We asked, and he answered: Sar e Rah, the 6 episode mini series that gave us thought provoking characters and game changing stories in every episode was penned by writer Adeel Razzaq. Read on to know what he had to tell us.
Adeel Razzaq takes our questions on Sar e Rah and while the mini series has met with appreciation and applause for each new story that rolled out weekly, each story not only gave us answers but also raised many questions in the average viewer’s minds. We’re here to answer some of them as we chat with the mind responsible for penning those stories.
First and foremost, on Sarang. Why not give a female attire to the intersex character? Why did you go for a male appearance?
Adeel was very clear in his response: Whenever we give a female attire to an intersex character, it is, by default, made fun of. And we wanted to keep the narrative very sensitive. We wanted to bring this issue in all its seriousness to the viewers and that they should understand it in all its aspects.
We felt the sobriety of our subject would have been compromised. Plus in my experience, whenever I have met male-oriented characters who behave in an effeminate manner, I never asked them where they fall, it is a very personal matter, but I have seen them carrying on their day to day life just like Sarang, and that is the character we wanted to bring onscreen!
Hmm, I thought to myself. It is safe to say that though our society has applauded the depiction of an intersex character on screen, it might not be prepared for more than it is conditioned to. And in effect, Sar e Rah was not meant to change the narrative, but rather, teach us to accept what and who we meet and see amidst us. The writer knew how far to go, and when to let go. The nature of the topic was such, that it could easily have gone wrong, if it wasn’t worked with the sensitivity off Sarang’s and his father’s narrative.
Why did you not show the father teaching his other son to be more inclusive with Sarang?
I persisted, since Shabbir Ahmed had become such a stellar example in my mind, I wanted him to be perfect, and why not?
Adeel responded with humility though, admitting the flaw in characterization: “Yes you are right, Shabbir Ahmed should be aware of his younger son, especially since he was so concerned about his older son. We tried to do it in one dialogue where the father does say he tried. I did want to show this angle too. But we had to cover quite a bit in one episode. “
“There was so much we had to cover with Sarang’s story, especially from where it started, at a sad point when his father is on his death bed. So we had to take the viewer back in time and then bring him back to the present and come to a critical point. But I admit, we missed it, I should have tried to insert a brief scene with the younger son. But some reactions are depicted later on in life. and in the last episode you sill see a changed younger brother, wait for it. “
That is true, quite a few loose ends tied up there and have to admit, we seemed to get a sense of closure.
On positive male characters, I was curious to know …
You have always shown at least one supportive male character in each episode e.g. with Rania, the first passenger she met was supportive. With Rameen, her fiancé Shohzeb was supportive. With Dr. Muzna, her husband who was quite grey, turned un-supportive, with Sarang, his father was supportive. Did you do it on purpose and why did Muzna not get a supportive male in her life too?
“I have not consciously tried to balance the positive and negative males but yes, Muzna’s husband is grey. His male ego is hard for him to swallow. It is taking time for him to accept that situation, that his infertility might be revealed and the treatment is not successful either. He is going through a lot, then his wife brings a baby home. So you can see his positive behaviour with Muzna, he is grey. You will see his positivity in the final episode.”
And why did she adopt a child all by herself?
I asked, wanting to know how the writer could have let this one go, when all else is so well capped.
But here too, the writer reminded me of the human element in the story, that made it all the more connected to us I guess. “Yes, Muzna should not have adopted alone and she was hasty and emotional. You will get an answer to this in the last episode.”
I was curious to know about the untold. Why pick these 5 stories, what about the rest?
What were other pressure points or issues you would want to address in Sar e Rah but you felt not now, the audience is not ready for it.
Adeel Razzaq was very upfront on his quest to do more.
We were asked to do 5 stories
The writer went on to reveal the background to the 5 narratives:
“I was just given a brief that a girl must be a cab driver and that one story must be an intersex character. The rest of the issues and characters I designed myself. I think people understood them because they were very rational. People understood the subject, character and story because they were very rational.”
“We did have other topics we wanted to cover. We all really wanted to represent the rural areas of Pakistan. We had made the story too, it was on Honor killing and child marriage – burning issues in our society, but we felt it was, perhaps, too strong to be put out at this point so we shelved it for the time being. We switched narratives and spoke of women and harassment in the corporate sector, hence we decided to write Maryam aka Hareem Farooq’s story. “
“We had written other stories too, but these were shortlisted eventually. I was writing the stories but they were shortlisted by the whole team! I was given the creative liberty to add in dramatic elements and write an engaging script. “
I did not do separate research, these stories have been with me, and we have all seen them, they are not alien to us. These stories are present in our societies. We have just tried to present them in a rational way.
