Asma Nabeel has emerged as a formidable writer in the last couple of years. Her first play, Khuda Mera Bhi Hai, put her on the map but it was her second venture, Khaani that generated record-breaking numbers on the ratings chart and established her as a writer who thought beyond the typical family dramas that we get to see on a loop on TV. The Feroze Khan and Sana Javed starrer tackled numerous social issues, including the psychological rehabilitation of a cold blooded killer, and has bagged multiple nominations at the upcoming Lux Style Awards 2019, including one for Asma Nabeel in the Best Writer category.
“I always thought Khaani is a blessed project; it has been nominated in almost all the categories in TV,” Asma expressed her gratitude in an exclusive interview with Instep. “When I saw my name, I can’t give words to how I felt. 1) It is my first nomination and 2) It is an honour for me to have my name in parallel to these well-known writers out there who have been working for long. It is like a huge achievement for me and I am very excited.”
Commenting on the various TV and film nominations and how – like every year – they had garnered a lot of criticism, Asma said, “That happens every year with Lux; there is more controversy because it is one of the few independent awards that we have. People expect more from independent platforms so the criticism is also more than usual. However, I think most of the nominations are very decent; there isn’t any name that wasn’t up to the mark. If we take it positively, there is so much good work and talent around us that it becomes difficult to shortlist a few. I don’t think there was any favouritism or bias against anyone.”
Known for her socially-relevant scripts, Asma began her writing career with Khuda Mera Bhi Hai (2016) – a play that shed light on the plight of trans community in Pakistan. Though it initially generated a bit of controversy, it was a brave effort from the writer who managed to carve a niche for herself in a rather short span of time.
After Khuda Mera Bhi Hai and Khaani, she penned down scripts for Baandi and Dil Kiya Karay (DKK) that also explore social themes and are presently on-air. While Baandi deals with a hard-hitting subject and was influenced by some real-life incidents of brutal killings of house maids, DKK is a relatively light-hearted family drama that subtly comments on certain regressive practices in our part of the world. It has progressive themes and characters that attempt to break away from usual customs and traditions.
Reflecting on DKK that is directed by Mehreen Jabbar, Asma informed, “After my first two dramas, I really wanted to experiment with a love story; very melodramatic sort of a thing. But when I began working on it, I realized that amidst a love story I can knit a lot of other themes in an interesting way. I feel that whatever I do shouldn’t be meaningless so in DKK I have touched upon a lot of issues that are very much a part of many households around us, even in educated families.”
Besides, there is an upcoming project that Asma has been working on; it is a TV play called Surkh Chandni that features Sohai Ali Abro and Osman Khalid Butt in key roles. It follows the story of an acid attack “warrior,” as Asma likes to put it, who fights against all odds.
“Before writing the script for this one, I met Mussarat [Misbah] Apa and some young women who work with her,” she revealed. “I listened to their stories and tried to find out the commonalities. It is very sad that the conflicts that lead to such consequences in their lives are very basic – domestic, societal, etc. Some laws are under consideration to provide justice to these people so it will be a small contribution from our end to create awareness on the subject. We intend to make these laws stronger so that they are implemented. I have very high hopes from the drama.”
Surkh Chandni is expected to air in the coming months while Asma is working on another TV project, with Wajahat Rauf, that revolves around the theme of child trafficking and features Nadia Jamil in a prominent role.
When asked what inspires her to write, Asma responded, “Stories are all around us; every person for me is a story.”
“Post my cancer treatment, my observation has become so strong or maybe I have become more sensitive towards my surroundings. I have seen a very tough phase in my life; for me, the perspective on life has completely changed. Now when I see anything problematic around me, I further probe into it. I meet a lot of people and go to a lot of places, and wherever I go I see stories from which I find issues that need to be addressed,” shared the writer, who plans to write her own story someday.
Speaking of her story, the writer, who survived cancer, recently got a chance to share her story at this year’s See It Be It program under Cannes Lions 2019 where she was one of the speakers.
Moving on, in addition to television, Asma has co-written a script for an upcoming film, Sorry – A Love Story that is being directed by Sohail Javed and stars Faysal Qureshi, Aamina Sheikh, Zahid Ahmed and Faryal Mehmood in key roles. It is a love story that explores different angles of love and relationships, according to Asma.
Sohail Javed was lately caught up in controversy when he filed a defamation lawsuit against filmmaker Jami, for naming him in a sexual assault case. The question on everyone’s mind is how the film will survive this situation.
Known for her socially conscious position on problems, how did Asma look at this matter, I asked.
“It has nothing to do with I writing his film,” she asserted. “When I wrote the film I didn’t know things would take this turn. There are multiple layers attached to it and right now I don’t know which layer is correct.”
“Both the parties are equally respectable for me so it is very difficult for me to judge,” she added, in conclusion. “It is a very complex matter. We need to be very careful about handling such issues, in general. Anyone can come up with anything against one another, so it is better to wait until anything is proven.”