Zeeshan Parwez - Photo by Mohammad Omer
Zeeshan Parwez - Photo by Mohammad Omer

“Sabr Kawaee [Be Patient] purely came out of frustration of driving on the streets of Peshawar and witnessing so many people abusing traffic rules,” relates musician, producer, director and animator Zeeshan Parwez. A clip has been doing the rounds of social media lately showing a character, Sabir Lala, breaking the fourth wall and talking about the importance of being ‘patient’. We then encounter a traffic situation in which one of the characters shows the consequence of not being patient.

Sabir Lala’s character has been voiced by Pashto singer Hamayoon Khan. The clip is entirely in Pushto. But that didn’t stop it from being shared in non-Pashto speaking circles as well. Soon, Zeeshan was inundated with requests about making similar content in Urdu.

“This traffic video has a lot to do with me trying to start a production company [Rokhan] through which I could sculpt all sorts of projects in different disciplines and mediums of art. When you’re starting something of your own, you always want to come out with a bang. My idea of launching was to come out with my dream project, a short film that I’ve been working on and it’s very close to my heart. This clip we released was definitely not supposed to be the first one. I am in the process of reaching out to organisations to make projects of a similar kind that could have a positive impact on our society. Sabir Lala’s world would be an independent one though.”

Zeeshan Parwez has recently released two short animation clips addressing social malpractices which have gone viral on social media. But the multi-talented artist is just warming up

What has the response been like? “The response has been just phenomenal,” he said excitedly. “I had never done a short animation in Pashto, so I was excited from the start. But obviously, there are jitters when you go into untested waters, so I did try my level best to just promote it amongst friends and family members. It just blew up from there. I wasn’t expecting this clip to go viral.”

Sabr Kawaee  [Be Patient]
Sabr Kawaee [Be Patient]

Does he plan to introduce this series in other languages? “Yes, but not through our established character Sabir Lala,” he responds. “They will be completely independent forms of content revolving round the same range of topics.”

Zeeshan’s second video from the series, Hawaee Dazay [Aerial Firing] came out last week featuring Sabir Lala. It came out a day before the Pakistan vs India World Cup match, and starts off by showing people watching cricket on TV. It exhorts people not to resort to aerial firing as it can result in damage to property and loss of lives.

It seems like Zeeshan’s on a bit of a roll when it comes to animations. “A year back, I made a video for my daughter’s class,” relates Zeeshan. “In order to demonstrate what her father does for a living, I animated a short clip for her and showed it to the students.

“It was a personal project but it became more than that — it helped me get back to animation which I had left since I had made the video of Waris Shah for the Mekaal Hasan Band.” He adds that he made around 3,000 drawings with two friends for that video alone. “That was 12 years ago,” he adds. “That was a starting step to go back into the world of motion graphics and apply it to videos such as Jamshaid Ali Khan’s Dil Mera and Atif Aslam’s 12 Bajay.”

Hawaee Dazay  [Aerial Firing]
Hawaee Dazay [Aerial Firing]

What does he have planned for the future? “People are usually after me to work on a movie since I’ve graduated from film school,” Zeeshan responds. “I keep telling them that like my daughter’s animation [project] opening up new things for me, I’ll just have to wait for a strong story to come my way to make me dedicate two years of my life to making that film.”

Zeeshan is also a musician and a producer. What about when it comes to music? “Musically, it’s finally coming together!” he relates excitedly. “I have so much to share I don’t even know where to start. There’s the debut album I’ve been working on, my band Sajid & Zeeshan will be back soon, a few remixes for artists soon are to be announced, and there is a personal project with some more musicians. If you ask me what’s next, I know I’ll release something, but I don’t know what. It could be an animation clip, a music video, a music track or a set of photographs.”

Published in Dawn, ICON, June 23rd, 2019