Monday, September 20, 2010

Celebrity in focus – Mehreen Jabbar

Mehreen Jabbar is a filmmaker, at a very young age, has an extensive portfolio. After directing her first play in 1994 she went on to create work which ranges from short independent art films to commercial serials for television. Her success as a director can be assessed by the fact that her work has appeared in many film festivals around the world including The Hong Kong International Film Festival, The San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival, and The Leeds Film Festival in U. K. to name a few. At home, Pakistan, her exceptional style of story-telling has earned her much praise and several awards.
Mehreen grew up around Pakistan's show business. Her father, Javed Jabbar, is also a filmmaker himself. He has also been running a highly successful advertising agency for about 30 years where she got her first exposure to the television world. Further she went to the United States in order to study film and completed a two year program at University of California Los Angeles. She describes this experience as a crucial part of her training because her teachers were working professionals from the film industry who were able to provide real insights on the art and business of film making.
Mehreen returned to Pakistan to practice her skills professionally. Her first play in 1994 was called “Nivala” which was based on a short story by Ismat Chugtai, one of the foremost authors in the Urdu language. Unfortunately, the decision makers at the state run television of that time declined from airing “Nivala” because it was based on the work of an Indian writer and, subsequently, the idea for the entire series was cancelled. Though this was a hinder but it did not deter Mehreen from doing what she loves. She continued to make short films, feature length plays, and drama serials.
Due to the low quality of films being produced in Pakistan and the shady atmosphere at cinema houses, going to a theater is not a feasible form of entertainment for the mainstream public. Thus, television remains by and far the most popular source of family entertainment. So that has been the industry to which vast majority of writers, producers, directors, as well as, actors turn who wish to polish their expertise and create work with depth and meaning for the audience.
Much of Mehreen’s work has focused on the everyday lives of average Pakistani women and the conflicts they experience from day to day. On the other hand, several directors have created fine plays which are obvious in their attempts to raise awareness of women's rights; Mehreen enjoys the challenge of applying nicety to get her message across. Her viewers often find themselves immersed in the minds of her characters in order to fully understand the characters’ motives. Her telefilm, “Putli Ghar”’ is an example of such work. Another telefilm “Farar” is about three friends, a widow, a working woman, and a third woman who is a student of classical dance. The play shows the struggle of each woman to sort out her life and find a unique identity for herself.
To Mehreen experimenting with a story is one of the most interesting parts of creating a play. She believes that producers are playing it safe and are flat to take on projects which are based on a proven storyline for success. The result is that the same basic plot is repeated over and over again in different plays or films such as - Ramchand Pakistani.
Nevertheless, commercial Pakistani films remain largely unpopular on the conventional side; hence several independent filmmakers have emerged in recent years, such as, Shireen Pasha, Farjad Nabi, Hassan Zaidi, and Mehreen Jabbar herself, who seem to be breathing a new life into the Pakistani art films.

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