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Spotlight: Marina Khan

When ARY Digital offered her to do the morning show, she was reluctant to work on screen and initially refused. “I did not want to be on the screen. I love direction and will continue to direct. When you are on screen, you need good strong people to work behind you as directors and producers and not many are left now.”

Since her husband had just left MTV and was also available, they decided that if he would take up production, Marina could be the anchor. “I am comfortable with someone sound on the production side and it certainly was a good opportunity to address a lot of issues.”

For the morning show, Marina’s gets up everyday at five. “I am not a very early riser but neither am I an evening person. With my Air Force background, we had to be up by eight in the morning. When I am directing, I like to tell my actors that we start no later than 10-10:30am.”

Marina Mornings is beamed in Canada, Africa, South Africa, US and wherever there is a Pakistani footprint. Realising that Pakistan has its flaws and there is enough bad publicity around, she wanted to focus on the positive side of things. “I do not like to portray any negativity, but only to be able to seek out the good happening in this country.”

Before the show content was finalised, nutritionists, psychiatrists and a GP were consulted. The health, fitness and weight loss programme was an instant hit with the viewers. Marina’s target is the housewife, who she wants to get maximum value from the show.

Masses may love gimmicks, but she refuses to include anything in her content if she doesn’t support it. “It is a question of putting the right kind of information across. People love Nadia’s show because the content is what people want. It is easy to cater to that mindset but I can’t be dishonest to myself. I don’t support najoomis and horoscopes.

I don’t believe that drinking green tea can make me happy for the rest of my life. If Imran Khan was on the show, I would not discuss politics, instead I would talk about him being a father. A lady who claims to have a cure for cancer and madness wants to be on the show but I don’t subscribe to wonder miracles. Grooming sessions are fine but not if they are frivolous, and certainly you can’t possibly build your life around totkas.”

Marina has voiced on the show issues that she feels strongly about. “I might be repetitive, but I love to talk about education and especially with people like Imrana Maqsood, Rahat Kazmi, Amra Alam, a writer or an Urdu journalist, I like to discuss why Urdu language is disappearing.”

Marina has projected many real life heroes. “It gives me a real high to see small NGOs and individuals doing a lot of good work in their own capacity. Models, actresses and celebrities get praise and recognition anyway, but it is the unsung heroes people must learn about,” she says.

She talked about a show with Mumtaz Burney, when a baby found wrapped up in a polythene bag on rubbish dump survived miraculously, was treated by the Trust and then put up for adoption in a subsequent show.

Another show was about a quadriplegic who has created a world record by driving a specially made car for a particular distance in a specific time. “These real-life stories make everything worthwhile for me. For me this is front-page news, not the ministers and chief ministers.

The sad thing is that we have very badly chosen heroes. The cricket team needs to be slapped, they need to go underground and the blind cricket team should play instead. Cricket played on the streets is true cricket and played from the heart.”

Marina feels there is an audience out there locally and abroad who respond to her ideology. “Although I didn’t want to be stuck or slotted, but people say that I have captured an educated audience.”Fully supporting Marina’s ideologies, the content of the show focuses on several socio-economic issues. “Whether it is health and fitness guidelines that I am promoting or blasting PIA for losing their high standards, I am usually able to say what I want to on the show and the the viewers are happy to lap it all up.

While PIA was the first airline to show a film on an international flight, now its flights are cancelled and passengers are stuck at the airport for hours without food and water. It’s pure blackmail.”

Guilty of speaking a lot of English on the show, Marina says, “I try to correct myself continually or translate in Urdu immediately.” While talking about programming on Pakistani channels, Marina said, “With Geo and ARY there is an opportunity for people living abroad to see Pakistani content which is good as India has a lot of influence all over the world.

We are doing well in our hard-hitting talk shows and we now know our politicians by face.”But Marina feels that Pakistani standards of programming are nowhere near international ones. “We don’t really know what Bangladeshi or Egyptian television is like although we could be ahead of other countries in our region.

Or commitment and dedication is not what it used to be. People today are in this business for money not for the love of it. It is not about accepting substandard stuff, they don’t know better. In Tanhaiyan and Dhoop Kinaray we were a team. But now everyone sits there complaining.

I need to see the director giving attention to details. I know that my actors get very irritated when I take pains and it irritates me. It is that kind of work which takes time. Imagine if they had to go to Hollywood and sit on a real production where they shoot half-a-scene during the entire length of a day.

But that’s how they work and that is the kind of discipline they follow. Even if you have done your homework, it may not be enough. It easily takes 2-3 hours to set up and you have to give people that much margin.”

The debutante of Shahzad Khalil’s Rashid Minhas of the Nishan-i-Haider series of the mid-80s, the cutesy Sanya of Tanhaiyan, and the somber Dr Zoya of Dhoop Kinaray may have come of age but at some point in her career, the flawless actress disappeared and instead Marina appeared wearing different hats: environmentalist, animal activist, anchor and director.

“I woke up one day and realised that I hated acting. I love to watch good acting and I am a huge fan of people who are good actors. But myself, when I had to do certain things, I always felt foolish. I could never do romance.

Sometimes I really feel like doing something and really letting go but the ‘letting go’ part is very difficult for me. I would love to do romantic comedies. If I died today doing a romantic comedy, I would be happy but there has to be an element of realism in it.”

Being a senior artiste who has had the fortune of working with the crème de la crème of PTV, Marina says, “I want drama to come back. We have totally killed it. I don’t want to see Indian drama on our channels. I have issues with that and I don’t watch them so I can’t comment about them. We had a very strong identity with drama at one time.

They were plays with real issues and real people. When I was growing up I remember that I believed in these characters. Now you can find a lot of plays on so many channels but they don’t hold you. Either it is a copy or there is no individuality at all. Mehreen Jabbar did a series titled Kahaniyaan on Hum TV and Atiqa’s done a series recently, that is what drama and individuality is all about.

We have some brilliant actors but we just want to see glamorous, unrealistic stuff. Every woman looks the same. They are competing to look good, they have layers and layers of make-up, everyone including the maid and the chowkidar wears designer outfits in the play.

I absolutely hate that. We have become a nation of copy cats. Actually we have become that way in everything we do.

We had a lead in drama but we have lost it completely. If one thing is shot, then it is better to focus on unsung heroes who are doing work, which is real-life drama.”

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