“I have learnt how to tell my story in a concise, impactful way through Sar e Rah as opposed to long winding scripts that we are all used to writing”, explained Adeel Razzaq – a skill many writers would do well to learn, and many channels can help promote.
And the messages you gave in each story?
If there is one way to describe each story, the messages were very clean, neatly laid out, not didactic, not telling us what to do, yet, chanelling us towards the only rationale that seemed logical. And I was curious to know where the writer came in to ensure this fine balance.
“We didn’t even think we need to give a message, just tried to depict them in a rational way, the way these characters should have spoken and reacted in these situations. I did not try to make them give us a lesson or a message. When they are under pressure, a doctor, a CSS student, a social media influencer etc. I was never instructed that I must give a message, I just wrote rational characters.”
And rational they were, perhaps that’s why they hit the right sentiment!
Onwards to Rameen then, I skipped ahead.
Who made Rameen’s video viral?
Yes, I was curious, and if you haven’t watched it yet, perhaps, you’d like to know too, the last episode, I mean!
Adeel Razzaq chuckled at this one. “No, Shohzeb did not make Rameen’s video viral, as people are predicting. Wait for it!”
And Maryam’s story?
The subtle distinction in each story, it was really quite interesting to note the varying degrees of harassers in corporate offices.
“Maryam’s story, you can know has been inspired by many conversations with women colleagues and people I know. The subtle difference in harassers in offices, I have observed these subtleties: Kashif vs Salman in the office, I have seen the difference in these two categories of harassers vis a vis Maryams’s story.”
And the one that connected with audiences the most!
Sarang’s story …
“The intersex story, one story I had seen myself and one someone related to me. Often it is the father who is most upset about an intersex child, abandoning them or not owning them – reference Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol which was similar to this, the father wanted to hide his son from all of society, keep him caged in the house. Initially I had made the same kind of story where the father was very disappointed in his son. “
“But then the ARY content head Ali Imran supported me, and I want to mention him, requested that I change the narrative. He suggested that society does this all the time, so why not change the story and bring a positive father. So we change perspectives, that God forbid that if such men have a child like this, how can they react differently, and what kind of attitude should they have. That changed everything and I also became very emotional when I wrote it, and everyone appreciated it. “
“I had worked with Khwaja Sira community on a stage play many years ago, and I recalled my interaction with them and the stories they told me, so I used that to tell the story of Sarang.”
What feedback have you got from viewers so far? Any regrets?
“People connected with certain moments in the stories: office harassment, Maryam in the cab, a girl waiting to be married because of jahez, childless couples. so people connected with these details.”
“I could not show Sarang’s personal, emotional or love life. Saba Qamar’s character might be that character for him as a friend, I have tried that. But I do want to talk about an intersex person’s love life, it is a basic human desire and these people are disturbed about it. It is important to discuss an intersex person’s love life. But I feel we are not ready for that right now. You can see how, on social media reacts when we cannot even accept discussing a dress code right now for intersex people, we are not ready for more.”
“I feared that people might not connect with every new story in every episode. But luckily, feedback has been positive. Some people do want to see more of Rania aka Saba Qamar’s story, but it will also come through in the final episode.”
“Audience reviews and feedback has been surprisingly positive for me. Maybe because the stories are very simple, basic human beings. But maybe many people are disappointed with why these basic rights cannot be met, or they are neglected or deprived of them, and happen around us, people have connected with them.. And maybe they can see that this is how such situations must be dealt with, in a rational manner. They have appreciated this new type of story telling too.”
On a topic he really wants to work with or highlight in our society?
“I really want to work on the issue of prostitution, If I get a chance or it is sponsored. Our channels do not give preference for these subjects. they prefer a story about home and family. Perhaps it is too dark or morbid, let’s see if I ever get a chance.”
And with that thought, we signed off. You win some, you lose some. As a writer you keep hoping that one day, you will be able to write your heart out and Adeel Razzaq certainly did that with Sar e Rah!
Sar e Rah is available on You Tube as a six episode mini series from ARY. It stars an ensemble cast with Saba Qamar, Muneeb Butt, Saboor Aly, Sunita Marshall, Hareem Farooq, Mikaal Zulfiqar and Mirza zain Baig.
If you haven’t watched it yet, this is the one to watch now!
Equal Rights Are Not Just Women’s Issues: 6 Men At Aurat March Know That!
Watch Gup Shup With Adeel Razzaq – Writer of Sar e Rah
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