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Spotlight: Sarmad Khoosat

An acclaimed script-writer, director and actor, responsible for some of the most successful and unique Pakistani television projects, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat has proved his mettle within a short span of time. He has shown himself to be one of the most brilliant young personalities on television.

He is the son of the famous television/film actor Irfan Khoosat and was the brains behind the situation comedy series Shashlick which ran for over three years on PTV. Sarmad has worked as a freelance director, writer, and actor since 1998. Apart from mainstream television, Sarmad has also made some avant-garde films. His short film Hernaam Kaur won the Best Film award at the Manto Festival, as well as in Best Director category on the Indus TV Awards.

Sarmad shared his childhood memories with us during the interview and said, “I was a very studious and serious child. I was very much into books. I used to read books like a maniac. I also actively participated in debates and other extracurricular activities. When I was studying in Government College Lahore, I was an active member of the debating society.”

He further recalled, “I never thought that I would ever enter this profession. I was really not interested in it, because I felt that a showbiz person’s life is very chaotic and irregular. My father didn’t have any time for us that really used to make me feel bad. But on the contrary, when I took up this profession I fell in love with it.”

Talking about the initial difficulties he faced in this profession, he says, “Yes I had to face some difficulties. But I was very fortunate that my father was there to guide me at every step. My father proved to be my mentor in this field. He not only helped me but encouraged me to move forward. But it was not easy for me, being a son of a renowned actor people were always pointing fingers at me. Everyone criticized me and expected some sort of exceptional performance from me.

In addition I seemed to inherit a kind of anti-Khoosat lobby and people who were against my father also turned against me. But in the long run it proved fruitful for me as I started doing my job with greater devotion and responsibility.” Sarmad debut in the industry was with his successful play Wrong Number. Sarmad shared his early experiences with us and said, “It was a wonderful experience to work with creative and versatile directors like Jawad Bashir. I really learned a lot. But I became conscious and tried to avoid being labeled as a comedian as happened with my father. People didn’t utilise his talent properly and invariably gave him roles comedy plays and movies.”

Sarmad also related his reminiscences of his experience in the popular play: “It was an important play for my career. It was a great experience and proved very beneficial for me. As all the team members were youngsters and we all wanted to learn things, we made a lot of mistakes. But that taught us a lot. I started realising my mistakes and became self critical. I started evaluating myself and paid heed to my inner voice. That was the turning point in my career. While doing Shashlick, for some reason, half way through, Jawad Bashir refused to direct the play any further, so I took up the task of directing the play myself on an experimental basis.

I was assisting him before and thus I finally decided to take up directing as well.” Sarmad candidly pointed out the problems that our industry is facing these days, “The basic problem which our industry is facing is that we are lacking originality. We are blindly following the Indians. We need to learn that we are a different nation and have a different ethos and culture.

We need to concentrate on scriptwriting and the content of the dramas. In the wake of globalisation it has become even more necessary for us to establish our own identity.” Answering a question if the current situation is due to commercialism, he replied, “There is nothing wrong with commercialism. Basically commercialism means to present a thing in an attractive and appealing manner.

To present a thing in such a way that the masses can comprehend it is a difficult task. The main problem is that we don’t have any course of line to follow. Innovation is lacking in our work. We are running after stereotype concepts and are not prepared to embark on new projects and take risks.” He further added, “Through my work I am trying to bring a change in the industry. I want to bring back the old tradition of our dramas of the ‘80s, when our productions were at a peak. But ultimately people will be the ones to judge how successful I’ve been. I am not afraid of failures because they are necessary for anybody’s career and they evoke new spirit people to improve and do something extraordinary.”

Talking about the current situation of our film industry he said, “We are very unfortunate that we have failed to develop it as a popular medium of entertainment and education as has been done in all the developed countries. It’s the biggest tool of propaganda. I believe the only reason for the downfall of our film industry is that we are lacking in education.

Education and only education can bring a change in the industry.” He further highlighted the dilemma of our society and adds, “We are great hypocrites. On one hand we love to take autographs from our stars, and on the other hand we are not ready to accept them in society. There should not be any hypocrisy. Either we should ban the industry or allow it to work freely. We need to open our vision. We should own our industry if we really want to revive it. But I am optimistic that it will revive as people now seem to be gradually starting to realise its importance.”

Nowadays Sarmad is not only acting but also directing a play, Diya Nam Ka Diya by Bano Qudsia. The play stars Noma Ijaz, Imran Akhtar, Tahira Imam and his father Irfan Khoosat. He has also written the script for the movie Ajnabee Shehr Mein. This film is being directed by the ace Pakistani ad-film maker Saqib Malik. The stars are Ali Zafar, Shaan, Samina Peerzada and the ramp-model Tooba Siddiqui. It is being produced by the recording industry tycoon Khalid Sadaf. The film is currently in production.

Sarmad has also directed Tamasha Ghar, a series of teleplays with themes revolving around the psychological effects of social issues. Each episode contains the word Tamasha, like Tamasha1, Tamasha 2, etc. Each of them has a different story. The series are produced by Irfan Khoosat, these plays contain all the necessary elements of classic drama and then some more new ones as well.

Unlike previous teleplays from the good old days, Tamasha Ghar is boldly discusses socio-economic issues, violence and psychological abnormalities. It is quite surprising that in these days, when everyone is just keen on lavish 500 episode soaps, someone should go for thought provoking drama. Besides this he is also teaching a film course at Kinnaid College and at Oriental College of Arts.

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