“We don’t have second line in direction, writing and production”

With more than four decades of experience of working with television and some popular drama serials to his credit, Shabir Mujahid, Deputy Director General (DD) Jammu, in an interview with Shams Irfan expresses his concern over the declining standards in television production.

Shabir-Mujahid-1-(4)-interviewKL: Tell us something about your childhood?

SM: I had inclinations towards art right form my college days. Those were the days when stage and radio were only mediums of communication. So to keep alive the artist inside me, I joined an amateur theater group called Kashmir Theater Groups run by Makhan Lal Saraf. It was the era of amateur theater groups which actually provided alternative space to artists who for one reason or another could not make it to state run cultural academy.

KL: And how did your television journey start?

SM: My father was shocked to learn that his son wants to become an artist. He tried to convince me to choose some other profession but when he saw my passion for theater he did not stop me. He then told me to follow my heart. It was my father who one day told me that there are vacancies in television. I started my career with television as a producer.

KL: Why did you leave theatre?

SM: In 1973-74, television was introduced as an experiment in Kashmir. Some artists and theater groups came forward and became part of television as nobody else was aware of its presence. I too wanted to explore this new medium. Initially it was just for fun. There was a kind of glamour attached to television. But it had its own drawbacks too. TV’s introduction in Kashmir made theater groups insecure and many of them were forced to close down. So I had no other option but to find a sustainable livelihood for myself.

KL: Theatre does not pay you off in terms of money. Right?

SM: Theater is more like a passion. We used to contribute from our own pockets and then perform. But TV is different. It pays you well and keeps your artists alive.

KL: What made you choose sports as your specialization?

SM: I was always a sports fan. When I joined television, I was sent to FTII Pune for specialization in television programme production. There I was asked to choose two subjects for specialization and I opted for drama and sports.

KL: You have covered some of the major sporting events in history?

SM: My first assignment as sports producer was 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. It was quite challenging and exciting too for a person like me who had just joined. But I guess I did well. I was lucky to cover Common Wealth Games (Melbourne), Asian Games (China) and most recently 2012 London Olympics. I have also covered National Games and Afro Asian Games held in Hyderabad.

KL: You have also produced serials?

SM: I have produced around 60 serials so far. The best one I have produced so far is Imandaar written by Bashir Dada with Pran Kishor in the lead. When I was posted at Srinagar office, I did a 1000 episode morning show called Subhai Subhai. It bagged me a National Award.

I had opportunity to produce serials written by celebrated drama writers like Akhtar Mohiddin, Ali Mohammad Lone, Bashir Dada, Zahid Mukhtar. They have understood the medium. But it is unfortunate that we don’t have second line of writers in Kashmir.

KL: Do you think we lack good script writers in Kashmir?

SM: Frankly speaking we don’t have second line in direction, writing and production. Radio, television and theater have different requirements. You have to understand the medium before you write a script. Unfortunately, new generation of writers is highly influenced by western media. That is why they fail to connect with their audience. They have confused the new generation. It is our job to teach them the nuances of television production.

KL: Considering the conflict and importance of news in Kashmir, Isn’t government controlled DD Kashmir becoming irrelevant?

SM: Successive governments try to control television for their own gains. It is not a self sustaining body. We have to rely on government for funding. Since I am government employee we have to abide by the rules and regulations of the government.

KL:Everybody is a producer or director in DD Kashmir? Reason?

SM: It is a very good question. The problem here is that people here don’t want to learn the basics of television production. They should know the screen play writing, camera angles, aesthetics, audio sound recording and direction etc. Unprofessional people have dominated the medium so that is why DD Kashmir is lagging behind. The kind of content that was produced during 70’s and 80’s is not relevant in present times. One has to adapt to the change. New generation of writers is completely disconnected from literature.

KL: Is it because of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir that new generation of writers have stagnation of ideas?

SM: Let us not blame conflict for everything. There are many more issues which concern our society and need to be highlighted. May be these problems are outcome of conflict in one way or other way. But to tell the truth you need to learn the techniques. What is drama; it is an exaggeration of the facts.

KL: DD Kashmir is ridden with scandals?

SM: I was mostly out of Srinagar DD. I don’t have much knowledge about it. Maybe it is because of the prevailing situation in valley that the quality of programmes has deteriorated in DD Kashmir. The biggest problem with DD Kashmir is that there has been no new recruitment in last few years, which hampers entry of fresh talent. Once that is done, we expect some change. We want Mass Communication students to come forward. Every one considers himself as producer. Professionals are not there.


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