Mohammed Ehteshamuddin is the one in our entertainment industry, who whenever create anything; it gets special recognition and appreciation. These days he is enjoying the success of his first full length feature film Superstar. His first ventured into cinema in 2005 with a short, ‘Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut’, which was screened at nine festivals worldwide including ‘Kara film festival of Pakistan. Next year, he made another short film ‘Mein Sawa Paanch Bujay Aai Thi’ for festivals. According to Ehtesham, “These films didn’t have any cinematic feel but was made with a very realistic approach”.
Ehteshamuddin loves television and in absence of cinema in those days, continued to make dramas both as director and producer. His is known for famous dramas like Perfume Chowk (2010), Aseerzadi (2013), Sadqay Tumhare (2014), Preet Na Kariyo Koi (2015), Udaari (2016), and Aangan (2018). He has also acted in few films and dramas including Chambeli (2013) and Maalik (2016) and drama serial Yaqeen Ka Safar (2017). His drama serials ‘Sadqay Tumhare’ and ‘Udaari’ won him ‘Hum Award for Best Director Drama Serial’ while he was nominated in ‘best supporting actor’ and ‘best debutant male’ categories for Chambeli at first ARY Film Awards in 2014.
Born in Karachi, Mohammed Ehteshamuddin grew up in a colony with a lot of migrants from Hyderabad Deccan, including many writers, which he says influenced his early artistic inclination.
He graduated with a degree in commerce from the Karachi University, and worked in a company with also joining various theater groups, including Tehrik-e-Niswan, Katha and Theatre Circle. In 1998, he came behind the world of screen when was inducted into Television Production Program at the Pakistan Television Academy, Islamabad.
He says, “Story telling is my business irrespective if whatever medium it is on. If the story is strong, then it will definitely inspire people.”
There is a misconception that our drama directors don’t completely get out from television when making a film. How much you have retorted to this mind-set?
I have heard about it often but I have a different opinion altogether. For me, story is most important thing whether it is film or television. Yes, there is a term called ‘filmy pun’ used specifically in subcontinent cinema, which makes both these medium different from each other, otherwise in the rest of the world, story does matter irrespective of the size of screen. In the end, it is a visual story, and if it moves you, touches you, makes you cry and laugh, the purpose is served. So, in western and European cinema there is not any drastic difference in film or television.
When I made my first short film ‘Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut’ back in 2005 with a television camera, and took it to nine big festivals of the world, no one asked me if it was a film or drama. It was called a film!
Technically speaking, how much it is different for a drama director to make a film?
Yes, technically film has bigger scale and frame than television. There are some basic technical requirements when making a film, but I think saying this that a drama director cannot do justice with a film is wrong. I don’t think so. Actually, we are going through an evolution process. In past, we were rich in this area. Indian and Pakistani film industries were standing equally in the field whether it was technique, story, direction or acting, but unfortunately we went through a period when our industry started to deteriorate. We made undergrad films and our culture of cinema also affected. Our cinema halls started converting in plazas and shopping malls.
Don’t you think that cinema is reshaping all over the world because of the availability of online platforms?
It is a fact that because of lot of content available online, cinema is being affected all over the world but despite that it remains there and they continue to produce films for big screen. There, it continues to expand and develop in IMAX and 4K screens. May be next year, we can watch 4D films without special glasses. So, cinema continues to grow in rest of the world but we stopped and so our creativity and work. We had to start it all over again.
So, what did you find something unique in Superstar story which enticed you to direct it?
I found the story of Superstar very simple yet entertaining. It has all the ingredients, which the people of subcontinent prefer to watch like emotions, love, tragedy and music. I was a bit scared in the beginning to direct a love story as many people had tagged my productions dark and very close to reality but then I asked myself that if I could enjoy watching love stories, why couldn’t I make them. So, Superstar was made with determination and love and the result is before everyone.
“I admire Mahira a lot and offered her a role in my epic Aangan but she could not accommodate as she was because of her occupancy in some other project”, Ehteshamuddin
So, are you satisfied with the reviews and public feedback of the film?
I have always appreciated healthy criticism as it plays positive role in your future endeavours.
