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Spotlight: Shahzad Nawaz

Shahzad Nawaz - The Director's Cut
Who is Shahzad Nawaz?
Born and Bred in Karachi, hailing from Chakwal district in Potohar, North Punjab, 6th child of a Naval officer... grew up in this chaotic city and went to the USA for higher studies... enjoyed remaining homeless and jobless in America during the last 4-5 months before graduation, came back to join Asiatic JWT. Resigned JWT in 1993 on ethical issues to form One to One Advertising that later on merged with Interflow Group and became Gravity Communications. Disinvested from agency business to make Daira, thereafter joined Jang Group to head its media asset's creative and launched Geo Television. Quit Jang group on ethical stance in November 2005 and partnered in with old friends to take over as CEO and Creative Director of TNV Strategic Advertising... and continues to run private Design and Brand Communication practice... D E S I G N. Currently making Botal Gali.

What is Shahzad Nawaz today?
An avid dreamer, and a blind believer... Shahzad Nawaz (if I am allowed the liberty to speak second person) continually live on between three parallels; Professional, Private and Personal.

Toggling between the three lives he is where he comes alive as a friend, husband, father, son, brother, peer, adversary, teacher, role model, mentor, boss, leader, visionary, writer, film maker, speaker, trainer, music producer, lyricist, voice over artist, a CEO, an event manager or a designer and god knows what not...

Living in multi-faceted roles over three parallels in multi-dimensions is never easy. People love him, they hate him, they envy him, respect him, like him, despise him, trust him, support him, bad-mouth him... they know him and yet they know him not.

But then, life is such for all... Simply because, Shahzad Nawaz, today, is nothing less or more than what he was yesterday. He remains a composite of his beliefs, his convictions, his ethics and a disciple of his dreams. Timeline of moments may have influenced his popularity, as a consequence of co existence itself; He is nothing today, which he wasn't yesterday. It is only people, who come to realize him as one or none of the above.

Frankly, what difference does it make?. What one is Today is merely a concept of self-realization and realization cannot come over night, it must develop over time and grow along hand in hand to unveil its surprises and gifts it has in store.

A person is defined by three things, his character, his personality and his reputation. Character being what he really is, Personality is how he depicts his character and traits and Reputation is what people think he is, so all in all, its people around any person who influence perceptions or realities... or lack of it.

Talking about "Daira" What was in mind that pushed you towards working on such a project?
I am led by inertia of my energy. I read the book, loved every bit of it, and decided to take a shot at it. Tracked down Mohsin Hamid, the author of Moth Smoke and the rest is history. I do not wish to go in much details since a lot is already written on it, in addition we have a tribute site to Daira at that has a section called 'The Temple of Daira' which features most extensive archives from interviews, excrepts, pictures and the chronology.

If not you, then who can you think would have done Daru's character in Daira?
That is a question that can perhaps never be answered. It's a full circle question in itself, any body could have, the point is not who, but how well could one have done this character, for me personally it was an intriguing character one that required time, sensitivity and energy. To have had played someone flip opposite to my personality was both challenging and fun. What I mean is that for a Go-Getter, No-Nonsense professional to play a self-pitying and escapist Daru was one amazing experience. I do not wish to think as to who could have done it, I am happy that I got to do it.

You are currently working on a new project "Botal Gali" - Tell us some details about it?
Again, I wish not to give out most, as again, people can go and visit its that features the complete synopsis, its abstract and other details. However, as for the cast it boasts an impressive cast of 32 main actors and about 122 side cast. I have written, produced and directed it with Humayun Saeed as my co-producer. Asad Malik is the DoP.

What is "Botal Gali" all about?
Botal Gali is simply put, about realities we seek not to stare back at us. The story is inspired by real events, notably June 2004 when bootlegged alcohol supplies got interrupted because of a rift between Bonded Warehouses and Custom Officials. The story is set against the canvas of Karachi and it contours urban paradox that shrouds this city's nightlife.

By when can we expect it to be out?
I am planning to have the 'Botal Tour', which is the Exclusive Screenings of the film in Karachi , Lahore and Islamabad in June 2006. Shortly thereafter in August or thereabout I will be ready to release the film under my film company's banner, 'Coup d'Útat Films'.

