Writer/Poet, Director and Film Writer Sarmad Sehbai.
Books included in Deewan e Avval are:
1. Maah e Uryaan
2. Pal Bhar ka Bahisht
3. Neeli ke Sorang
There is an aura of genius surrounding Sarmad Sehbai. He is probably one of the few artistes
in the country who can lay claim to the title of ‘Polymath.’ Known for his multi-dimensional
abilities as poet, playwright, film and theatre director, he has worked in Urdu, Punjabi and
English. He has also been uncompromising with his creative pursuits. A radical by nature, he
has shunned the conventional hype surrounding art, and looks at it through a different lens
instead. He views art as something that holds a deeper meaning and is political in nature and
not simply something made for the masses to praise and enjoy.
Sehbai is adding to this era of revival in Pakistani film and media by making a feature film
on his own terms. The film, for which shooting began recently, will cast Fahad Mustafa in the
male lead and will also star Iman Ali, Sanam Saeed and Manzar Sehbai, with some surprise cameo
appearances. The yet untitled project is being produced by Badar Ikram, a senior executive
with a major television channel, and Khurram Rana. Anjum Shahzad will be donning the critical
mantle of director for this project.
The upcoming film, which Sehbai wrote five years ago, draws inspiration from an 18th century
poet, but is set in the contemporary world. Contractual obligations have meant that the theme
and plot of the film have not yet been disclosed by the producers.
“The film will be about contemporary issues and how you deal with your contemporary world,
which is neo-colonial, multi-national, and globalised, but there is no firm grounding ….
Something is slipping, and something is missing,” Sehbai tells The Express Tribune. “The story
is about a crazy, eccentric and creative man, who goes through this, and discovers an 18th
century experience, which is related to nature… a symbolic interpretation of an event that is
still there. It is then that he experiences the linkages of what creativity actually is.”
“I was trying actually to film something else and shot a couple of scenes, but unfortunately
we could not get the right type of cast,” says Sehbai. The film Sehbai originally wanted to
make was written almost 30 years ago and was based on a personal experience; while in
Islamabad, Sehbai noticed an irregular type of dwelling in the middle of a clean city – a
cluster of mud houses which had a rich culture all their own – which inspired him to write the
script. It had been commissioned by French film-makers, but the project fell through.
“This happens to me quite often,” he explains. “The film that is currently being made, I wrote
five years ago, and it’s being made now. A lot of my plays are like that. A play I had written
in 1982 was performed in 2003. It happens because I am not the sort of person that goes with
what is happening and joins the bandwagon,” says Sehbai.
“I [write for] my own pleasure; I like to do things that inspire me and I don’t care whether
they are done or performed. I just write them, if something comes [to me] then I do it.”
Producer Ikram says working with Sehbai is a privilege, since he is uncompromising when it
comes to his craft. Ikram says that the two have developed a close relationship and considers
him a teacher and a mentor.
“Sarmad sahab normally works solo, and he has a very specific style of working, which is
unique to his personality. In this film he has collaborated with many other creative
individuals,” says Ikram.
“This is not a film that plays to the galleries. The whole team has made a conscious choice to
make the film in a manner which will be enjoyed for its content and appreciated for its
narrative. It’s a project of passion and those who understand will know that it’s an effort