Asad Qureshi, co producer with Abdullah Kadwani at 7th Sky Entertainment, talks to Instep about their recipe for success, Which includes bagging 16 nominations for GEO TV at the upcoming Lux Style Awards.
Television is undoubtedly Pakistan’s number one source of entertainment. Be it riveting drama serials, political commentary or talk shows, one thing is for sure: the relationship Pakistan has with TV is not cooling down anytime soon. The audience of today is smarter than ever, and it is also exposed to a wider choice in long-form content. So while making quality television is an absolute art, it is a business too.
All year round, we witness different television channels competing against each other to provide intriguing and unique content to viewers. All channels are in a race to achieve the top slots on the ratings chart. So, it won’t be wrong to say that TRPs (Television Rating Point) determine whether a drama series or soap is popular amongst the masses or not. Moreover, most of the content curated for TV is an amalgamation of relatable, engaging plotlines, ensemble casts and popular production houses. In fact, when it comes to award ceremonies, ratings also play an important part in gauging the popularity of TV plays. However, this in no way means that the content and cast isn’t taken into account.
Pakistani dramas, whether they air on prime time, or other slots, have evolved over the last decade in terms of realism and writing. But in order to depict the reality of our society, most Pakistani drama serials show a regressive storyline where there is usually a helpless heroin with shrewd men – and more often than not, women - controlling her life. This approach seems a far, and sorry, cry from classics like Tanhaiyan, Ankahi, Dhoop Kinarey etc., which had far more progressive storylines and empowered female protagonists.
Recently, the nominations for the 20th edition of Lux Style Awards 2021 were announced in which Geo Entertainment has bagged a total of 25 nods in different TV categories. Dramas such as Deewangi, Muqaddar, Raaz-e-Ulftat, Fitrat, Alif and others have been nominated for this year’s awards. It is quite interesting to see that out of the 25 serials produced by Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi, 7th Sky Entertainment have received 16 nods. Now that is quite a number with which 7th Sky is setting a benchmark with their intriguing content.
Instep caught up with Asad Qureshi for some insight about his and Abdullah Kadwani’s work ethic as a team, the secret to the success of 7th Sky Entertainment and why more experimental stories are not being introduced to our television screens.
Both Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi are firm believers in the ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ saying, and credit the company’s successes to the entire 7th Sky team.
A TV serial is more than just trying to work with the most popular actors and aiming for higher ratings, Asad says, in conversation with Instep. According to the producer, who’s also speaking on behalf of Abdullah Kadwani (who is on a hard-earned family vacation) when conceiving a concept, they make sure that they are not only engaged with the director but also involved in building the structure of the script with the writer.
“When other production companies were investing in directors, we were actually investing in writers,” says Asad.
“We take pride in our team of diverse people who are involved in the entire process, including Abdullah Kadwani and me. We exchange ideas with each other and then share them with the writer after thorough discussion. I believe that when innovative minds sit together, creative juices flow in a better manner and the result is exciting and engaging as well.”
The success of any television play is to discuss the progression of the story at every step of the way and that is exactly what the producer duo follows before putting content out there. The main aim for any production house or creative team is to cater to the audience and keep them glued to their TV screens. Both Asad and Abdullah Kadwani ensure that when executing a project they are involved in developing a character’s personality and that the writer is present as well.
“Every disagreement is openly discussed,” Asad stresses. “My opinion might differ from Abdullah bhai’s or the writer’s and director’s, and the same goes for them too. There is no ego involved and whatever is better for the project is what is finalized. I think our extensive pre-production process is our X factor and hence Geo dramas are leading the top 15 slots on a week-to-week basis.”
It is no secret that plays with typical storylines garner higher ratings and depicting misery and helplessness of a woman also aids in achieving those numbers. Asad is of the opinion that there are certain drama serials where they incorporate women empowerment and other progressive roles, but it is always the misery that is highlighted.
