While the Pakistani television industry feels threatened by international content seeping through to our TV screens, it seems that some creative minds, like Yousuf Salahuddin, are actually working to take Pakistani content across borders.
Cultural and social icon Salahuddin, popularly known as Mian Salli, is proud to announce that his big budget production Heer Ranjha will be the second Pakistani drama to be dubbed in Chinese, after Waris which was written by Amjad Islam Amjad. Mian Salli feels that the project is an opportunity to promote Pakistani heritage.
“The beauty of Heer Ranjha is that it takes you back in time,” says Salli, about the folklore which has been immensely popular locally and internationally, both.
Giving details about his musical play, Salli says that Heer Ranjha is made for the wider masses and aims to bring Pakistanis back to owning their culture.
“I want to reach out to my people,” says Salli. “I am not here to make money — I have not made any money in all of this.” He also points out that PTV is a government institution and works in the same manner.
While the play was penned down by Aqueel Ruby, Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah was responsible for the narration. Pakistani TV actor Ahsan Khan and model-actor Zaria Butt are in the lead roles of Heer Ranjha, and other cast members include Shafqat Cheema and Rambo.
The project started in February last year, and was wrapped up about two weeks ago.
“The whole technique is purely Pakistani,” explains Salli. “The main thing is that the project is close to reality. I used furniture which is 200 years old and tapestries which are over a 100 years old — all of the locations are a 100% real.”
Salli shares that the recently launched original soundtrack is now available in most markets across Pakistan. The music features Rahat Fateh Ali Khan alongside Sahir Ali Bagga, who is also the producer of the album. Salli has written the lyrics for majority of the songs and the soundtrack also includes the voices of Hina Nasrullah, Fariha Parvez, Humera Channa, Sanam Marvi and Malaika Ali.
The success of his drama venture has opened doors for his next large-scale project which is on the life of Emperor Jahangir. This will also be a musical and may have up to 20 episodes. His inspiration for the new musical came from the style in which BBC dramas such as Tudors have been shot. The play’s script is being written now and Salli may start to shoot it by September.
“We may not have that much of a budget but what we do have, are the most amazing places to shoot,” says Salli. “We have the entire fort, Shalimar Bagh and all the other Mughal monuments. I will not go for sets.”
Yousuf Salahuddin is one of the biggest cultural advocates of basant (spring season). He says that the banning of basant has played a negative role for the cultural activities in Lahore.
“There were a few meetings that were held [regarding basant], but nothing came out of it,” explains Salahuddin. “I think it’s sad that basant is celebrated all over Punjab but not in Lahore. To take basant out of Lahore is killing the city and its whole culture — these things lead the young generation to look towards India or the West.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2013.