinities have loved the series overall; even religious leaders came forward to appreciate us. This has been a great achievement given how unwelcoming these closed communities tend to be. Community members showed tolerance towards each other. Our community stakeholders and religious leaders, who were in the audience, believe that if we actively decide to challenge our own judgments and insecurities, it can have a positive influence and will lead to happiness in different communities around us.”
Fahim also informed that they plan to release Hum Aapas Mein online and also show at some mainstream venues such as T2F, Karachi Arts Council and multiple universities that have completely different audiences than the ones screened to thus far.