You have worked with Mahira Khan in drama serial ‘Sadqay Tumhare’ and now in a film Superstar. Do you find her any different working in both the medium?
Mahira has gone through a lot of transition. When we did ‘Sadqay Tumhare’ it was almost the start of her career while in Superstar she is at the peak of it. So, difference is obvious in her work, approach and focus. She has improved a lot in every aspect of her art. I always love working with people on whom you can trust and Mahira is among one of them. It is quite natural that when you have spent lot of good time with someone in first project, the next one with the same person is more enjoyable and productive.
“The role of Noor was exclusively written for Mahira Khan, and she was on board in this project before me, so this was an added point for me to direct Superstar,” Ehteshamuddin
It was first collaboration of you and Bilal Ashraf. His acting has been admired by many but at the same time his song ‘Dharak Bharak’ is being criticized for its too much boldness and copying from Bollywood? What do you say?
I think criticism and views on anything are the right of those for whom we make our product, but I don’t understand why they criticize on what they love to watch and enjoy if made by others, but when we try to include these flavours in our products, they negatively criticize it.
“Songs like Dharak Bharak always have a right place in commercial cinema of our region. People enjoy them in Bollywood cinema but criticize negatively if they are included in our films. I know many people have liked and appreciated it as well”, Ehteshamuddin
Where do you see the Pakistani Cinema right now?
Actually we are going through a transition where we are trying to create our own niche. It is also a thought that whether we should intact to and sustain with our typical subcontinent cinema which we have been watching through decades on both sides of borders or divert it completely. The most heartening thing for me in this revival is the production of films on different genres from sports life sketch like ‘Shah’ and ‘Motorcycle Girl’, social dramas like Cake, and suspense and thriller like ‘Laal Kabootar’. I am happy that we are also developing a vibrant indie cinema with our mainstream commercial films. I think confidence of audience is building up and cinema halls are being filled in certain times of the year.
“There are many people out there, loyal to stable our film industry again. I believe in next four to five years, we will be standing at a better place, and competing with the rest of the world,” Ehteshamuddin
What is next by you? Is there anything in the pipeline?
I usually take a year to produce a project. Right now, television is my main forte, and I think there too many stories which have to be told on mini screens. I am doing a drama serial named ‘Firaun’, which is on the issue of domestic violence and I believe it would also create some awareness and debate on the subject like Udaari did three years back. I think our television is still the strong medium for raising issues. As the cinema of Bollywood is known worldwide, our dramas are popular everywhere in the world. But yes, if any interesting story comes before me, I will definitely love to put it into big screen. My profession is to tell stories to people whether it is through television or in the form of film.
Junaid Khan Wins Hearts with His Performance in “Yaariyan”
The ending of this megahit drama “Yaariyan” couldn’t have been better. The ensemble cast included Junaid Khan, Ayeza Khan, Momal Sheikh, and Muneeb Butt in the leading roles. With everyone essaying their characters to the best of their abilities; there was one person who truly stood out among the rest, and that was Junaid Khan.
“Yaariyan” was a socially relevant drama serial about love and betrayal, directed by Syed Wajahat Hussain and produced by Erum Binte Shahid. It went on to become one of the greatest hits of the season with its power-packed cast and brilliant storyline.
Standing out with his brilliant performance among the rest, Junaid Khan essayed the role of Ahmer; an emotional yet humble character who is married to Sadia, played by Momal Sheikh. He is deeply in love with his wife but because of some misunderstandings, they don’t end up together and part ways. Junaid proves through his character how versatile he can be, he not only portrays Ahmer’s convolutions with dedication and conviction but also did justice to convey the importance of forgiveness in marriage and relationships.
From hit music numbers to blockbuster drama serials and the notable appearance on the silver screen with tons of accolades to his credits, Junaid Khan has accomplished a lot in a very short span of time. It may be worth mentioning here that Khan commenced his career as a musician with ‘Call the Band’, in mid-2000s, and later grew into acting. Nowadays, he is one of the busiest and highest paid actors on television.
Famed for his distinctive voice and acting chops, this versatile rock star has proved himself one of the finest artists of our industry. This leisure travel lover, cinema-geek and total foodie who is a strong proponent of social media has a charismatic personality and is climbing on the ladder to success and greatness with each passing day.
