Soul Sisters: Bringing ‘Zindagi’ to women’s stories beyond borders

Shailja Kejriwal
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Mumbai–¬†While some of the words and one-liners like ‘art should be kept away from politics’, ‘art and artistes are powerful to bridge socio-political gaps’ – remain mere lip service for many on cultural exchanges between India and Pakistan, there are a few content creators in the business who are constantly trying to walk the talk.

Pakistani web series ‘Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam‘ (QHKN), a Zindagi original, is all set to air on Indian OTT platform ZEE5.

In conversation with IANS, Shailja Kejriwal who is the Chief Creative Officer, Special Projects, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd shared how the constant efforts of creating content in collaboration with the talents of both the countries will keep the hope alive for peace. British-Indian filmmaker Meenu Gaur, the director of QHKN also joins in.

Shailja told IANS: “Firstly I genuinely believe that we should never box people and their ideas based on where they are coming from, if we do so, how will we create content that is out of the box really? As brand Zindagi, we know that in South Asian countries, we have a steady fan-following for our stories and the audience is only growing. When it comes to the common people of India and Pakistan, we know how similar and different we are at the same time. In the last two years especially, the kind of shows that we are greenlighting are a mixed bag of human-interest stories and stories of women. Be it ‘Churails’ that we released last year or the upcoming one QHKN, we are telling the stories of women who are standing against patriarchy because that is the age-old tradition in both the countries, India and Pakistan. I believe as a content creator that instead of just saying ‘art and eartists have no boundaries’, bringing them together by utilising the power of OTT platforms is a better way to keep the hope alive.”

The show ‘Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam’ is a six-part anthology series featuring seven women.

Sharing her thoughts on the story, Meenu, an award-winning film director said, ” The whole crux of our conversation was how to redefine the word ‘femme fatale’. Why do we treat women who are strong, powerful and beautiful – as someone who will ruin the world of the men, as if they are the man-haters, they are vamps! We have seen in popular culture how the image of a vamp is an educated, beautiful woman who knows what she wants. How come that is negative, but there is a negative connotation attached to it, right? Through this show, with six stories we are trying to see the narrative from these women’s lens instead of the rules set by the society that is patriarchal.”

Adding to that Shailja said, ” I think being non-conformist, or not being submissive or women who know their mind, tends to get such a reaction from society. But it is so much there in our upbringing. You see, a girl is always told to occupy less space and not to upstage a boy, or their male counterpart. Things are changing and it will change for the future generations more if we continue the conversation through stories in popular culture.”

The show features leading actors including Sanam Saeed, Sarwat Gilani, Samiya Mumtaz, Faiza Gillani, Beo Raana Zafar, Eman Suleman, Saleem Mairaj, Ahsan Khan, Osman Khalid Butt and Sheheryar Munawar.

While the director of the show is a British Indian, it is interesting to notice how all the actors in the show are Pakistani.

Asked if there is a strategy to only work with Pakistani actors for every Zindagi original show, Shailja replied, “No, no we do not have such thoughts in mind at all. But logistically it is difficult for Indian actors to travel to Pakistan and shoot. We shot our latest show in Pakistan, earlier also we did the same. If a story is set in a specific landscape, especially under the pandemic when we shot, we have to keep logistics in mind. We are in fact planning to work with Indian actors in our upcoming projects where our audience will get to see Indian and Pakistani actors sharing screen for some web show, maybe. At times, crossing the short distance looks much tougher, if there is a border. But, we should never stop dreaming for that day to come.”

Written by Farjad Nabi, ‘Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam’ releases on December 10 on ZEE5. (IANS)



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