If there's a TV serial that's being anticipated like it was a movie, it's Mann Mayal.
Maybe because it will bring the Pyaray Afzal hero back to our screens. Maybe because it features television's current sweetheart, Maya Ali. Maybe because the Diyar-e-Dil director is at its helm. Or maybe because the script has been penned by the writer of such popular titles as Dastaan, Mera Naseeb and Alvida.
Mann Mayal has a lot going for it, so expectations are sky-high. We talk to the director Haseeb Hasan and writer Samira Fazal to learn more about it.
Your upcoming project is now called Mann Mayal. Before that it was Dil e Janam and before that Tera Ghum Aur Hum. It almost seems as if the marketing team was not sure of the essence of the drama and how to encapsulate it. Why were there so many changes?
Haseeb Hasan: I personally feel it's the responsibility of the director to give the audience the best. If you look at my previous serials' titles, you'll notice they are all poetic and classic, e.g. Diyar-e-Dil, Sherdil, Tum Hoke Chup, Bol Meri Machli and Nanhi. It was not a marketing team but the entire creative team (including the producers) who were interested in finding the best title out of all the working titles. Tera Ghum Aur Hum and Dil e Janam were just working titles that we never officially announced. When Momina suggested Mann Mayal, everyone loved it and then it went viral.
Tell us something about Mann Mayal and why you chose to direct it ?
Haseeb: I always try to direct strong stories and Mann Mayal is a sensitive, romantic journey of two eternal lovers, which till make the viewer feel a range of emotions. It’s a beautiful love story.
I personally avoid typical Saas/Bahu stories or stories based on domestic violence or “villain type” hero characters. After reading Samira Fazal’s script, I found it was perfect for me.
I was fascinated by Salahuddin, Manno and Jeena’s characters and then the ambience of the script had many of the things l like.
As a director, what was the toughest part of making Mann Mayal?
Haseeb: I always choose tough projects and execute them with equal vigor. Mann Mayal is another project with a huge cast. Some parts of the shoot were tough, but after several experiences, it has become much easier. However, many of the emotions and situations in the story were very difficult and painful for me.
Compared to Diyar e Dil, this serial seems a lot more intimate with less of the beautiful exterior shots that made your previous serial so memorable. How will you keep the audience intrigued?
Haseeb: I'm shooting Mann Mayal in Karachi but as far as pictorial sense is concerned, it is technically better than Diyar e Dil. I tried to capture all these wonderful pre-partition houses and I got this one house with an amazing old structure which will definitely intrigue my audience.
Your last project had the benefit of a lot of great actors with a lot of chemistry. Osman Khalid Butt and Maya Ali, Sanam Saeed and Mikaal Zulfikar, Ali Rehman Khan and Hareem Farooq all made magic on the screen. How much of this screen chemistry is the director’s job?
Haseeb: The basic magician is the director. It’s a director’s job to achieve on-screen chemistry, even with a couple who is poles apart. Still, we can manage to show them completely in tune to each other’s mental frequencies.
You have made some very popular and significant serials like Nanhi, Bol Meri Machli, Tum Hoke Chup. Which one has been the most difficult?
Haseeb: Tum Hoke Chup was the most difficult because of its content and locations. We were talking about Baloch tribal customs and it was tough to shoot in London and Quetta at low temperatures.
The Mann Mayal promos are reminiscent of the style in which Pyarey Afzal was shot. Manoo’s traditional, affluent household, her way of dressing and the Salahuddin’s (at least initially) outsider status as a tutor. How is Mann Mayal different?
Haseeb: Honestly, this is my style. I made Bol Meri Machli in 2008 with an ambience similar to Mann Mayal and I think Pyarey Afzal came three years after that. I really have not seen Pyarey Afzal. I even thought about watching it on YouTube when I casted Hamza just to avoid any similarities but I never actually got the chance to see it. If you find any similarities, it would definitely be unintentional. I respect every director’s work and seriously don’t believe in any kind of copy paste even from an international film.
Tell us about the lead female characters. Are there any mazloom, bholi larkiyan or bad manipulative vixens to confuse the sweet and honest hero?
Haseeb: All the characters are reflection of our society. Mannu comes from a traditional family; she has her own voice and her own ideas. Jeena is another strong personality, a determined, daring kind of person who is not afraid to speak her mind.
Samira Fazal: Mannu is a determined girl. She doesn't believe in losing hope. It's a journey for her and the choices she has to make for herself and she is forced to make by others.
What about the hero, Salahuddin?
Samira: He is someone who loves a girl so much that he never married. He is still waiting for her, even though she is gone from his life! He goes somewhere abroad, but never forgets his love for her.
Sexual assault and violence against women seem to be a trending topic in dramas at the moment. As a director, you have dealt with this sensitive subject in Nanhi. What have you learnt from your experience of shooting such a difficult subject?
Haseeb: People are creating such projects to get the best ratings or TRPs. Nanhi was realistic in character, sets and style of storytelling. We were just focusing the basic idea without forcing twists and turns just to get ratings. Every thrilling moment was natural and authentic.
In keeping with that theme, a lot of people were surprised and upset by Wali kidnapping Faraah in Diyar e Dil. What would you say to them?
Haseeb: They should think about the reason behind the kidnapping. I have to say a lot of people enjoyed that episode and were hooked after that.
Samira Fazal is known for her witty, modern dialogues and scripts. Was it easy to translate her characters to the screen? What makes her writing different from the other writers you have worked with?
Haseeb: Samira Fazal’s dialogues and craftsmanship are amazing. She plays with the pulse of the viewer but always keeps the basic theme in mind. I like her writing. I never bind myself to any specific genre; I enjoy translating and justifying each character on the screen. There were some very unique portions of her script, which I really enjoyed.
You announced that you will be working on a film soon. What can you tell us about that?
Haseeb: My first film project is expected to start in April. Cast and script is locked and it will be announced officially soon. I can't say much else right now, as I have to keep it a secret.
If you had your heart’s desire, what would be your ideal film project?
Haseeb: Perhaps that would be my second film project. It's unofficial and yet to be finalised but Hamza Ali Abbasi will play the lead role, for which he is learning how to fly. Hopefully, we will start shooting will start shooting as soon as Hamza finishes Maula Jutt. There are also some other projects in the works, which I can’t talk about right now.
As a director, what would you like the audience to understand about your work?
Haseeb: I always try translating stories in the simplest manner to give the basic message of the subject. I always try to pick a script which holds a strong debate between true and false and gives the viewer a lesson to take home. My main goal is that any story should be comprehensible to the audience. As creative people, we work very hard to make a product, whether it is a movie or a drama. My only request is that people should not just criticize for the sake of criticism. They should understand that even for a project they don’t like, there is a lot of hard work, pain and effort behind every single shot.
Long serials of over thirty episodes have become common. Will Mann Mayal follow that trend?
Samira: No, this one won't. It’s just 24 episodes.
Sadaf Haider blogs at SadafSays.com