Don’t let those hazel eyes and handsome face fool you. Imran Abbas, a graduate of the NCA (National College of Arts, Lahore), who has made his mark on the small screen here and the silver screen across the border, has an intellect to match his looks. Imran Abbas sits down for a thought provoking interview with Sana Zehra

Feminism has taken the world by storm. You are a staunch proponent of women’s rights. Tell us about it.

The basic definition of the word feminism is often misunderstood in our society. There is a common misconception that feminism is about hating men, which is completely wrong. In reality, however, feminism means to strive for equality in all spheres of life, such as the economic, political and social system. People who defend this idea are called feminists.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is not the most perfect country when it comes to gender equality. Having said that, I think we need to also focus on the positives about our country. Pakistan was the first Islamic country in the world to have a female Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, and the fact that the citizens of this country accepted her as the leader is a very big deal. There was no clear opposition to her leadership based on her gender.

Moreover, there are so many female pilots and commandos in Pakistan’s Air Force. There are many different careers in which Pakistani women have made their mark by taking up leadership roles.

There are so many female pilots and commandos in the Pakistani Air Force

In terms of cases of domestic violence, rape and acid throwing, I do agree that there is immense injustice in our society. In fact, women are not the only ones who face injustice when it comes to such crimes, men in our society are victims as well. Recognizing that atrocities can affect all genders in similar and different manner is also another aspect of feminism. So yes, there are many things that need to be improved but all in all, many people are raising their voices and I believe that Pakistan’s attempt to achieve gender equality is getting better.

Do you feel being in the media makes you responsible to tackle sensitive subjects such as transgender, homosexuality and child abuse? How do you think media can change the mindset?

Of course, cinema and television have a great impact on the society. There was a conference in the UK recently where it was said that in India, the impact of the cinema is far greater than the impact of newspapers, books, magazines and the general press combined. Not only that, there is a television in almost every household so the reach of cinema and television is widespread. That is why I always emphasize that we should not put on television something, which might affect people’s mindsets negatively or drastically.

War and violence doesn’t solve anything

I do believe that there are many issues in our society that need to be addressed head on and that’s why I think it’s important to raise a voice against them. There are topics, which should be publicized on television that could ultimately mould young people’s minds in the wrong way.

For example, after the release of the Indian movie, Qayamat se Qayamat Tak, in which a couple elopes because of familial rifts, there were endless real life cases reported of young couples running away together. Similarly, many real life cases of suicides have sprung up in India after some Bollywood movies highlighted the topic. I think as actors, writers, producers and directors, we are all responsible for how we propagate stories on the screen and because television is more easily accessible to the general public than cinema, there needs to be some kind of rule as to what content is suitable for children.

You’ve been active across the border and on TV here, but how come we haven’t seen you in Pakistani movies as yet. Any plans?

Even while I was doing movies in India, I did not abandon my television career in Pakistan. Maintaining a relationship with my country and my local industry was very important to me because that is the only place that got me recognition in the first place. I can’t imagine being disconnected from my roots so I continued to work at home and abroad. I believe in picking the best opportunities because I want to deliver only the best quality of work. I do have a lot of opportunities from the Pakistani film industry and I am currently thinking of taking up a project very seriously.

Keeping in mind the current circumstances things are not that great working across the border. How do you think we can get past it?

Across the border doesn’t only mean India, because the world is much bigger. However, yes, the current circumstances are not favourable when it comes to me working abroad, but I always pray for amicable relationships between India and Pakistan so that artists can collaborate, regardless of whether I’m working or not. Actors from India should be able to come to Pakistan to work and vice versa. Political unrest between the two countries should not hinder artists’ opportunities to work across the border.

Actors from India should be able to come to Pakistan to work and vice versa

In fact, artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Noor Jahan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, andAtif Aslam have always continued to bridge the gap between countries and they were being given respect there even when the political situation was unstable between the two countries.

In Pakistan also, people never stopped listening to Lata ji, Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar. This is simply because actors and artists are beyond these petty issues and they are the ones who people often get hope from, the hope that India and Pakistan will restore their friendship.

Progressive thinkers like myself and many others like me across the border, including the younger generation, want to avoid war at all cost. War and violence doesn’t solve anything. I am a really positive person and that is why I am hopeful that the situation will ease eventually and collaborations across the border will restart.

We heard stories about your upcoming project in Bollywood. What is the current status of it?

Yes, there is definitely something cooking there but then again, it takes time to execute great plans due to many different reasons. I am really looking forward to the project though. Even in my own production, I am trying to incorporate my personal experiences from working outside Pakistan and I am trying to find people to work with so we can make this onto an international project. I think it’s essential for Pakistani artists to expand their horizons and work on bigger, better and different projects, and that is exactly what I am striving to do.

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