Sarmad Sultan Khoosat is a script-writer, director and actor who became popular in the 1990s with the creation of his PTV show, Shashlick. But it was Humsafar that took his success to greater heights. The show was an overnight success and Sarmad’s direction had a huge part to play in it.
7:55 Comment From Rahim. The drama explores clichéd mills and boons themes, how it worked for mass audiences and did you expect it to?
7:56 Sarmad Khoosat. I agree that it is very mills and boons but probably that’s what the audiences wanted, (some good melodrama and I didn’t expect this massive a response at all.
7:57 Comment From Aleesa. Why did you feel the need to re-shoot the last episode?
7:58 Sarmad Khoosat. Just the last scene, we needed more romance and RAIN.
7:58 Comment From fazeelat. Why are mother-in-laws always made out to be such tyrants?
8:00 Sarmad Khoosat. I’ll blame that on the novelist/screenwriter…..and that comes with the genre…..melodrama banks on cliches and very little grey areas.
8:01 Comment From Tooba Akhtar. Dramas like Tanhaaiyan, Dhoop Kinare, Unkahi, the Urdu drama era classics, were all super hits primarily because of the quality of scripts and acting. In this day and age, do you think that the measuring scale for quality TV dramas has changed now that so many other aspects play a role in promoting a drama’s popularity?
8:06 Sarmad Khoosat. I believe the script is always the winner and performances are based on the ‘book’ even if they diverge a bit or are re-interpreted. Humsafar does belong in the same sensibility as it is not too high on the production values as such in technical terms. Direction wise it uses a lot of close ups which keeps every other element of the frame (screen) in the background, the emphasis being on the actors and dialogues or the expressions. When it comes to promotion, Humsafar was very under-promoted other than promos or trailers on TV. We went on air with zero or bare minimum print promotion.
8:06 Comment From SZ. What were some of your thoughts as you converted a desi urdu novel to appeal to a wider cosmopolitan sensibility?
8:08 Sarmad Khoosat. I swear I never thought about that. I never thought I would make it appealing to the urbans or desis in particular…..but I think that has to do more with the kind of cast. All ‘ungraizee medium’ (brilliant) actors.
8:08 Sarmad Khoosat. And to some extent the aesthetic control too
8:08 Comment From kohari B. I heard part of the serial was filmed in Mirpur Khas – is this true? I’m from Mirpur Khas and I’ve never seen a house like that there!
8:09 Sarmad Khoosat. Yes that’s true. It’s inside a sugar mill…..like a farm / summer house That’s how the production was designed.
8:09 Comment From arisha g. If you had the liberty to make a drastic change to any aspect of the novel’s interpretation, what would you have taken out or shown differently?
8:11 Sarmad Khoosat. I would have wanted more logic or elaboration to the ‘accusation’ scene which is the mid-climax and only if I had known that the romantic scenes would turn out so well and received with such generosity by the audience, I would have had more of those
8:12 Comment From SZ. Does the success of Humsafar mean that we’ve lost you to the biwi/shohar type stories? No more Kalmoohi type dramas from you?
8:16 Sarmad Khoosat. Not at all. I’m glad someone actually watched Kalmoohi because apparently it got lost somewhere.PTVis not as widely watched by the urban audience. I believe in story telling and I wont like telling the same story (ies) over and over again, but I guess I have done a lot of psychological and macabre stuff so I would want to explore softer themes, more romance maybe and something to do with love, particularly about how one can fall in love again with the same person or how to strengthen the bond
8:16 Comment From Guest. A more general question about our dramas on air these days, in order to show a woman being strong (the latest trend) why does the man have to be so weak (Ashar cried buckets!) why can we not have both protagonists on equal footing?
8:19 Sarmad Khoosat. I completely agree with that. I think our writers need to write stronger male characters, some nice male-centric stories too. I guess since we have a lot of women writers nowadays hence they focus more on the female characters (forgive my sexist statement please) but that’s true for most of the scripts I’ve come across lately.
8:19 Comment From Hamza Qaiser. I appreciate the quality our TV dramas have achieved over the years but don’t you think we are stuck with one kind of genre and have stopped evolving? Have you considered making good comedies or sci-fi thrillers for primetime in Pakistan?
8:24 Sarmad Khoosat. I guess TV has just regained a larger audience and as we explore more audience, which is not just the housewives as per common consensus, more genres would be explored, I directed a murder mystery (produced by Mehreen Jabbar) in 2008 but it never clicked. But I guess now we can experiment a bit and if we develop an audience for other genres, you’ll see more variety, maybe not in the primetime slot though. The channels need to take some risks with ratings for that so they need to be braver!
8:24 Comment From SRA CA. People from around the globe were attracted to Humsafar. Even The Toronto Star did a report on this drama. Besides the direction, acting, and script to what extent did social media play a role in the success of this production?
8:26 Sarmad Khoosat. A huge role I must say. I think half of the hype we owe to Facebook
8:26 Comment From SZ. When can we expect to see your name on the silver screen — you’re so ready! Particularly after the heavy duty melodrama and Atiqa channeling Bahar Begum (as over the top mother-in-law) from the 70′s Urdu films, Khirad being kicked out, and removing the pin-from-the-bun scenes!!
