Nervousness took over me as I sat down for a chat with this gem of a person for his persona creates a magnifying gravitational field. This gentleman is truly a magnanimous individual, after meeting whom one can learn nothing but humility and honesty. Calling him a great scriptwriter and actor is not an exaggerated expression, as his finesse has already been proven with movies like Ramchand Pakistani and Tere Bin Laden, as well as dramas, telefilms and series such as Rehnay Do, Peela Jora, Shaista Shaista, Mystery Theater, Badtameez, Tum Se Kehna Tha, Dareecha, Wilco and Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay to name a few.
Syed Mohammed Ahmed is a versatile artiste who comes to mind as a perfect fatherly figure; one who is loved and cherished by all, and so are his writings. For those who mostly identify him as an actor would be surprised to know that he is indeed a distinguished writer as well – though he disagrees with the fact – a trait associated with every humble soul. On enquiring about his current projects, our conversation rolled out with a rather bewailing subject.
“I worked for production houses associated with different private entertainment channels and then announced not to write for television any more. I’m not much of a big writer, therefore, there was no furore following my announcement. I did so out of exasperation, as the channels are looking for content which I would not say is written willingly; as it is enforced upon (us) writers, but I feel I am not qualified to churn out such scripts. People have been searching the formula to make gold all their life, similarly, drama ratings now tell us about everything. The formula to gain ratings is being worked upon, wherein different channels have departments that analyse and suggest subjects that gain ratings, and then they ask writers to write specific scripts,” he regretfully states.
According to him, people added insult to the injury by undermining this playwright’s potential. “I did try to write and wondered that I wrote well,” he says, and disappointedly adds, “Hum pey bawar karaya gaya kay Mohammad Ahmed sahib, ap tou ahal nahi hain likhney kay. Therefore, instead of creating a scene, I preferred stepping back in this era of saas and nand, which will end eventually. If it does and I’m still alive, then I will write, for this very time is the darkest I have witnessed in my 18-year career span. Actually, it is painful when dreams shatter and reality hits. I have suffered with this pain after being told that I cannot write which has led me to accept that redundant subjects are not my cup of tea.”
His disappointments kept increasing with time and left him sleepless for nights. “I firmly believe that dialogues should be written in a simple language. This is not what I am able to do and, hence, was told that my sentences are not beautiful; I was left baffled! I literally couldn’t sleep at night and took refuge in sleeping pills. Then suddenly, I decided to step back. I could not fight with them or the ratings,” he laments about the rating phenomenon.
Mr. Ahmed is not one to mince his words when it comes to being honest about the present situation of the television industry. “I have come to realise at this age that straightforwardness and truthfulness is not a good thing, as naming people offends them. However, I do feel disappointed that we, who paved ways through which we taught others, are now lost in oblivion,” he expresses.
Mohammed Ahmed has not lost hope and has now “turned towards films because experimentation is being done. A lot of educated minds are making movies, of which many have stood out such as Nabeel Qureshi. Romcoms are ‘in’ these days; I’m writing two of them and have also turned towards acting again. Other than that, I am paying attention towards writing series where there is no element of saas or bahu. They will be written from the heart and free of negativity,” he says with optimism gleaming in his eyes.
Mr. Ahmed further encourages the younger generation with his wise words in the light of his own struggles at the moment. “I am fighting depression and gathering the courage to write something positive. It is a negative phase in my life where writing about positive subjects is difficult. At 60 years-of-age I am still fighting and want to tell the younger generation that hope is still out there somewhere; we have to look for it and even fight for it. Not losing hope and maintaining positivity in a time of frustration and depression is a difficult task,” he advises the youth.
His scripts usually revolve around mystery and romcoms. When asked what helps him write a particular script, he answers, “I have always tried to stick to positivity. Whatever I have written has had a message that people understood. As far as the genre of mystery is concerned, my mother really liked mysteries. We read novels of Ibn-e-Safi in our childhood. The paranormal realities that we only hear about have always attracted me. Even though we shuold but we do not think out of the box, and restrict ourselves.”
The playwright shares with us his dream script which is still unfinished. “I have a story titled Chanar Ghati, which is an incomplete mystery and couldn’t be shot for some reason. If that ever goes into production I will consider my work done. The last episodes of that drama are yet to be written. It is a difficult serial because several eras have been portrayed from 1857 to present and the story is being made on two tracks. There are technical issues, which is why it hasn’t been finished yet,” he speaks about the incomplete project.
His acting skills are exceptional, which led us to ask him what according to him gives an actor the margin to prove their potential and why the younger generation of actors run after lead roles. “A young person wants to be the centre of attention and achieve fame, but fame, unfortunately, in our part of the world is only achieved by lead actors. Very few people have entered this profession for acting; many who do not get the lead, accept character acting. Once an actor does character acting and finds out the extent of margin involved, they continue doing it. Fame and money is always bagged by the lead actor but after given a demanding character they face trouble which makes them realise their worth,” Ahmed sahib believes.
Towards the end of the interview, this scribe asks the underrated artiste about his secret of going on in life amidst the dispiriting phase, which according him is a difficult question to which he candidly responds, “I adore my daughters; they are my life, especially the younger one. They are the ones whom I do not share my depression with because when they see me troubled they get worried. If I am working hard in this life and achieve something, they are the first ones to know. I am happy seeing them jubilant and this is what keeps me alive, working, and I still feel that I can fight as much as possible because of my family. They are dearest to me,” this humble artiste declares as we sign off.•