“What people need to understand is that a drama has a journey that spans over 26 or 30 episodes - and in case of soaps more than 70 episodes – and in that we need to show a character’s development. At the end of the day, we try to portray good versus bad and by the end of the project we try our best to show that good takes precedence over bad/evil. We are very careful about the content because we both have daughters and that changes our perspective. I want to educate my daughter that the fight is between good and bad,” asserts Asad.
While Asad Qureshi and Abdullah Kadwani seem to have their priorities figured out, we wonder if they are aware of the impact the quality of content creates.
“Yes, of course!” explains Asad. “We are not only creating quality content but we are educating the masses, and spreading awareness. Our journey of generating an idea starts with the objective. Whenever we are discussing the plot with the writer, we always focus on what we are trying to tell the audience. For instance, in Makafaat we tried to show that God will punish you for your bad deeds in this world.”
We somewhat agree with Asad Qureshi’s views as they also spin spirituality into their dramas every now and then. Case in point is the mega hit series Khuda Aur Mohabbat 3, which has broken all previous records of viewership and has topped the ratings since it went on air.
The intense love saga’s popularity can be credited to its spiritual theme, and of course Iqra Aziz and Feroze Khan’s onscreen chemistry. Even in their ongoing soap Rang Mahal, the entire progression of Mahapara’s character is charted very intelligently, emphasizing on the empowerment of women.
“Abdullah bhai and I are working on the kind content where you will see tracks where young girls take charge of their lives and move ahead of their bitter past. That is the kind of empowerment we are focusing on and trying to advocate. And fortunately, we are seeing changes, in fact, conversation is happening. You can see that momentum building, that traction happening,” shares Asad.
Coming back to the nominations that Geo TV serials have gotten, Asad Qureshi believes that the masses enjoy the content curated for television and bagging these LSA nominations is appreciation of what 7th Sky has achieved.
“Having said that, we appreciate everyone’s content, after all it is our industry, and when our industry will grow only then can we grow as well,” says Asad.
“We have been making dramas for a long time now and the nominations are proof that we are doing something good, making content that resonates with the audience. Both Abdullah bhai and I make our projects with utmost conviction and of course it would be amazing if we win. But as they say, may the best man win.”
A big percentage of Pakistan’s population is in the age bracket of 15 to 30 years and catering to the younger lot and engaging them is a challenge for the producers. With so many digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon that have some amazing storylines, youngsters are usually engrossed in the kind of content these platforms are providing.
Asad says, “They are even curating content themselves and there is a huge probability that they might deviate from our content. So both Abdullah bhai and I are aggressively exploring that and hopefully it will be evident in our upcoming plays.”
On a parting note, Asad Qureshi shares, “Our dramas are still in the embryonic stage; we are experimenting and learning. We are exploring new avenues so that people start talking about it. Of course, we will make mistakes – we still have a long way to go. Nobody has the perfect formula, so you have to keep your eyes, ears and minds open as well as be open to criticism. Some people will like or dislike what you are putting out there, but that is the journey you have to follow and take ownership of whatever you’ve made. God has been kind to us and therefore Geo Entertainment is on number one – across the board – in every slot.”
7th Sky Entertainment dramas picked up 16 nominations this year!
Best TV Serial
Raaz e Ulfat
Best TV Director
Siraj ul Haq for Raaz e Ulfat
Zeeshan Ahmed for Deewangi
Best TV writer
Maha Malik for Raaz e Ulfat
Best Female Actor – Viewer’s Choice
Ayeza Khan for Meherposh
Hiba Bukhari for Deewangi
Suboor Ali for Fitrat
Yumna Zaidi for Raaz e Ulfat
Best Male Actor – Critics
Faysal Quraishi for Muqaddar
Best Male Actor – Viewer’s Choice
Danish Taimoor for Deewangi
Faysal Quraishi for Muqaddar
Imran Ashraf for Kahin Deep Jalay
Best Emerging Talent in TV
Nazish Jahangir for Kahin Deep Jalay
Best Original Soundtrack
O Zaalim by Sahir Ali Bagga and Aima Baig for Fitrat
Yehi Tou Raaz e Ulfat hai by Aima Baig and Shani Arshad for Raaz e Ulfat