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Asad Mohammad Khan

FICTION

A Black Comedy Written in a State of Boredom

I write stories and feel happy that people read and like them. I do not get paid for writing them. I should but I do not; the reason is known to everyone. Therefore, to earn my livelihood I write serials for the television. I feel happy writing these serials, as writing in itself is a noble deed. Those who ask me to write them, claim that people watch and enjoy them. I have no way of finding out the truth. Therefore I cannot say with any degree of certainty that they lie to me or, in order to protect the money they have invested in the serial, they spread this word in the market. Probably such tactics are inevitable in the rickety economy of show business.
I don’t bother myself about these things. Whatever my client asks me to do, I do it accordingly. I keep the plot and the language of the dialogues straight and balance myself with an umbrella on the tense string of drama to go ahead. This is how the thirteen episodes are completed and my client enters the showbiz market saying, ‘satisfied, happy’. Now a free man, a white collared worker, I come to sit on my desk and start writing my personal stories. God is pleased and so am I.
The client knows that Mr. Khan, that’s me, has nothing to do with keeping pace with the requirement of the market. That is not my headache!
My agony begins when during the peak hours of serial writing, my own story emerges with intensity and I treat it like a child, trying to pacify it for the time being by leaving it in the nursery, assuring it that after the guests have left, we would both play and be together. Sometimes I am successful; at other times it so happens that the story does not leave me and I have to deal with this matter in some other manner. Getting an opportunity, in case the client is not vigilant, I incorporate my story into the serial. The customer takes it to be something positive and the job is done. Afterwards I salvage my story from its present location and bring it to my desk to complete it.  The client being alert and a nagger, it is not possible to do this. This is when I start getting weary. But no worker can afford to loathe his bread and butter. Therefore I dedicate myself to my work along with pacifying Mr. Khan, the story writer who grinds his teeth while struggling with his work.
Presently whatever I am writing falls into the very same category. For example, I name some minor character as Daud Chapparkanati or Peter the Unprepared or for that matter anything. The director laughs at it and changes it to Amir, Faiz, Haamid or Rukhsana or any other acceptable name in his copy and gets it printed. Sometimes he appreciates the innovative name through his laughter on the phone. Sometimes he sniggers. If he is right there, sitting in front of me he smiles or gestures in a likable manner which makes me happy and the job is over.
In the serial that I am writing presently, I named a secondary character as Lalla in a state of utter boredom which was liked so much by the client that once when I tried to call him by the name of Iftikhar Shamsi, both the client and the director insisted that Lalla was a perfect name and the other (a sophisticated one) was to be eliminated.
Sometimes I also write something interesting in what is known as ‘mood’ in the terminology of drama. For example, instead of writing that character ‘A’ while laughing awkwardly said blah blah I would write that character ‘A’ laughed like a hyena or ‘A’ in his sacred anger like GWB said ( that our crusade against terrorism ---- etc ) or ‘A’, patting and consoling his each and every word said-----
By the way this particular word (which actually means something else and not consoling) once caused great embarrassment to me and the director. But everyone, especially a particular class of snobs cannot be expected to have read Mr. Manto’s vernacular.
However the serial that I am writing this time has unnerved me. The present director may be called a professionally incredible one, for he has directed a stage drama and has also been associated with the new wave theatre. He is an old bug. He goes into all kinds of details and the writing of the serial is not coming to an end. Months have passed. I want to go to my desk but that cruel man keeps pulling me back by his strings. I am through with the initial efforts of pacifying myself. I am fed up of this pretense now.
However there still remains a month or another half-month for the serial to be completed.
In order to pacify myself I have started playing cheap and sleazy tricks.
The villain of the serial goes underground with the criminal assistance of a police officer. Guffaw, alias Teen Tapar Wala is the owner of a fake investment firm and plays the role of the villain in the serial. A young man who has suffered due to his dishonesty has been successful in recovering his money by physically attacking Lalla, Guffaw’s disciple. Lalla, the lion- hearted even deceives his boss and lies to him by accusing the young man of
Manto: famous Urdu short story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto
snatching all the money there was, instead of just his own small amount. In order to know the truth, Guffaw is compelled to send his assistant Lalla to his air-conditioned torture chamber. 
May God have mercy on me; I have sketched this scene as follows:
Night. Indoors. Guffaw’s Den (in fact his air conditioned chamber) Scene 9
(Lalla is being tortured. Mr. Director! Please improvise as you are good at improvisation and TORTURE both)
Lalla: (the curtain draws and Lalla’s screams are heard) I am telling, I am telling------- call brother Guffaw, I’ll give all, I’ll tell all----- (sobs, cries)
[The torture chamber is sound proofed. It also has imported strobe lights. With the high note of Lalla’s screams the red light flickers. With the middling note it’s the orange light and with the low one the yellow light flickers and a strange captivating scene is portrayed. On one side of the wall there is an intercom. Its lively and colourful polka-dotted design generates confidence and love for life]
 Master: (the foreman of the torture-chamber team, speaks to his boss on the intercom) Sir! He is calling for you. He says he will tell all and give all.
Guffaw: Bring him here. I am busy and listen! Bring him in proper shape, you know I do not like to see blood, ok?
[Guffaw is busy as he is watching the heart-rending scenes of his latest pilgrimage which his grandson has recorded on his home camcorder. Sometimes the grandson appears on the scene too, by moving in front of the camcorder like a eunuch and clapping now and then]
    -CUT-
N.B. When the proposed female lead of the serial, who was pregnant at that time, read the above written script, she went into a fit of laughter and fell off the chair and hurt herself. She was shifted from the rehearsal room to an expensive gynae hospital in an ambulance. By evening it was known that the proposed female lead who was pregnant is not the same anymore. God knows best.
The producers had to arrange for another female lead but no later, due to the uncalled-for attention of one of the Bs who was the partner of the production house she ended up in the same state as the previous one and everyone celebrated (the blundering bastards!)
Agitated by the whole situation, the senior-most partner, who was a cautious man, dumped his partnership and sold his financial gains to the actor who was playing the role of the foreman of the torture unit. The new man immediately got rid of the male lead and landed up infront of the cameras himself.
Nothing could be done now. The unit people celebrated once again (the blundering Bs!) and started working for the completion of the serial in great haste.
     
             
 Translated from Urdu by Mahjabeen Zaheer

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Mohammad Hameed Shahid

Mohammad Hameed Shahid