The audio albums of Daira were awesome, what can we expect from Botal Gali?
Botal Gali will be more experimental and more abstract in its sound texture than Daira was. Don't forget between Daira and I, one important change took place, for the better... I grew older by three years. And this in itself means progression and maturity a notch up... if not more.

In a recent interview with Azfar Ali, when asked about his experience working for Daira, he wasn't quite happy. He had to say "To be honest I was very disappointed cause every frame you see in that film was created by me and at the end I was stripped off my credit, left to be called just the LEAD DIRECTOR, and

I'm still trying to figure out what it means?" what would you say to that?
I wonder if I should answer this or skip away... on one note, my maturity refuses to let me confront or even answer this self-styled controversy, which is such a non-issue, but then, at times maturity that demands silence does lead to paradoxical misinterpretation. Hesitantly, I must answer.

I chose to answer not that it bothers me, or weather he feels happy or not, but merely for I must not let something from three years ago still haunt Azfar. I must ease his torment, which lives in his mind and refuses to leave.

Adage, holds in its wrap, great wisdom. 'Sour Grapes' is one such that instantly comes across my mind as I force myself to revisit Daira days. Here was a person, that I had picked, and I had felt that he would do a good job at it, I sat him down over one month and told him categorically to work with progressive planning, details and dedication, and I told him, "this will be your making as a Director, as I will ensure that the project gets the recognition that it deserves".

For a director who had mucked up all sound, and shot the film without EDL running, and tops, left the project after editing first seven scenes (having realized what he had done... which was a total fiasco), he better not even had gotten the credits for being a Lead Director.

Although, this question can be asked instead of me, but to all those who were involved in the project. I am Shahzad Nawaz not because of Daira, but certainly Daira is because of Shahzad Nawaz. There, in this lies my answer, for those who know both him and I, I'd say it will simply be a matter of whose words carry more weight. Just Google DAIRA and you'd find write-ups about Shahzad Nawaz and Daira, now of course I did not force those interviews.

Azfar shot the film, so he was the lead director. All he did was shoot it ... rest of it, good, bad or ugly was all my pain and efforts.

My credits for the film are simple. I adapted the novel, moth smoke for the Screen, picked the book and went even to the extent of writing the subtitles... hence being the Concept Director of it... rewrote and also wrote a couple of scenes, so there I take credit for being the co-writer of the Dialogues. Picked Azfar and other crewmembers, did casting and solicited all rights and locations etc, hence the Producer.

As a Creative Director, I did all the promotional material, the radio spots, the promos, the print ads, the brochures, posters, website, invites, Concert Sets (along with my team), Album Covers, Media Launch, Copywriting... you name it and I did it...

As a lyricist, I wrote three songs for the OST, all the singers gifted their talent free of costs because of me, all the actors worked in it for free again, because of my relationship with them... so please, if I happen to have a personality that is larger than life, and if someone gets intimidated by it, I should not be the one who should feel bad, I am what I am, and I am what I am because behind my being there is lot of hard work and good solid reputation as a senior league creative in this country, so if anything, I should be respected for that.

What I did extra was the Music, Songs and Score and also the Editing. Which by no means were my responsibility, but when Azfar disappeared, I had to undo a lot of damage that was already done. The film went in circles from one production house to another post house, and through three sound studios to make it barely presentable to run it. Please don't forget here was a project that I believed in and wanted to finish because I do things with convictions and not because I had sold my advertising agency shares to my partner Tahir A. Khan of Interflow to be able to make this film. I had to salvage the situation, so I did what a man of courage would do in face of all odds... fight the odds and do his best, and that's what I did.

I must add here, that I made sure that despite the fact that Azfar had abandoned the project, I invited him to all events of Daira, gave him respect in public, and gave him the mic and the spotlight, despite the fact that he had jeopardized my film with poor technical results.

When we met at a common place by chance when the first part had already run on TV... I asked him what he thought, I remember he said, It will be a flop and that people are calling him and telling him how bad a film it is, and he was so embarrassed as to his name being associated with Daira... so I fail to understand, if all that is true, why now he wants credits, if he thought it was a bad product, he should've been happy instead that his name is not being associated with it. I believe a man's worth a man's worth if only one is worth his conviction.

