This is Kamran Qureshi’s interview conducted by Ms Sana Shahid for her dissertation. She was a research student of the 7th semester, Department of Communication Design in the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Dated 5th May 2015. The transcript of the interview is as below:
1. Please describe your association with the TV series “Moorat”?
A: I did my first television film Murad (2003) on intersex as director, which was widely appreciated and won Best TV film award and a first prize of Rs. 500,000/- in Indus Telefilm Festival 2003. I then had in mind that detailed work needs to be done on this subject.
A meeting was arranged with Seema Ghazal, writer of Moorat, on Humayun Saeed’s (Producer/Actor) request to select a subject for the script of a drama series I was doing with Saeed. I explained my interest to Ms Ghazal and she had a story in mind on this subject, which we discussed and went ahead to work on that.
2. What was the date of telecast of the TV series “Moorat”?
A: It was a 33-part series that broadcasted in fall 2004- 2005.
What was the thought process behind the series?
A: I already had done some research about intersex and trans people during filming Murad (2003), their lifestyle, their emotions, relationships, feelings, etc. which helped me a lot in Moorat. My aim was to play my part in communicating their voice to the audience.
4. Are the characters inspired by true events? Especially the intersex?
These are based on the data collected during the meetings with intersex and trans people in the research process.
5. What is the representation of Hijrah/ Khawaja sira to you?
A: Representation of intersex on TV for me is to make masses realise that intersex people are also a part of society and ordinary human beings like the binary genders. They need to be given their due rights, respectful place and jobs instead of being treated with hatred and making fun of them.
Portraying intersex as a core subject in my (further) projects, discussing their pains and issues, and making them useful members of society is my goal.
6. In the series you showed that a boy has an attraction for female attributes, to which he is ridiculed by his family, and in order to attain love, he goes to the hijrah community and out of love they offer he becomes a Hijrah, because he feels he fits into the community. So does that mean all the hijrahs in the series are representing men as a gender, but having only attraction for feminist attributes and hence they turn into hijrah? But in one part, when reshma is in jail, crying for Babar, she gives a sentimental speech of disownment by the family stating how an embarrassing situation it is for a parent to own a hijrah as a baby. That situation confuses me with their representation as a whole. Are they representing the actual khawaja siras or the men only having an extreme attraction towards feminist attributes?
A: It does not at all mean that the intersex and transgender people in the series are representing men as a gender. Although there are some men nowadays who disguise as intersex to earn for their children due to a higher ratio of unemployment. According to them, at least they can feed their children with the income they get from beggary or dance, but this angle has not been discussed in my projects, Murad and Moorat, I didn’t show any man who became a trans-woman except Babar. All intersex characters naming Reshma, Bijli, Shola and Chamki (Rashid Farooqi) represent intersex traits and I have used actual intersex people as well in both of my above-mentioned television projects.
It’s good that you’ve noticed that portion of the series when Reshma was speaking in Police lockup. The basic family infrastructure and human relations are missing from the lives of intersex individuals due to unacceptability from their own families for the reasons that they are not responsible for.
All the intersex and transgender people live together as a community for the same reasons and make their own relations, like sister, mother, wife, husband. They arrange events and celebrate for themselves, engagements, Mayun, Mehndi, weddings, birthdays and making Guru and Chela ceremonies.
In the series, Babar had a little attraction towards female attributes because he was more attached to his mother and got love from Reshma (Abid Ali), Bijli (M Warsi) and Shola (Mehmood Akhtar), as a relief from the bad behaviour of his brother and father who always beat him and used abusive language. He was discouraged in childhood when tried to play with his brother and his friends.
7. The storyline was very biased towards the concept of unacceptability of Hijrahs in our society, regardless of their selfless acts shown on, still, the unacceptability and negligence was prevailing the most. Why? Do you think that will drill the mind of our society in a more harmful attitude towards them?
A: The story reflected the facts, what happens in our society. During the last ten years I never got this feedback from any segment of the society that it is biased towards the concept of unacceptability. But it also shows that if one is a father, he has a responsibility. Babar became transgender just because he got love from that community, but it does not deny the fact that he was biologically a male and responsible for his wife and child to be, whom he left, in fact, his mother as well.
At the same time, we always keep our main focus to reflect through our characters the unacceptability of their families and the society, for the sake of so-called respect. It also shows the negligence of intersex children’s parents for not giving their birthright to have parental love, good education and brought up to contribute as an educated and good member of society.
8. In your series people were even scared to mention their names in the house, and secretly had to communicate with them if need be. Even after when Reshma saves Asim’s life, she still enters the house when the husband is away, and even the slightest association made people conscious and taunts like “humari es mohallay mein izzat hai” (we have respect in this neighbourhood) as if the association was an insult and a very sinful act. The representation seemed in a negative way as an insult not only to their existence but the fear of mentioning their name in the household. Why such portrayal?
A: Reshma is a motherly intersex character in the neighbourhood who helped people by bringing their grocery and some time with the money of her savings, but in Kareem’s house the case is different because of Babar’s frequent interaction.
It is an observed fact and a mirror to society about what type of feelings intersex people have. They just want a few words of love and how we, ordinary people, behave with them. It shows that if we are blessed by God for having the ability to become parents, it does not mean that we become proud and keep a hateful attitude towards those who cannot. They have not made themselves or chose to be intersex, as they also say in the series. In the story, you will find out that the father (Munawar Saeed) who didn’t give due attention and love to his son, had to see the same fate in response from his children when they grew up.
9. You hired actors to imitate the gestures and actions of a hijrah. Do you think hiring the actual hijra would have done more justice in the series? The common thing being that Hijrahs have the trait of dancing and singing naturally. Do you think if you would’ve hired actual people from the community, they would have represented their image in a better way than the actors? It would’ve added as a source of income they would’ve had instead of their alternate profession.
A: We have used intersex people in many events but whilst making a series we have to keep many things in mind. It was a long series, which required professional actors who understood the technicalities of filming and its environment, etc.
10. What was the response after the telecast of the drama, did you see any change in the treatment or difference in the representation of the hijrahs?
Did your target audience have the same perception as you planned to convey through the series? Did you feel any change in society?
A: A strong message was well received by our society and response was great as expected from all over the world as it was broadcasted on ARY and was available on DVDs. Also, Moorat received nominations including best Drama Serial, Best Director Serial, Abid Ali for Reshma (Intersex) and Maria Wasti as trans-woman’s wife in the 4th Lux Style Awards 2005.
Murad & Moorat were like the first serious steps taken to make people realise their own attitude. If we keep on working towards this problem, we will definitely be able to make society aware and change their attitudes but still, it requires a lot more work.