PUBLISHED February 13, 2022
Born in Multan on January 14, 1950, Prof. Dr. Asghar Nadeem Syed had his early education in Multan before completing his MA in Urdu Literature from Punjab University in Lahore. The curious soul then pursued her dream of higher education and earned her doctorate. graduated from Baha-ul-Din Zikria University, Multan.
He has been recognized for his contributions to well-known plays and television series, including “Chaand Garahn”, “Nijaat‘, ‘Hawaiian’, ‘Ghulam Gardish’, ‘Khuda Zameen Se Gaya Nahin’, ‘Pyaas’, ‘Dariya’, ‘Maigh Malhar’ and ‘Bol Meri Machli’ among others. He is also the author of many books including short story ‘Aadhe Chand Ki Raat’, novel ‘Tooti Hui Tanab Udhar’, poetry titled ‘Adhoori Kulliyat’ and other books, ‘Tarz-e-Ehsas’, ‘ Kahani Mujhay Mili’, ‘Dasht-e-Imkaan’ and ‘Dabistan Khul Gaya’.
In addition to his position as a faculty member at Government College Lahore, Dr. Syed has worked as Head of Department of Television, Film and Drama at Beaconhouse National University Lahore, as a media consultant at Pakistan Television Company, and as Director of the Lahore Museum. Dr. Syed has won numerous awards, including the Pride in performance Award, the Nigar Awards (15), the Graduate Awards (20) and Best Writer of Pakistani television Award.
MAK: We would love to hear about your parents, your childhood, your childhood memories, your school years and your life dream.
ANS: My father was from a village near Chachraan Shareef (Bahawalpur State), the home of the great Sufi poet Khowaja Ghulam Farid. He could not study beyond the average level because the school was 15 kilometers from his village. His spiritual upbringing and association is linked to his father and he was recognized, in this respect, by so many rich and feudal people who waited for him in their cars parked in front of our house, but my father was always on his bicycle. The character played by Afzal Ahmed in my series “Piyas” was actually a reflection of my father. My mother only studied until the fifth grade, but she was a well-mannered and seasoned lady and taught all her children to cook various dishes: being the eldest son, I learned a lot and I am proud to to be a very good leader. In addition, I took care of the cow, milking and processing of all domestic dairy products. Our parents worked hard for our education, and with the grace of the Almighty, three of us rose to the rank of teachers, while a sister held a senior position in the Human Rights Commission and one brother is a doctor.
MAK: Were you interested in and leaning towards the creative arts and writing fiction from birth or was it an accidental path in life?
ANS: Before moving into fiction writing, I started writing poetry and columns and was a very popular student. [at] Emerson College, Multan, where I studied and taught as a lecturer for six years each. My poetry has been published in Syed Sibt-e-Hassan’s literary journals like ‘Fanoon’, ‘Pakistani Adab’, ‘Auraaq’ and ‘Seep’. Therefore, I joined literary circles and was blessed with the friendship of Sarmad Sehbai, Kalim Akhter, Anwer Shaoor and Sarvat Hussain, and over time the circle widened to Parveen Shakir, Fahmida Riaz, Kishwer Naheed, Muneer Niazi and others. After getting married with a girl from Lahore, I also got closer to Faiz Ahmed Faiz and once when celebrating Faiz Saheb’s birthday, General Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law regime started arresting intellectuals and concerned people, and I had to flee to Shakar Garh where I was assigned as a lecturer. Shortly after this incident, the PTV center in Lahore called me and asked me to write a special play in connection with the Independence Day of Pakistan: thus, my first play “Subha Ki Dastak” was produced by producer Kunwar Aftab who was an educated and educated person in the United States.
MAK: You are a role model for many people from different backgrounds and age groups. Who is your role model in life and work?
ANS: Well, I don’t have a particular person to consider as my ideal because a number of people have inspired, supported and guided me directly or indirectly in my life and career. I have met and befriended many people due to my association with showbiz and the arts and culture halls. However, I owe a lot to Intizar Hussain, Zia Mohydin, Professor Karrar Hussain, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Dr Gopi Chand Narang, Altaf Fatima, Syed Sibt-e-Hassan, Abdullah Hussain, Munir Niazi, A Hameed, Hameed Akhter, Ahmed Faraz, Zaheer Kashmiri, Sheheryar (the poet of Umrao Jaan Ada) and Mohammad Ali (actor).