8:30 Sarmad Khoosat. Very soon. I mean, come on if the masses like it I’ll bring it on. All of us are Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan fans and the songs and the dances. I really want to do a good masala film very soon so fingers crossed. And the pin-from-the-bun made a lot of people go aww and I don’t mind pleasing my audience hopefully with better and innovative cheesy moments
8:30 Comment From Sumera. My question/comment is on the suicide act that Sarah commits. Although it is dramatic but I think this should not have been done this way. It shows and gives a message to all those females who don’t get to marry their loved one that the only option they have is to commit suicide. I think there is a very negative message here for females. There are a lot of alternatives and a lot of options available that could have been show rather than the sad demise of Sarah. Really, suicide should not be encouraged or shown as an option even.
8:35 Sarmad Khoosat. You are absolutely right, but stories are stories. I don’t think that we were preaching it really. People are supposed to learn a lesson instead. I also agree that there could have been other kinds of resolutions or conclusions to her character but that’s what the writer wrote and we sort of stuck to the ‘book’, so it’s just a ‘drama’ and I categorically made note of the suicide scene on every show. It isn’t meant to inspire anyone and I made sure it was shot in all the negative light possible, I tried!
8:35 Comment From Hina. What are your upcoming projects? And when will I be able to see Mahira on TV again. I miss her.
8:37 Sarmad Khoosat. I have just finished filming this serial titled ‘Ashk’ and that would come out soon around end April inshaAllah. It has Fawad in it and there is a project in the pipe line with Mahira too. Other than that I am also going to do a period play soon.
8:37 Comment From Shawn, CA. I haven’t read the novel and was wondering if in the adapted version, Farida’s motive were kept hidden from the audience. Until the incident at Khizr’s apartment, the audience was kept in the dark about Farida’s evil plans. I felt a bit manipulated.
8:39 Sarmad Khoosat. The novelist was herself the screenwriter by the way so any changes to the actual plot/content were her own and frankly when I was told that it’s based on a novel then I made sure that I don’t read the novel because that just creates differences of interpretation and I was safe because Farhat had herself adapted it.
8:39 Comment From SZ. A huge problem these days is the way stereotypes are being easily re-inforced – how conscious are you about your role here?
8:43 Sarmad Khoosat. I’ll be honest, I have tried more gritty and realistic and not very stereotypical kind of scripts too. Simultaneous to Humsafar’s telecast term I had another serial titled ‘Jalpari’ being telecast on Geo. It didn’t do as well, not that I’m comparing content essentially but prime time is focused more on what sells with the audience. I do want to integrate agendas and causes but for that I guess I’ll just have to wait until I find the time to be involved in the script writing process from a much earlier phase.
8:44 Comment From Hamza Qaiser. Just wondering, who’s idea was to pair up Mahira with Fawad? I believe they are both very marketable faces, especially when put together.
8:44 Sarmad Khoosat. Momina Duraid’s!
8:44 Comment From Adil. While the serial was in middle and got very popular, did you guys made any changes to sustain that popularity or thinking or worried that it would remain popular?
8:49 Sarmad Khoosat. No changes were made at all. We had shot all of it around September last year and some deleted scenes were shot later which back then I thought were not needed for the narrative flow but they seemed important on the editing table and those too were very few. We re-shot the last scene just to enhance the romance and add texture with rain only
8:49 Comment From SZ. Given the TRP system, and the way producers follow them, don’t you think a large cross-section of the audience (the thinking audience – sorry to be so un-pc here, but yes, demographics other than housewives also watch Pakistani TV) is being left behind?
8:54 Sarmad Khoosat. Absolutely yes, but that’s the inherent flaw / dilemma with things that target mass consumption. They need to diversify of course, this is my first commercial success my intro to theTRPsystem. I have told all sorts of odd stories but they target the unfortunate (not catered to widely) niche only. I did a series titled ‘Aao Kahaani Buntay Hain’ which was directed by my sister, Kanwal Khoosat, and honestly I had such difficulties selling it to any channel and everyone, hands up, rejected it after saying it’s great, creative and all those nice things but ‘very difficult or impossible’ to market you shall check it out on youtube please.
8:54 Comment From Shawn, CA. How long did it take to shoot the confrontation scene of Ashar with his mother in last episode. I have seen that confrontation scene like million times on YouTube and can’t get over how superbly Ashar has delivered his dialogues.
8:56 Sarmad Khoosat. It took a couple of hours I guess about three to four and we had been working non-stop for at least 30 hrs when we eventually got down to shooting that one. My actors were sleepless and drained…..true fighters
9:01 Comment From zka. Was your reaction to the “whole finished package” any different from when you started? Did you think it would appeal to both the females and males, and that too of all ages?
9:06 Sarmad Khoosat. I am very happy and pleasantly surprised. Humsafar was quite a journey that way. A lot of things were completely unexpected. It stayed very organic till the post-production phase. It kind of kept growing on its own, the romantic scenes in particular turned out to be much nicer and better in the finished package:) and I guess its biggest achievement is getting the male audience and the ‘Yo’ kids back to desi television. I still wonder how though!
9:07 Comment From Erum. From a self-confessed Humsafarite as not a day has gone by since the day the drama has ended that I have not seen favorite scenes over and over again or found new depth in ones I’d missed before and its that dynamic interaction between the layers you find in the story and some insight into yourself that all good drama induces us to do so a very grateful thank you for putting together something so fundamentally profound.
9:10 Sarmad Khoosat. I am thoroughly overwhelmed, humbled and obliged by this massive and kind appreciation. I guess Humsafar now is more about the fans of Humsafar rather than the makers of it, jaaiye aap kay havalay kiya much love and gratitude.