“For too long our television screens have been taken over by politicians talking about politics. In that I feel the stories of the people have been lost,” said Academy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy at the launch of her new show, Aaghaz-e-Safar which seeks to rectify that.
“People often ask me why I don’t make films in Pakistan,” said the country’s only Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy at the launch of her latest project for television, Aaghaz-e-Safar. She pointed to how the basic human right relating to the freedom of expression isn’t really all that ‘free’ here… and then added that she felt fortunate having partnered with Aaj TV which will be airing the show during prime time from April 13th on their channel.
“For too long our television screens have been taken over by politicians talking about politics,” she said, “And in that I feel the stories of the people has been lost.” Aaghaz-e-Safar will be a 12-episode show that will tackle issues that the people of Pakistan have been suffering from. Moreover, they’ve included success stories, solutions and included comparisons made with other regional countries — Bangladesh, India and Iran etc — to give Pakistanis some ‘perspective’ on the problem and its solution.
A short 20-minute preview of the show — clips from the upcoming episodes — was shown to a select audience at the Nueplex Cinemas in Karachi at the premiere of the show. It tackles issues like child sexual abuse, land grabbing, water, medical malpractice, violence against minorities’ etc.
The stories were harrowing. They included that of a man who went for a small ordinary surgery and ended up in a permanent state of coma due to the criminal negligence of the attending surgeon who deemed it more important to leave in the middle of surgery to attend to another one in a private hospital. The trauma felt by a little Hazara girl at having lost her sister in a bomb blast and being reminded of her every time she wore shoes, because both of them always had the same shoes.
Some of the stories lay testament to the resilience of the human spirit and are inspiring, such as that of a man who was sexually abused as a child and now runs a centre where he tries to extend help and counsel other street children on it. A person from the Hazara community who started an ambulance service which doubles as a blood bank and who provides this service to anyone — irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, sect, class, orientation etc.
The show sees the return of noted television personality and the chairman of the Sindh Board of Film Censors, Fakhre Alam, as the host of the show. He could be seen speaking to his guests emphatically and in some clips he looked moved to tears. “I cried a few times during the show,” he said “Some of the stories hit you like that. That people could go through such experiences.”
Almost everyone who left the auditorium described being moved by the stories. Obaid-Chinoy is convinced that the show will be break newer grounds. “I’ve always made films that have made people feel uncomfortable,” she said, “I’m hoping to make Pakistani audiences uncomfortable. It’s time we have these uncomfortable conversations.” She added that it’s time we hold a mirror up to society and go out and find the solutions ourselves. Obaid-Chinoy stated passionately that, “If you’re not going to be a part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem.”