‘How long will our stories remain rom-coms?’: Yasir Hussain says censorship needs to be fixed for entertainment industry to grow
Actor Yasir Hussain has starred in a lot of movies and TV shows — his film Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer is ready but hasn’t been released due to censor board approval and he’s starring in currently airing drama Badshah Begum — but he still has a lot to say about censorship and the way industry is going.
On Saturday, he made a guest appearance on Junaid Akram’s podcast where he started off by discussing his film Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer making it to UK Asian Film Festival. He also discussed filming dramas and how he’s baffled at what does well.
“There are ratings for such things and people are watching such shows and that baffles me. We made Badshah Begum, we went to shoot in big havelis, they showed a different environment for me in the show with fields, canals and waterfalls but it doesn’t get the same ratings as dramas that show a woman being abused, which is strange. There are dramas such as Ranjha Ranjha Kardi, Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahi, other dramas by Kashif Nisar, all have different storylines and are great but they don’t get enough ratings.”
He revealed that his next project is about four boys and girls who want to work in theatre but bump into a kingpin of sorts who traps the four theatre aficionados. This show, he said, is made in Islamabad and will be different from the same neighbourhood the host claimed is shown in all other TV dramas these days.
The conversation then moved on to Hussain’s thoughts on the role women are playing in TV shows and how dramas portray the ‘right woman’ as the one who bears all injustices committed against her while the ‘characterless’ ones wear sleeveless or pant shirts.
“I feel strongly about our country moving away or closing down everything all at once. We should become a proper Islamic state and finish the film industry, drama, radio, theatre and dance. And if someone wants to [continue doing these things], they should just move out. And if we cannot do that, then we should just move a step ahead, which by no means means that we should remove our clothes — we should promote art with the respect it’s given throughout the world,” he said.
Hussain gave example of Iran and its flourishing film industry that has bagged an Oscar and lauded it for not censoring a film if the topic doesn’t suit the country. “Whenever I’ve written a drama, no woman has been portrayed as helpless. I wrote Karachi Se Lahore where Ayesha Omar’s character has three men come beg for her jeep to go for a trip only for her to set a condition that she and her brother will come along. She would wear kameez shalwar as well as jeans. I didn’t stereotype her [and make her full of] innocence and wear just a kameez shalwar and show that pant shirt would make her a bad woman.”
He said Saba Qamar in Lahore Se Aagey was never a weak character and Kubra Khan’s character from Shadi Mubarak Ho was a strong-headed woman. He said he still doesn’t get why women need to be shown as the weaker character on screen.
When questioned about the role of censorship in the country, Hussain said when Javed Iqbal’s poster was shared, it excited everyone because of what the film was based on. Similarly, he talked about film Joyland that went to the Cannes Film Festival and got a standing ovation.
“Is this a joke? These people are giving standing ovations to your work. Now show me how this film will release in Pakistan, because it won’t. Why? Because the film is about a married man falling in love with a transgender [person]. It’s a story, it doesn’t mean you’re promoting it. For how long will your stories remain rom-coms?” he demanded.
“[How long will] a hero do comedy, impress the heroine, they’ll sing songs, they’ll fight, there will be a speech at a wedding and the hero will come out in a typical Ranbir Kapoor shot? How long will that go on for?”
The actor said that Javed Iqbal is also our very own story as the actual incident took place in Lahore, which is why it isn’t being accepted. “As long as there’s no acceptance, a certain type of movies or content can’t be made. Censorship needs to be fixed. Across the world, being ‘censored’ means that this thing of yours can’t be watched by a certain age group and then it is granted a licence. It doesn’t mean that after adding beep beep beep you cancel the premiere.”
The actor argued that things trending on Twitter and Netflix needs to be taken into account when it comes to censorship.
Lastly, Hussain clarified his past comment on Turkish dramas airing in Pakistan and that he has “no issues” with Dirilis: Ertugrul and its lead actor. “[It’s just like] people are talking about Doctor Strange, which is just a film. But our nation is ahead when it comes to TV dramas and then there comes a show like Ertugrul and playing that on national TV… In exchange if they play one of our drams on national TV then only is it a fair deal, just like how they are currently doing a joint production.”
He said if actors here act day and night for a certain project and then an international show gets the limelight, it’s unfair unless a show from our country is being screen in the same way in that country as it benefits both industries.