An offspring of a creative family, Adeel Hashmi has carved his own space in the media industry in Pakistan. He is a talented director, actor, and creative producer behind several TV shows, documentaries, and commercials.
Adeel’s productions are considered to be “hutt ke”, or atypical of the usual commercial formula productions that have become the norm on South Asian TV channels.
In an exclusive Rendezvous with The Saturday Post, Adeel shares stories about his own life as well as his views on the state of media in Pakistan. Read on to learn more about this talented man!
Q1 – Tell us a little bit about where you grew up, education and family?
I grew up in an old part of Lahore called Model Town. Model Town was designed by the British is the early 1920s. If you go to google earth and find Model Town, you’ll know why it is perhaps the best designed residential area in the country even today.
There were old and big houses, with tall trees in every garden, everyone knew everyone else. All the neighbors’ kids were our best pals. We grew up among two dozen friends of all ages. We played cricket, hockey, football, stone fighting, hide and seek, water fights, dark room, cards, monopoly, God knows what not. It was a dream childhood. Looking at kids today, it seems like I grew up in a dream. Yes, it was a dream childhood. Those were innocent times. There were hardly any cars. I don’t remember if our main gate was ever locked, even at night. Nobody felt the need. We didn’t even have walls around the houses, we only had bushes. It says so much about those times.
After finishing school in Model Town, I went to Government College Lahore like all my other family members. After my graduation I did my MBA from Imperial College, then a few years later MFA in filmmaking from Academy of Art University, San Francisco.
My mother worked for the Pakistan Television for 40 years. She’s retired recently and still continues a prestigious career in the media, traveling, lecturing, chairing international conferences etc. My father is a practicing psychologist, and my brother is a psychiatrist and lives and works for a big hospital in Arkansas, USA .
Q2 – You belong to a very talented family, all linked with the media, arts and education. How did it feel to grow up in such a rich and competitive environment? Did being in the media come naturally to you?
It wasn’t such a rich and competitive environment for me. I always felt my peers and friends found it so. I grew up watching rehearsals, singing songs, acting in plays, for me, it was always the line that I’d choose not because I was good or bad at it, but because I couldn’t do anything else. I did try my hand at business and marketing before deciding to put an end to that nonsense and taking up writing, directing and acting, something that came to me much more naturally. I always felt totally at home doing media work. I also composed songs, wrote scripts, acted, directed, hosted shows etc.
I didn’t have much of a choice. I only got to choose when to take my first step. The path, had already been decided for me by the Supreme Commander. If I had a thousand lives, I’d do exactly what I’ve been doing. God has been too kind.
Q3 – Tell us about your film direction career; what inspired this interest and what kind of films are you most interested in making?
There is really not an event that inspires you to choose a path. It’s a combination of factors. The pressure keeps building up until one day, you explode like a volcano. That’s what happened with me. I grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan’s movies, James Bond movies. And I couldn’t for the life of me think of a reason why anyone would want to do anything OTHER than making movies. At the time I was also a child star who would come on television and advertisements etc. And people thought I was good. In politeness, I never disagreed! It was much later that I knew I had to study filmmaking in order to make films. The kind of films that I like are the ones which stay with you. You take them home with you from the movie theatre. They bring out your good side. They move you. They make you think. They make you laugh and cry. They are your friends. Your intangible friends.
Q4 – What are some of your personal strengths that set you apart as a director?
Thats’ really not for me to decide. I think perhaps my sensitivity, and a little bit of wit. I admit that I am a deeply emotional person whether I’m working or not. I get attached with my team and my work. I have cried more times than I’d like to admit during work just because something came off beautifully. And vice versa.
I am also very careful with my actors. I know they’re treading a fine line. I have to give them their balance. If they trip, everything will fall. All actors like that. They want an understanding director. I am more of a ‘human element’ director. If the actors don’t act, but they actually ‘become’ then I have the audience. I think that is a great strength.
Q5 – What are the biggest challenges for young, independent film makers like you? Is it funds, subjects, distribution, or something else?
Funds yes. Distribution yes. Also the infra-structure and the movie culture is non existent in Pakistan. We have no technically trained people to work behind the camera, no studios facilities, no makeup artists, no wardrobe people, no art directors; we can even hardly find extras for our films. All of this adds up when you make a film. You start taking out one thing at a time, and by the time you finish your film, it looks like a Pakistani film. This can’t change overnight but it surely can start overnight, and I think it has.
Q6 – What is your opinion of the state of the Pakistani film industry (commercial cinema)? What are young film makers doing to improve the standards?
If we produce 20 films a year and the total annual revenue is less than the budget of one mainstream Indian film then we shouldn’t be calling it Pakistani film ‘industry’. Its not an easy thing to admit. But it’s the truth. Our industry died years ago. We have a habit of wearing our past laurels on our heads as a crown. May it be Imran Khan’s world cup, Jehangir Khan’s squash record, Pakistan Television’s old dramas or our Muslim rulers 10 centuries ago. No one wants to know what is happening TODAY. I think the film industry has to be reinvented from scratch. And a lot of work has to be done. I think the first step has been taken. Some new people have come in to make films. This year some new cineplexes are also being constructed. Competitive filmmakers who make advertisements are planning films. Film schools have been setup. New television channels have trained young minds. Many of them would eventually want to do films. The change is slow, but itâ€™s on its way.
Q7 – You have also done some acting as well, why did you decide to discontinue that career?
Same reason I took up direction. I felt the directors I worked with not only lacked sensitivity and technical skill but also their understanding of actors was very poor. An actor is the director’s main ally and the most important weapon. You better know how to use it to get maximum results. I decided to use that weapon myself, so I stepped behind the camera. But I didn’t discontinue my acting completely. You’ll see me very shortly.
Q8 – What do you like to do when you are not making films? Any other projects or ventures you’d like to tell us about?
I have just finished a series for Geo that should be launched in May this year called Kotthi Number 156.
I also produce a weekly program on weddings and designs called Saj Dhaj.
I am, these days, involved in designing and producing another talk show that I may host called ‘ICONS’.
I am also writing a film that I plan to get involved in later this year.
Recently, I assisted Mr. Shoaib Mansoor in his forthcoming maiden film venture called Khuda Kay Liyay. I consider Shoaib Mansoor to be the greatest visionary director in Pakistan.
Whenever I get a little bit of time I make advertisements and documentaries to keep learning new things.
My two year old daughter is a full time project I’m working on too!
Q9 – What words of encouragement would you give to the young people who want to become film directors like you?
Passion. That’s all that matters. Go for it.
Q10 – Lastly what message would you like to convey to our readers?
Success is to be able laugh loudlyâ€¦and frequently. Make yourself and everyone around you a success