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Spotlight: Muhammad Javaid Fazil

When you are handed his visiting card by Muhammad Javaid Fazil, you will find him eagerly awaiting your reaction, for his card sums up, in a statement, Fazil's professional identity. Below his name is the qualification 'Film turned TV director', and one feels it depicts the wry humour of the man who has come to terms with a career change he had not initially bargained for.

He comes across as just as pragmatic and outspoken a person during the course of the interview. When asked what his reaction was to Aaminah Haq bagging the best female TV actor award at the LSA, Fazil had no qualms in admitting that while he was happy that a member of his team had been awarded (because ultimately the credit goes to the director), he definitely wasn't expecting it.

"I thought Ayesha Khan's performance in Mehndi deserved the award and her role was far more powerful and emotional than Aaminah's. But, as in most awards ceremonies, merit was sacrificed at the altar of favouritism," he pointedly observed.

That's not the only grouse the film and TV director has with the organizers of the awards ceremony.
"This is the only film and TV-related awards ceremony I know of in which there is no category for directors. Last year, for instance, my serial won an award but there was no mention of the director. I'm not speaking just for myself. Over the years I've received nearly 75 awards and four national awards. But it's most discouraging for whoever the director in question may be. Surely, it doesn't cost much to give a couple of extra awards."

Considering that Fazil spent 35 years in the film industry, does he miss being out of it now?
"Sure. I used to say that I was born for films - they were my obsession - and gave them my most glorious years. It does hurt to leave film-making, especially when it gave me my first sweet smell of success. But the environment had become too polluted and the good producers had all left, so there was no way out but to leave. However, I am enjoying this medium, too, even though it has also become commercial. But the work ethics are better; there is more professionalism and the choice of subjects is greater."

Does Fazil feel that if the film industry moved to Karachi, away from the mafia that has been controlling it, there would be some hope of salvation?
"Indeed, 100 per cent. Whatever talent and aesthetics there has been in our industry - Mohammed Ali, Zeba, Shamim Ara, Deeba, Waheed Murad, Nadeem, Jawed Sheikh, Lehri, Ghulam Mohiyuddin, and even from the new generation - has all originated from Karachi and then transferred to Lahore. Also, people have more taste here; there is a better variety of locations and an educated atmosphere. I feel there will be a revolution, and in three or four years the film industry will revive and Karachi will be the new centre."

So, then he still has hope for its revival, in spite of the closure of a number of cinemas, particularly in Karachi?
"Oh yes. Films never die. There are ups and downs everywhere in the world but cinema will thrive. As far as I am concerned, these cinemas deserved to close down. Look at the state of disrepair they were in! They have driven the public away. Admittedly, we have lost some good cinemas, too, but by and large they were in a shambles."

Fazil does accept, though, that it is a vicious circle. If the public does not come to cinemas, the owners cannot maintain their premises. There has to be a decent product for the cinemas to show, and earn enough to maintain their standards. A case in point is the state-of-the art cinema that opened up recently in Karachi, but has had to resort to the screening of illegal Indian DVDs in order to draw the public and survive.

Keeping in mind the hot topic of controversy these days, one wondered what his opinion was vis-a-vis the screening of Indian movies in Pakistan?
"What's left to show? They are already in every home and in every bedroom. People say it will destroy the film industry if Indian films are legalized but I feel that the government will get revenue and cinema owners will earn and reinvest in their halls. Anyway, why do we forget the time when our movies did well in spite of Indian movies being screened here," comes the immediate reply.

Although Fazil has directed a plethora of movies, he refuses to name any one as his absolute favourite.
"It's like asking a parent to name his favourite child. It's just not possible, even if there are some that fare much better than others. Naraz, Aahat and Zidh bombed at the box-office but received critical acclaim, and I am as fond of them as my more successful productions such as Dehleez and Bazar-i-Husn. But, I must admit that I always re-watch my films critically, no matter how well they've done, so I don't make the same mistakes again."

Among the serials Javed Fazil has been working on are Halath and Jaisay Jantey Nahin. About the latter, he says "It is a Karachi-based story about two business tycoons living at the two ends of the city, and their cultural differences. The cast includes Nadeem, Javed Sheikh, Humayun Saeed, Qaiser Khan and Naheed Shabbir."

His next play about a father and daughter, called Meri Nanni Pari. One wonders if the name is inspired by a famous Pakistani song with the same title. Fazil replies unruffled, "I think all over the world the trend now is to produce things inspired by some previous work. There is little creation and more inspiration and reproduction these days."

Fazil feels that the main problem with our serials is that they are not very colourful and are slow-paced, which is why he has incorporated a filmi tempo to his plays.

"My experiment worked and the serials have been well received, and now a lot of people have followed my example. Even if I portray grim subjects, such as family planning in a poor household and taleem-i-niswan as in Bezaban, I tend to add colour to the play."

Javed Fazil claims that he will go back to films once there is a revival in the industry. One hopes for the sake of the future generations watching films, that a director of his calibre is not lost and that he will indeed become a film director - twice over.

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