Spotlight: Haseena Moin speaks out
It’s never easy to make a sequel of a popular television serial and one that remains, even today, one of the best. Tanhaiyan was aired 27 years ago and broke popularity records even in India, making its writer, Haseena Moin, a household name there.
Now, for the ongoing Olpers Tanhaiyan — Naye Silsilay directed by Marina Khan who also played a central role in the original serial, Moin says she was only commissioned seven episodes while the rest have been penned by Mohammad Ahmed. She also says that she owns the copyright for Tanhaiyan and is not at all pleased with the turn of events.
When Images on Sunday approached Hasina Moin for her views on the subject, this is what she had to say…
Q. Tell us about the serial Tanhaiyan and how you found Shehzad Khalil as a director?
HM: At that time producer Sahira Kazmi was doing a serial for PTV Karachi centre and the first episode had loud comedy. The GM rejected it and as the slot time had to be filled, Shehzad Khalil asked me to write a comedy serial in one month’s time and took me immediately to meet the GM, who asked me what the story was. It was then that out of the blue the story of two sisters came to my mind. He liked it and thus the serial began in 1983. The experience of working with Shehzad was wonderful. He was a thorough gentleman and extremely good in his work.
Q. Coming to the present time, why didn’t you write all the episodes of Tanhaiyan — Naye Silsilay?
HM: Marina asked me to write the sequel in March 2012. Finding the sponsors took a bit long and the writing was delayed. I had told her earlier that I would be leaving for Switzerland in July. The sponsor was found near the end of June and I started writing the episodes, having developed the storyline and characterisation earlier. The old characters were there with the addition of new ones. By the end of July I gave them seven episodes and then left, having agreed to Mohammad Ahmad writing the future episodes. I also had no idea that a brand was being involved.
Q. How much of the original cast is in this new serial?
HM: The original cast from Tanhaiyan are all here, including Marina Khan, Badar Khalil, Qazi Wajid, Behroze Sabswari and Durdana Butt. Shanaz Sheikh who played Sanya refused to act in the sequel.
Q. Why did Shahnaz Sheikh refuse?
HM: She did not provide us with a reason. My guess is that as she had created an image in the past serial with her looks and young age, she didn’t want to spoil it. She has gained weight and has not maintained herself the way Marina has. So the director decided to use her daughters and husband with only a mention of her in the story. Shahnaz even refused the showing of past clips because the producer refused to pay her for it. If he had agreed to it, things would have worked out.
Q. What about the episode writing?
HM: When I came back I called the producer Jalil Akhtar, Marina’s husband, to see the episodes written by Mohammad Ahmad. I had told them in the beginning that I would allow him to write the episodes after checking what he had written when I returned, and that I would write the last episode. Both had agreed to it. When I came back I was surprised to see the turn the serial had taken. I called but there was no response from their side. I found this strange because I was not expecting it. Later some artists told me that a lot of changes had been made even in the episodes that I had written. I wouldn’t have minded the changes if it had been done for the better.
Upset with the situation, I called Marina again to tell her to remove my name from the serial as I knew the episodes were all made and could not be changed. But they couldn’t do that as I had penned the serial and they would be infringing on my copyrights because I owned the story. The brand marketing head was also told to take my name out. He conveyed it to Marina and Jalil Akhtar who realising the situation asked to meet me. I refused. All of a sudden people started calling me, including Mohammad Ahmad and Behroze Sabzwari. I told Behroze meeting anyone was useless now as the serial was made and the damage had been done. Even the viewers can make out that the style of writing is not mine. For me, the additions to the story are meaningless and unnecessary. But I forgave them after they came to my house and apologised, and I have allowed them to continue with the serial.
Q. Are you satisfied with Mohammad Ahmed’s work?
HM: Some of the characters that he introduced like Hakka who stammers, is not funny at all and the other character Apa Begum’s spirit, is senseless. Though he is a good writer, I regret to say that he has not been able to capture the essence of the original Tanhaiyan.
Q. How do you find Marina’s direction?
HM: Marina is not a very powerful director. Some of the scenes which required a climax such as the first one, and Marina’s entrance in the next episode, did not make the impact which was required as they were pivotal to the story. The story might improve later on but then Marina has never directed a serious comedy, which is very difficult to make. She has yet to make her mark as a director. But she is a very good actress, there can be no doubt about that.
Though I am hurt, my blessings are still with Marina Khan and her team.
Q. With increasing branding taking over television productions, what do you think of Olpers’ Tanhaiyan — Naye Silsilay?
HM: I didn’t like the title and asked them to change it which they didn’t agree to. Tanhaiyan is a prestigious serial, not a product. Literature and drama are different things and a dairy product is a different thing. Sponsoring it doesn’t mean you own it. Things have now become so commercialised that tradition, culture and refined taste have taken a backseat. Corporate sponsors can help a lot in promoting culture and literature, but not at the cost of cultural values.
Q. Your past serials had two directors and just one writer, that was you. In this sequel there are two writers and one director.
HM: For nearly 10 years I worked with two directors: Shireen Khan and Mohsin Ali, Zaheer Khan and Shireen Khan, Mohsin Ali and Shoaib Mansoor. The reason for this was that while one episode was being acted out and one of the directors was directing, the other would sit with me and prepare for the next episode as they had to be done very quickly. We gave each other the credit because we worked together as a team, and the result was good.
It’s not the same anymore. Today, a single person wants to take all the credit and thus there is no teamwork. The writer wants accolades, while the director feels he or she has done a good job. It is a very cut-throat situation. This serial could have been better if everyone had worked together. In the past, my directors consulted me at every step. There were no egos or complexes, and monetary gains were not all-important then.