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Q&A with Waqas Majeid Khan

  • Posted On: 17th June 2013
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Q&A with Waqas Majeid Khan

Starting his career in theatre in 1992 Waqas Majeid Khan moved into the media industry as an actor/writer/director and producer, working for various advertising agencies and television channels. He then joined Express 24/7 as a news anchor — the premier English news channel at the time, and also continues to act in television plays for various local channels. He is currently working with PTV World as a news anchor and host of his show — The World Tonight. Talking to Maryam Syed about the television industry of Pakistan Waqas says there is a severe lack of quality television shows being produced

Can you tell us about your professional background and what prompted you to commence a career in television?

Waqas Majeid Khan: “I started my career with the theatre in Lahore doing what they call parallel theatre at the time, which was not very commercial. Back then we had great mentors like Shoaib Hashmi, Samina Ahmad, Salman Shahid, Akmal Haq, among a few other people. We did quite a few English language plays as well as Urdu plays. Way back in the early nineties we had a company called Players which produced plays. From there I joined advertising and then I got into production – making television commercials and documentaries. Then I got my first big break, a friend of mine, Nini a graduate of NCA, was producing a play called Kaun – a murder mystery. Other people associated with the project were Jawad Bashir, Faisal Qureshi – all these people were my contemporaries.  I was playing a journalist’s character in the play and it was a big hit – that was my first big break in television. Since then I’ve done several plays, serials and telefilms. Then I got into direction and directed my own plays. During my time with the theatre I directed plays for Salamat Academy, LACAS – which were school level competition plays and they were big hits. I also wrote a few plays which I produced and directed and they were also pretty well received.  But, I haven’t done theatre in a long while now since I have been associated with television for a couple of years now.”

Currently you are hosting a show at PTV World, The World Tonight. Tell us about the show.

WMK: “I was strangely lucky enough to get both sides of the media – the news media as well as the entertainment media. I was working with Express 24/7 for three years as a news anchor. While I was doing that I was continuing with my acting on the side. Currently, I’m only doing this show and news bulletins at PTV World. At The World Tonight we have all kinds of individuals appearing as guests, journalists mostly and analysts and we are mostly discussing politics and the impact and repercussions of politics in ordinary life and a bit of lighthearted take on what is happening around the world. The show is currently not scripted so we get to improvise a lot. It’s a double edged sword because when the show is not scripted you also have the tendency of going off topic and the programme sometimes lacks structure, but once it’s scripted you know exactly what you are saying so I prefer to have it scripted.”

What are your views on the freedom being given to the media and whether that freedom of speech is being used responsibly or not?

WMK: “I think the media needs to reign itself in and learn how to be polite. I find a lot of these television anchors are extremely impolite and rowdy and half the time you don’t even understand what the show is about because there is so much noise being made you can’t really hear what the guest is trying to say. So in those terms there is a lot to be desired as far as the performance or ethics of the anchors goes in conducting shows. One thing I hate is for the anchor to speak more than the guests because then what is the point of having a guest on your show. There are frequent interruptions by the anchors and it is all quite unseemly. That I think needs to be controlled. I try to avoid that during my show.”

In your opinion what is the standard and quality of the plays being produced on television in Pakistan?

WMK: “Unfortunately in my opinion the standard and quality of dramas being produced in Pakistan is very poor because we don’t seem to get out of the traditional saas-bahu story line and the plays severely lack diversity. There are so many genres that are left unexplored and it is difficult to determine whether such plays are not being written or whether they are not being picked by producers who want to play it safe.  I have written plays that are off the beaten track, but nobody is interested in producing those because they think there is no money in that but I disagree. Nobody is willing to think out of the box and break out of the mould and that is where the problem lies. We have a culture of never spending money on any form of art which is why our industry is suffering. Other countries who pay attention to this field are far ahead because they know the power of the media and we don’t understand that. I do hope the younger lot has more sense to get out of the stagnant story lines because there is a lot of talent in Pakistan in terms of actors and writers but they don’t get the right type of grooming to excel. It took so many years for us to establish something like NAPA and we need more institutes like that to teach people about the arts, about making films and how to write for television – things like that.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

WMK: “I would like to get off the screen and go behind the camera now and start producing things with meaning and that are close to my heart. I know it is going to be hard because people are going to give me a tough time as I try to sell my product because they might think it’s not commercially viable.”

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