Theatre enthusiast Kanwal Khoosat is all set to bring her fourth cine-play before the viewers, assisted with by more than fifty creative artists but the dialogues and screen-play having been penned by the ‘Chakkar’ fame director herself. In a room filled with antique petites and washed in the sunlight thanks to its huge window facing a lawn inside Lahore’s Olomopolo Media, Kanwal Khoosat told that she wrote ‘Maya’, as the play is called, before the pandemic. However, with the tightening of the Covid-19 induced restrictions on gatherings, she realized that her play is not going to have a live screening any time soon. This inclined her to mull her script over a couple of times before finally deciding to take her liberties with the camera and turn it into her fourth and full-fledged cine-play. Minute Mirror got in touch with the writer and director to ask a few questions regarding this project of hers, which are as follows along-with their detailed answers.
- How is a cine-play different from a routine theatre play? What kind of extra work does it require?
First of all, let’s call it filmed theatre, which is a more appropriate term for this genre which is still in its initial stages but being worked on by incredible creative artists such as Nandita Das. In fact, it was Nandita Das’s play ‘Between the Lines’ produced in this genre which inspired me to try my hands at this evolving medium. It was back in 2014 that Das made it, and we also got it screened here at Olomopolo, introducing our people to this interesting branch of theatre. Talking about how it is different from a regular theatre play, filmed theatre involves more work and more thinking. Throughout, you have to keep it in your mind that both the mediums which you are merging together have to be respected, and their essence has to be kept intact along-with all their apparently little but technically important nuances. While it may vary from production to production, but one thing that is common to all cine-plays or filmed theatre performances is that you have to write the script with a vision in mind – regarding how your basically ‘theatrical’ performance will look on the ‘screen’. The pre-production work may simply involve theatre work, but once the camera steps in, you have to remain conscious of the fact that it is now there as a character and has to be managed properly, with neither its own importance getting eclipsed, nor the idea of a theatre play getting pushed into the background. Both the mediums have to be justified.
- We get to see a red-coloured planet on the hitherto-revealed poster of ‘Maya’. Does it suggest a different, alienated world?
It isn’t another planet, but an eclipsed moon. Yes, we’ll be bringing another world before the audience through ‘Maya’, but not an alienated one; an ideal, utopian world for sure where all kinds of people live together as if in a town where all are good friends and accept each other as they are.
- In an era during which artists and literati are moving more and more towards realistic literature, no matter how dark it may be, why did you decide to go for a utopian world in your play?
It has to do with my personal leanings instead of a thought-out stimulus for a world that doesn’t exist in real. I have a predilection for magic realism, and that is what inclined me to go for a play in this area. However, it is important to mention that the story we are going to tell is relatable, and so are the themes it will be incorporating, such as the increasing intolerance in our part of the world and the dire need for inclusivity. All the same, in order to inculcate the idea of peace and acceptance in an unforgiving world, it was important for me to develop a visually appealing setting to help people happily and easily digest the messages I wish to impart.
- An earlier play of yours in the same genre showed two female characters as quite close to each other, and the description of ‘Maya’ reflects more or less the same idea. Can we place your stories in the framework of ‘sisterhood’ or what is also now referred to as an attempt at ‘soft queering’?
I don’t believe in labelling. When you label stories of differently abled characters, you are doing nothing but shelving their narratives once again, only in an attractive, academic manner. I am not someone to go for words you just mentioned, as I believe in normalizing, and that is only possible if we stop categorizing literature or art. True representation has to be so normal that the reader or viewer takes it as something natural instead of something unique. That’s why, we have created a whole town in this play where people of all kinds exist.
- What are your plans regarding the screening of ‘Maya’?
For our previous productions, we were approached by ZEE5 and we were quite happy that our content will go places. With ZEE5 now getting banned in Pakistan, our preference is our local audience, and we’ll make sure that we show ‘Maya’ to them first and then think about putting it on an international platform. The distributor has not been finalized as yet, but as I said earlier, our preference will be a local distribution company. The language is also purely Urdu, carrying foregrounded terms from various regional languages to make the dialogues sound relatable to more and more people. We’ll release it either by the end of this year or during the initial weeks of the next year.