Mehreen Jabbar on television, films and creating digital content

February 2, 2020

The director-storyteller shares details on her upcoming projects that include multiple web series and two films while she awaits the right script for television.

Mehreen Jabbar has a knack for storytelling; watching her work onscreen, one can tell what is unique about her projects. There are certain elements that define her craft – it is subtle, realistic and the narrative takes time to develop rather than galloping along without rhyme and rhythm. Some of her recent works include drama serial Dil Kiya Karay and telefilms Dino Ki Dulhaniya and Hum Chale Aaye.

Having directed a fair share for television in 2019, Mehreen has taken a break of sorts from TV and is planning to venture into the digital world with multiple upcoming web series. Instep caught up with the director to learn more about her future projects, including films, which she is presently pitching to potential investors.

“I have been working on a film, set in Pakistan, which Mohammad Ahmed is writing,” Mehreen informed. “Though I can’t share much about it in terms of the story but it is like Ahmed and I going back to our roots. It is a great topic. Ahmed hasn’t written for a while. He and I have always had such a good collaboration for the last 20 years so we decided to do something and get to the original way we used to work. And just do something – a story that we really want to tell in our own style and not be influenced by anything for now. This is how a good product comes out because the minute you start thinking, ‘what’s the current trend,’ ‘what is working and what’s not working,’ then you start getting confused.”

Mehreen, who is excited about the film, shared that it is a dramedy, which is drama and comedy but not comedy for the sake of it. “It is going to be a fun story which has a message as well,” she added. “It is a little unorthodox in terms of subject matter. Ahmed never lets me be too serious; he has written half of it and it will take some time.”

Mehreen Jabbar filming one of her upcoming web series, Ek Jhooti Love Story that features Mohammed Ahmed. The two are also working on a film script.

Storytellers like Mehreen, Mohammad Ahmed, Asim Abbasi, Kamal Khan and Sarmad Sultan Khoosat are persistent to have the creative liberty their craft demands. They are willing to take risks and in no circumstances prefer compromising on quality to serve any interests. Speaking on similar lines, when asked how difficult it gets for content creators to find finances for their work to reach out to a wide audience, Mehreen responded, “It is always difficult.”

“What’s happening to Sarmad right now is just so disheartening that one doesn’t realize – what I am so scared about is – if you let these ‘people’ in to deciding what film should be screened next, they might start scrutinizing dancing and what women wear on the screen, etc. Why would they stop if you have already opened the door for them? It was such a wrong decision; I am so scared for our own industry,” she expressed.

However, despite the sad state of cinema at present, Mehreen is optimistic that multiple films are announced each year; people are still investing in and are passionate about making films.

“This is good and I feel I am very aware of the fact that my film is not going to be a high-budget film. It has to make money for the investors, it has to be planned in a very realistic manner and that I am aware of. I know what kind of a story it is. I hope that there would be people who believe in the story and us,” she continued.

Mehreen also hinted at a second film, set in New York, which is going to be a psychological thriller that she has been dying to make. The treatment is there but she hasn’t started writing it. Set in a Pakistani community of Coney Island, the story has a female protagonist and Mehreen is working with an NY-based writer.

As far as TV is concerned, the director is not too keen to indulge in long, never-ending tales that are stretched to the extent where they stop making sense. According to Mehreen, a serial involves too much time and energy, and unless she really loves the story, she wouldn’t do it. She would do one when she finds the right script as, at this point in her career, she wants to tell stories that she really loves.

However, there are a couple of web series that she has been lately occupied with. One of them is the long-awaited Ek Jhooti Love Story that features Bilal Abbas Khan and Madiha Imam alongside an ensemble cast. It will be out very soon and will be accessible to audiences outside Pakistan; though Mehreen can’t reveal the platform it will release on.

As far as her other two series for the web are concerned, one is set in a motel in the US while the other is set in Karachi.

Reflecting on what excited her to venture into a web series, she noted, “I am very open and excited to do shorter series; web series offer the opportunity to do anywhere from 6 episodes to 15 to 18 depending on the story, as opposed to TV, which is the main draw towards web series. The story dictates the number of episodes rather than channels telling how many episodes they require so one keeps stretching the story. That’s the number one appeal.”

“Pakistan is still new to the web series world; we haven’t learnt yet how to monetize it although it is the future. But it will happen because it is happening all around the world and Pakistan will not be left behind. Someone will make that radical decision where people will have access to streaming platforms more and more and I see that happening soon,” she concluded optimistically.

Hum Chale Aaye's director Mehreen Jabbar talks on television, films and creating digital content