Although, he has been saying an odd bit here and an odd bit there for three years now, I still made sure that the one hour Exclusive Interview of mine that ran on Geo USA, 'Daira Kahani', I used his interview as the 'lead director', and I am certain not many people would do it, if a director would do to them, what I went through...

I read the interview he gave to your magazine, and I was smiling... no, it did not offend me, but I was marveling at the possibilities that delusion can beget... anyways, I still went ahead and put Azfar's name on my dedication list of Botal Gali website Since Botal Gali is dedicated to all those who contributed in making Daira... and Azfar of course was the lead director... and he has always been given credit for that. By the way, he argued once endlessly as to Daira not to be called a Shahzad Nawaz Presentation... that I think was absurd, since I was financing it, and more over producing it.

I made sure that Daira becomes a hit, and a hit it was. And I thank Allah for giving me the ability to not bend but to stand tall and believe in my projects, instead of running away and blaming others for my own mistakes or failure. I am sure it is hard for Azfar, but I'd seriously encourage him to come to terms with reality.

So seriously, at no point, have I ever claimed to be the director of Daira. But after having all this, if I take credit for being the Concept Director I fail to understand what is the issue?

How different is acting & directing to you? What do you enjoy doing the most?
I have not really directed much directly, however Botal Gali is my true Directorial Debut, so here was the first time that I was both directing and acting as well. I think if you have a good DoP who reads your wave length and understands what you want then you can do both, however, having said that... I must add it is a very tough ask, but I will have to admit, since I do not do either of the two for a living, or as a profession, they are both interesting and fun.

What inspires you to do such projects?
In simple terms, my point of view... as the only qualitative distinction between all is the perspective that makes us as unique and at the same time compatible. I 'd say my ability to theorize, to zig and zag a subject, or matter... to deliberate and seek alternative perspectives. To observe an event or an occurrence and trace its course to its origin... to look at a tree and be able to imagine its roots... I am hence, led by my 'intuition' that provides me the 'intrigue' that translates in to 'innovation' that I simply 'implement' by 'insinuation' and 'imagination'.

Is there any particular subject of the society, which in near future you would like to work on?
I have a few ideas lined up, including my feature film 'Baawan (52), that some people know of, which got delayed... but I'd write, produce and or direct anything that drives me enough to take time out from my professional obligations and dedicate my energy to make it. After all, for me personally it is never the money, but always the Blood, Sweat and Tears that make up for the ultimate investment in such projects.

You were the Creative Director of GEO. Why did you quit?
I was never the Creative Director of Geo. I was working as Group Director Creative for Jang Group and headed all its media assets including Radio, Television, Newspapers, Magazines, MKRF and Special projects. However, since we did not have a person who could be hired as a full-time Creative Director for Geo TV Network, I had voluntarily filled in for that position as well.

J.D. or Johnny Walker?
ABSOLUT-ely nothing. I'd 'Keep Walkin' sober... no need to be 'Smooth Sippin' in Tennessee.

What would you say about the current media scene of Pakistan?
If you mean Television and that too from the content point of view then it is a sad state of hypocrisy. Our channels are full of software (drama/soaps) from India and I see no reason why this should be so... this is bad for the local aspiring directors and producers... and since content sharing is not reciprocal between India and Pakistan, I feel ashamed that a country that boasts a population of 165 million, can not compete or create instead import content. If you mean media scene as an overall development, than I'd say it is fantastic, this is the resurgence of media, the golden curve of upward trends... we need to of course grow and apply as we learn but it is phenomenal.

What aspect of the Film Making Business do you hope will change in the future?
Film Making is only a reflection of a society. It cannot make business sense should it not first connect to the society and its problems and or aspirations. Because people must come to cinema to watch it. Take a look at our Cine Industry in a retrospect. What really happened here? From 900 Cinema halls down to a few under hundred? What went wrong? Not the Business side of course but certainly the Writers, Producers and the Directors who failed to notice that the 70's escapist cinema was dead and a more real and evolving thematic cinema was sprouting. So it could no longer make business sense, since it did not make any sense on its own as content to the cine goers, who in return did not see the films being offered to them making any sense, like domino╣s effect, it all came down and the realities of evolution tore the industry apart.

