Viraf Phiroz had a telephonic interaction with Gul Khan, Producer, 4 Lions Films on her highly popular show Qubool Hai, the representation of Muslim characters in films and TV, her past career and her future plans. We here publish transcripts from the interview…
So Gul I hope you’ve realised that I am not a journalist but actually an actor calling on my day as guest editor…
This is good as I am interviewing artistes most of the time on a forum. So this is a reverse situation….
Who is responsible for your show Qubool Hai?
It is me and Mrinal Jha (Creative Producer, Undercover Productions Ltd) who are responsible for this show.
By when do you think Qubool Hai will be the number one show on Indian television?
Maybe in six months…
What makes you tick?
I really like what I do and it’s nice to make a show which is watched by many people.
Does it give you a sense of power that your show is being watched by many people?
Definitely! Earlier I had just the stories and now I have the power to take them to the people so yes if I didn’t have the power to reach many people I would surely have felt powerless.
What do you do when you aren’t feeling creative?
We work together as a team but there are days when we aren’t feeling too creative. We keep on staring at the board together at times as we feel so stuck.
What makes you come out of that?
I come out of a creative block by having Maggi noodles.
Why Maggi noodles?
After all Maggi noodles has been my friend since my hostel days for a long time during which I would make a sandwich out of Maggi. In fact Maggi noodles is my best friend.
With which show did you start your career with?
I started my career as an assistant director on the dance show Boogie Woogie. However it’s when I got my first job with the Sanjeevani team that I got grounding as a director.
Of all the shows you have made which one has been the closest to your heart and why?
Qubool Hai as there is hardly any show which represents Muslims. Like the show’s protagonist Zoya I am also modern yet rooted in culture. Also in this project the female protagonist wears jeans unlike any on the GEC space. Many girls wear jeans in India, however it is strange that they don’t show the same on TV. Viewers still think that if the female protagonist isn’t wearing a dupatta she is bad. In fact Zoya goes on telling people that they are being judgmental on seeing her dress in jeans.
Also Qubool Hai is the second show that I have directed after Sanjeevani. I hadn’t directed any show after Sanjeevani for four years.
Islam seems to be one of the most misconstrued faiths…
Yes, as a Muslim you do feel marginalised. At times I have found it very difficult to get a house despite the fact that I am married to a Hindu. I feel that the tenants should feel safe that at least as my husband is a Hindu and that I am married to a good man (laughs).
However there are three Khans in Bollywood, right?
That is indeed true but it’s a very different ball game in Hindi GECs.
So you are the Khan of the TV industry. Please continue with what you think about the misrepresentation of Muslims on screen…
The most of the time Muslims are represented as terrorists. I would like to refresh that about the culture.
Did you watch the movie Khuda Kay Liye?
Yes and I loved it. In fact I was supposed to work with Fawad Afzal Khan from the movie which however didn’t unfortunately work out. He was also the actor inHumsafar which was a Pakistani television drama.
Please name your favourite shows which you haven’t made.
I was an NRI during a greater part of my childhood. I liked Fauji because of Shah Rukh Khan.
So one Khan inspired another?
(laughs in response) I also like Diya Aur Baati Hum.
Why don’t we make shows like the international ones?
That is because our target audience is different. In India we are targeting maybe a 17-year-old girl in Kanpur or a housewife in Ahmedabad. Geet for instance was a superb romantic drama but no saas bahu saga so it never ever crossed a TRP of 1.2.
However it was dubbed in the Czechoslovakian and Swedish languages and had ardent fans all over Europe. That gave me a great satisfaction that we weren’t just making shows for Indian viewers.
Also it isn’t that our industry talent is not capable of making content like that of the west but the general sensibility of the average consumer is very different from that of the west. Hence the channels make us create content that suits that scenario.
Will Indian television creativity go on borrowing from Bollywood and thereby continue to be the poor cousin of Bollywood?
This happens because there is just too much content that requires to be churned out on TV in India. My writers need to come up with 20 episodes a month so it’s kind of inevitable to have the influence of Hindi films to meet the deadlines of the content production.
I believe our writers are also talented and am surely we can come up with the most original content devoid of any Bollywood influence, on par with shows abroad; only if we have the time.
Also we must try to understand that the influence of Bollywood is deep rooted and phenomenal in India. Many of the Bollywood classics like Agneepath and Sholayhave been remade. There is so much to take from Bollywood. If you even mention ‘the angry young man on films’ even a villager will immediately think of Amitabh Bachchan.
Will you venture into films in near future?
Yes, I am working on a film script. However I can’t go the star route as I don’t know top film stars. Neither can I go the script route as nobody is really looking for a good script nowadays. (chuckles)
Which actor (with whom you haven’t worked as yet) do you admire?
I like Rakesh Bapat who was the hero of Maryada: Lekin Kab Tak? I think Ankita Lokhande from Pavitra Rishta is pretty and a good actress. I also like Ram Kapoor.
What advice would you give to those aspiring creative minds who want to join the TV industry?
I would advise them to come to Mumbai and meet everybody. I didn’t have a job for eight months after arriving in Mumbai but I didn’t lose hope. Then somebody helped get an interview with Naved Jaffery and he gave the chance to assist him. They simply need to be persistent.
You started off with a reality show, would you like to do reality shows again?
I love music and dance. So maybe in future I will do a music and dance based reality show.
What change would you like to see in the TV industry?
I would like to see more sorted ratings, seasons and better budgets.
Which is the best fan feedback that you have got till date? Maybe something like, “I want to marry you.”
The best fan feedback was that I was the best romantic director.
Is there any show that you regret making?
Not at all. Every show is like my child. You don’t regret having a child who doesn’t turn out to be good. You like all your children despite of what they turn out to be like