Finally! A Childbirth Educator in Town
Considering the issues faced by women during and after pregnancy, this is high time that we started taking help from professionals. The most important thing is to normalise the concept of seeking therapy during and after childbirth. There are many women who are unaware of their situations and health issues and are hesitant to ask around for help. There are many facebook support groups where women can post openly or anonymously to seek help but there needs to be a formal education system to get them prepared for a time period that can be overwhelming and exhausting at the same time.
We had an informative conversation with Mahvish who is the new childbirth educator in town that can be quite fruitful for new mommies and the ones in the making.
How did you come up with the idea of establishing Bump & Beyond?
I gave birth to my daughter in New Zealand as my parents reside there. The pre & postnatal care I received in New Zealand was beyond my expectations & this led me to research infant & maternal care in Pakistan.
In order to have an empowering & satisfactory birth/ parenting experience, it is critical to learn skills & strategies as it takes you a long way in this life-changing experience. Bump & Beyond has been established with the objective of providing expectant parents with evidence-based choices that exist during pregnancy, labour & early parenthood. At Bump & Beyond, you learn hands-on skills & knowledge which facilitate to make your journey to parenthood a happier, more satisfactory one.
Do you think ante & postnatal care in Lahore is lacking greatly?
Not just in Lahore, all over Pakistan! I come from a family of gynecologists & obstetricians and had an idea of the services that are lacking here prior to getting on this venture. Quite often, doctor’s lack the interest or time to educate patients around their and their baby’s well being. Simply put, a doctor’s objective starts & ends with a baby being delivered (hopefully safely).
Pre & postnatal education is an integral part of all prestigious international health care systems. Historically, our governments’ investment in the health sector has always been poor/low, hence no such facilities exist at a public or private level – I find this extremely unfortunate because Pakistan has one of the highest infant & maternal mortality rates in the world
What do you hope Ammi’s will take home with them after a session at Bump & Beyond?
There is too much information out there on the internet & too little given by doctors, often misleading us. My aim is to allow every expectan
Where do you hope to see Bump & Beyond in the next 5 years?
Within my private practice, I envision Bump & Beyond as an institution which is a one-stop shop for pregnant women & new parents – this is where they come to learn evidence based choices, and is a platform that is considered both safe & reliable for women to voice/discuss their thoughts & concerns during their journey.
I also hope to integrate Bump & Beyond with the public health sector
Do you feel pregnant women are particularly vulnerable during gestation?
Absolutely – pregnancy is a time of phenomenal transition and a woman’s physical & mental health is subject to changes.
How was your own personal experience of being pregnant in Lahore?
I was lucky to have a non-complicated pregnancy, for the most part, however, I ended up having SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction), which is considered common pelvic/pubic pain in pregnancy for some women. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness & support here, I was unable to manage it safely. I still suffer from pelvic pain and have been undergoing physiotherapy for a year now!
Do you think the quality of antenatal care a woman receives increases her chances of postpartum depression?
100% – postpartum depression is a function of 2 key factors; (i) your physiological tendencies/history of depression + (ii) your support system during pregnancy/postpartum. Good antenatal & postnatal care (along with a supportive husband!!) can go a long way.
What certification did you do to become a childbirth educator?
I acquired a Diploma in Childbirth Education from Childbirth International.
How long was the certification?
Do you think the market is ready for such services or are people a little confused about what you offer?
The market is definitely very information hu
How long does a woman have to enroll in the program for?
The antenatal classes span over 4 sessions – I encourage pregnant women in their 2nd or 3rd trimester to sign up for all 4. However, I also offer the choice of signing up for individual sessions.
Do you also offer postpartum support?
Yes – currently I am doing one on one support sessions which encompass breastfeeding, postpartum blues or depression management, and transition to parenting. Going forward I will be introducing group sessions for postpartum support also.
What certification did you do to become a childbirth educator?
I acquired a Diploma in Childbirth Education from Childbirth International.