I say, if one needs to be a graduate to contest elections and enter the parliament in Pakistan, one must at least be a Masters to make films.
Content is always king. Selling the sizzle and not the steak can only take you so far. So inevitably, Film making business will not change unless the 'content' side of it takes more importance than the 'business' side of it.

And that can only happen once sensible breed of film makers take a plunge. I see quite happily a great Director such as Saqib Malik under works; directing a film, that I am sure will do some good to the dead cinema that screams intellectual and artistic bankruptcy. Jami I heard was planning or is making something, Hammad Bajwa of H2O alongside Ahsan & Amna were planning something on HD format so all in all, the wave is awaited, and must come, unfortunately, we are still contemplating the 'Business' side of it as an industry. We must set that side apart, if ever we were to become the agent of renaissance if not change it.

My film Bawaan (52) for instance was shot down by a huge media group, based on investment involved, and apparently a bleak return figure, however, you shall witness how I will not only make the film, but Allah willing make it feasible. This is what I mean when I say, the content must come first and not the numbers.

What can we expect from you after Botal Gali?
My feature film BAAWAN (52).

What is religion to you?
It is the thesis of my being. I am perhaps a lost soul without it. It is very near and dear to me. It conditions me to keep my rank and stay in my flank.

What would you say about the current political situation of Pakistan?
It is no different. Read the newspapers. Watch the news. Now go back and look up the archives of news from any era since 1947... would you not agree that it has but lingered on all these years... rhetoric is as crude as before, optimism is a text book word, sense of security is on its knees, prices enslave us to acquire money any which way we can, so as to make ends meet... I mean I can go on and on for ever... What has changed? It was, is and will be the same... what was in the past is today the present we chose to call current... tomorrow when we wake up to another day, the future we call today, on that day will shine on us as Current... but just as harsh, and even on the brightest sunny day, it will be a bleak sky. In an era of modern economy, people are faced with the scarcity of these times, Time, Attention and Respect... all else is luxury. To have time to think about politics is a luxury I cannot afford. I do know however, that my power goes the same way, if not more... bribe and nepotism is the order of the day, the rich and powerful dictate their terms... the divide gets bigger between the masses and classes... I must stop at this.

Anything that you dislike about the current social system of Pakistan ? Being in the media world what do you think you should do in order to change this system?
Social System? What system? Social arrestation... or communal degradation I'd say... I am afraid there is no social system. At least I do not see it. We have basic sustenance issues in our country... we have housing, potable water and health issues... we have education disparity between the Public and Private schools... We do not know our neighbor anymore... we are living as selfish individuals in Pakistan , and not Pakistanis with social responsibility... I maintain, if you ever want to know about a country, judge it by its road system and school system... My argument is clear.

That's life in the public eye ... Do you like gossip columns?
Not at all. That would be insulting my intelligence and wasting my time.

Tell us something about your family?
I am one of those hopeless romantics who find love luckily at the right time. I found my life partner at the age of 18 and we got married when I was 19. Rest has been 4 kids and many wonderful and memorable years. I have 2 sons and 2 daughters.

If not in the media world, what would you be doing now?
I cannot make sense of this question, as I believe we are all led by fate and if fate is what shapes destiny, than I a doing exactly what I was destined to do. So I guess, I am doing just that and I am one of those conventional '13 th century men' who believe that at the end of the day, there is a God, who sets course... what we make out of it, is our own efforts... so that I have done relentlessly.

Your Aims & Goals in life?
To be able to not given in to the system, to hang on to my convictions, to work hard and continue to make an honest day's living. I aspire to make my feature film, write my memoirs hopefully before it is too late, start a School of Creative Excellence and so much more... to be a good father, brother and a son. As for a husband... I try my utmost *smiles* my wife tells me I am improving.

Any message to the nation reading your interview?
Its time to stop playing mirror, mirror on the wall . Do watch and support Botal Gali... I need your support... meanwhile

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