In Conversation with Adeel Husain: Dobara Phir Se.

By Rabia Mughni
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Here we are: FUCHSIA in conversation with Adeel Husain Dobara Phir Se.

Whether in Shukk, Mora Piya, Mera Naseeb or the more recent Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai and Jackson Heights, our Lawrencepur Man – has given Pakistani drama lovers many brilliant performances. FUCHSIA couldn’t get hold of Adeel when his first movie, Ho Mann Jahaan, was released, so we weren’t about to let go of the opportunity this time around with Dobara Phir Se.

From the guest appearance in last year’s blockbuster Bin Roye to the lead role with Mahira Khan in this year’s most talked about Ho Mann Jahaan, and now one of the main characters in Mehreen Jabbar’s Dobara Phir Se all within a span of 12 months – Adeel Husain sure is on a roll.

Enough from us … how about we let him do the talking now?

Jackson Heights and, now Dobara Phir Se … Mehreen Jabbar seems to figure a lot in your work choices lately.

Yes, working with Mehreen is always great. To play a lead role in her second directorial outing was a chance not to be missed. There is a lot of history and trust there. She’s an experienced professional with a calm energy that almost disguises her passion for her work. I was really happy that she wanted me for a story set in New York. When a director you already enjoy working with is out to give her best in a movie, and you get to work in a city you love? It’s a no-brainer, really!

We observe you are selective about your projects, whether on TV, advertising or films … Is this selective-ness deliberate?

I don’t really go out there to ‘be selective’ per se. I love what I do, and I want to be proud of my work in the future. Everyone needs a pay-cheque, but I decided early that I would do my best to not let that rule me. I’ll just do work that I’m excited about being a part of, and hopefully create the best body of work I can create.

We tried to Google it, but unsuccessfully. You’re not giving anything away about Dobara Phir Se…

Nope.

Looking at the recent string of super-duper hit Pakistani films, one wonders whether Pakistani audiences have a very clear preference for a certain type of film, or whether there is a monopoly of sorts in the industry. What do you think?

I don’t know if there is a solid monopoly at the moment.  If one emerges in the near future, it is now possible to make independent content and get it out there. Technological advancement has blurred the lines between a low-budget and a medium-budget film, provided we have some serious talent harnessing the technology. So I’m a believer in the ‘where-there-is-a-will-there-is-a-way’ approach.

The ability to create exciting independent content can rejuvenate competing forces in the industry. I think producers are open to new content, provided it can be made within a budget, and that’s a very positive sign. 

While ticket sales are definitely indicative of the paying audience of a particular film, who’s to say they wouldn’t watch something better for the same money if they had the choice? People who use financial justification in an extremely exaggerated manner are not seeing a bigger opportunity. It’s a fine line, and even though it will be comparatively easier to make films that are in trend, it would be wise for us to simultaneously push the envelope and have some more faith in our audience’s expanding taste.

We would benefit from filmmakers and producers who believe they are brave enough to tackle new material in a way that will be financially viable and rewarding. That will do our content a world of good.

How does THE Adeel Husain keep his chin up reading a negative review after spending so much time and effort on a project?

I don’t worry about reviews and what is said online because one has no control over it. I care about the movie and how it will turn out, and I’m totally receptive to learning from the filmmaking process and the feedback once it’s released. Nowadays there is a broader link between content and its audience. The audience is key, but one can’t let one’s creativity be overly influenced by how something will be received. It is generally accepted that most artists do their worst work when pandering to audience tastes. I think David Bowie said that.

Great strides in life are made when somebody follows through on their instinct and hard work and just wants to make something that they believe in, something you’re going to have fun trying to create.  Once you get caught up in the details of trying to imagine and create exciting new stories, there’s no time for mental gymnastics with externalities.

While we are all excited about the hungama surrounding the revival of the film industry in Pakistan, the films don’t seem to be meeting the audiences’ standards. Is there hope?

There is a lot of hope but it will take effort and time. A lot of people in our industry want to see better movies and want to make better movies. And audiences want to see them improve.

Stories we tell communicate our maturity, our diversity as a culture, and we have done well if you consider the challenges we have faced as a nation, while our artistic sensibilities have evolved simultaneously. Hard work brought our television forward and hard work is enabling films to happen.

Making better films is inevitable provided we handle our talent well, empower them and stand clear from the mistakes of both the distant and recent past. There’s a lot more work to be done and we have to venture into new story territory for sure. Those in the business need to focus on positive and sustained growth, and they need to be brave.   The revival of cinema is here. We would do well to now have a revival of some common sense in order to steer it in the right direction, instead of it being another case study of inhibiting or mismanaging ourselves in ways that are detrimental to our progress.

Why does it seem like Pakistani films aren’t quite hitting the nail on the head; something is always missing. Why?

Lets call it the ‘getting better’ problem. We need more time, better teamwork and we need to be brave regarding the material we produce, as I previously mentioned. We are an exciting nation with a history packed with various artistic influences. I think we have the ability to create and appreciate a multitude of genres. We need more time, effort and support to evolve and more people to push the envelope.

Given that Pakistani films have been going through a ‘getting better’ phase, can the audience expect that DPS is closer to being that perfect movie it has been waiting for? 

I don’t think there is a perfect movie. Instead of desperately waiting for any one film we could do well to build our understanding about why different directors make different films and learn to receive them well.

Constructive criticism is a little more common now than it was a few years ago. All markets have a range of work that they create and it would be foolish for us to look for that one film that represents us perfectly. Perhaps the stories that don’t get made are the things we have not learnt to accept as a part of modern life. It’s also plain to see that we have an abundance of talent in the country that can always benefit from being nurtured effectively. There’s room for everyone.

If you were the director of Ho Mann Jahaan what one thing would you have done differently with it?

It’s not my job to change it. I stand by my directors’ vision once I have agreed to a project. A director is a person who has gotten on that chair to tell a story the way he / she wants to, depending on how much creative control they have. That’s the bottom line. I respect that.

With an actor that has such intelligence to match his good looks, FUCHSIA ended this interview quite convinced that there is indeed hope for the Pakistani film industry.

Official Trailer – Dobara Phir Se.

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About Rabia Mughni

Rabia stays involved in various social causes. Believing in creating equal opportunities for underprivileged kids, she helps The Citizens’ Foundation, Pakistan, to create awareness of the need for providing quality education to children. At the same time, she is also involved with Singapore-based VWO, 4PM's Ramadan on Wheels project by supporting it through the FUCHSIA platform. At FUCHSIA, Rabia oversees the Marketing and Public Relations work. She is also part of the Editing Team in conceptualising articles and monthly issues.