UNDER THE COVERS: With Saba Aqeel
Saba Aqeel Ahmed has worked tirelessly to set up her home-based bedding business. She strives to deal as fairly and honestly as possible (with the help of her refund and exchange policies) and always makes sure to provide the best quality products so as not to disappoint her customers. She is the mother of four young daughters, a dedicated and honest businesswoman; and a loving wife all wrapped up into one person.
- What pushed you to set up your own business?
I set up this business as a means to support my 4 daughters and husband. I realized that the extra income generated by my business could be put towards my daughters’ higher education and to improve our current standard of living. I also chose to start this business because of my inability to sit idle and my desire to become an economically productive member of society.
- What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in setting up this home-based business?
There were many challenges that I came across while I was initially setting up my business. One of the main problems was transport. I didn’t have a car or driver! This made it quite difficult to commute and get things done. Moreover, my in laws weren’t very supportive of the idea of a working woman either. This became quite worrisome as I wasn’t receiving the kind of support I needed and it lowered my morale quite a bit. In addition to this, one of the hardest things to accomplish was building recognition for my brand.
- There are so many different types of businesses out there. Why did you decide to take up bedding?
Originally I hadn’t decided that I wanted to produce and sell bedding. I had already been contemplating setting up a small home-based business and a close friend suggested that I should pursue bedding. Her husband already owned bedding store so I thought “why not?” I was inexperienced at the time so it was nice to be able to rely on someone who knew what they were doing. Through them I was able to learn a lot about how to grow my business and was able to expand my network of contacts too. Working in bedding textiles is also very unique as not many entrepreneurs have thought to enter this field yet.
- Once you re-started your business for the second time how did you manage to expand it?
Initially, when my business launched I only circulated the news amongst my family and close friends through a Whatsapp message. Then orders started to come in, and as I sent out more products I began to receive positive feedback. From there I was recommended to potential customers outside my immediate family and circle of friends. However, I had to take a short hiatus to focus on a few family matters. Once I re-launched my business I explored new avenues of self-promotion such as online pages, Instagram, and Facebook and that is how I was able to expand my customer base.
- What advice would you offer to someone looking to start their own business?
Give it your all! Don’t pay too much attention to what other people say about you, keep your head down and just keep going. Inshallah, all your efforts will be rewarded if you put in the maximum amount of effort into what you do and keep your intentions clear.
- Was your family supportive of your ambition to run a home-based bedding business?
In all honesty, my family has always been quite supportive of everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I got married at quite a young age only having done my FSC at the time and was very financially vulnerable. It was a blessing to have a supportive husband that encouraged me to take up entrepreneurship and my daughters that pressed me to my get BA degree. However, my in-laws are more conservative and weren’t too keen on the idea of me setting up this business. In this case, I took the executive decisions to carry on and with the support of my husband and daughters I was able to set up a successful career.
- What are some of the most important things you’ve learned as a result of managing this business?
Running this business has in fact been an invaluable learning experience. I had always led quite a sheltered life, but after starting this business my eyes were opened to some very harsh realities. I learned to observe people closely and realized the importance of being polite. People working as sales representatives or offering any goods or services are often wrongly criticized for things beyond their control. Even if they make a genuine yet minor mistake. On the other hand, I also learned how kind and considerate people can be and what the lengths people will go to support you if they care about you.
- Being a working mother can be quite difficult. How do you manage all your responsibilities?
Being a working mother is quite hectic. My children are my number one priority and the whole reason that my entire business is set up at home. This way I am able to look after them while getting on with my work as well. I do all my designing first and only visit the bazaar on selected days to pick out the fabric so that my kids aren’t left alone for too long. It’s a huge responsibility to make sure your children and house aren’t neglected while you work. Especially for me, since I live in a joint family system, and need to be extra vigilant so as to avoid any criticism. At times the routine gets very tedious and work does pile up but at the end of the day, it’s also quite rewarding.
- What is your main focus for the future at this point?
My main focus at this point is educating my 4 young daughters.
- Is there anything you’d like to say to the audience that reads your interview?
Yes, I’d like to take this opportunity and use the Scary Ammi platform to say that every working mother has a lot of responsibilities to shoulder. So it’s important that we do our best to support the work that these mothers do because even the smallest bit of encouragement can do wonders for their morale.
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