MAK: What was your first giant literary adventure? How and when did you gain notoriety and popularity?
ANS: I gained recognition and appreciation in more than one genre or field after working in various fields. First, I found my place as a poet in the chambers of poetic circles, then I got into fiction writing with my first dramatic venture called “Dariya”. As was the history of Chulistan desserts, it was exclusively admired in Sind for the people there who associated this game with the Thar deserts. Then I wrote the much-loved series “Piyaas” which brought me real fame and popularity and received the PTV Silver Jubilee Award. Based on this masterpiece, I was invited, along with Initizar Hussain and Dr. Anwer Sajjad, to attend the Iran Theater Festival where we saw a hundred plays. Then I created another hit series “Khowahish” which depicted the life of ordinary Pakistanis, and it was followed by the great series “Chaand Grahan” which made me world famous. In 1991, when my wife and I visited Delhi, on our first visit, a boy in a market shouted “Chaand Grahan aa Gaya”. Then I learned that the series came to India via Dubai and was released by Shalimar Recording Company. Then famous writer Joginder Paal said to me at dinner, “Please finish your dinner and let us go because the last episode of your Chaand Grehen series is about to start. It was really a pleasant bomb.
MAK: You have received numerous awards for your impressive creative and literary services. Among your collection of poetic adventures, which play, story or book do you prefer?
ANS: The list includes many literary enterprises and all those that you have already mentioned according to your knowledge and information. Currently, I am eagerly awaiting my next novel titled “Dasht-e-Imkaan”. It is being translated into English under the title “Impossible Possibilities”. Also, I have just finished compiling the history of world cinema in Urdu and this would be the first endeavor in all of India, in this regard. As my poetic journey goes on and on, I can’t dub a book of my favorite.
MAK: Do you believe in “art for art’s sake” or “art for life”?
ANS: I always see art through the prism of life and it is nothing but the natural phenomena and the spirit of life around us that create art and inspire a man to learn, to think about it and write about it. For me, art is just life and that’s my asset. Art is not something intuitive, but it is the thought, the imagination and the dream that we see while awake.
MAK: You have highlighted the issues of oppression, injustice and social coercion in most of your plays. Is there a particular reason or personal experience in your life that has led you to carry the torch in this regard?
ANS: The social injustice or tragedies of human life portrayed in my plays and stories are inspired and based on real situations and characters in society: I believe in faction rather than fiction. My personal observations and experiences are a great source of my poetic and literary reactions and responses.
MAK: What role can writers and poets play in refining society and guiding it to the path of reform and well-being?
ANS: The only responsibility of an author, a poet and an artist is to openly challenge injustice and oppression, whether exercised by the ruling class, the state, religious circles or mafias. If writers fall prey to certain diplomacy and compromise, they are no longer important in a society.
MAK: You have been very close to Ashfaq Khan Saheb, Bano Qudsia Saheba and many other inspiring personalities related to the fields of creative arts and literature. Could you shed some light on your experiences and the learning outcomes of your association with them?
ANS: I was lucky enough to be a friend of very impressive intellectuals like Ashfaq Khan Saheb, Bano Qudsia Saheba, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Dr Gopi Chand Narang, Syed Sibt-e-Hassan, Abdullah Hussain, Munir Niazi, A Hameed, Hameed Akhter, Ahmed Faraz, Zaheer Kashmiri, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Qurat-ul-Ain Haider. I also composed a book “Phirta Hay Falak Barson”, in this regard. It is a great treasure of my life.
MAK: Have you ever worked in any capacity for the entertainment or showbiz industry of another country, especially the neighboring state?
ANS: I worked for the theater in England with the great playwright Roxannie. Also, Indian writer Deepa Mehta visited me in Pakistan for advice when she was working on Amir Khan’s famous film “Earth”, based on Bapsi Sidwa’s novel, “The Ice Candy Man”. . Johns Hopkins University, USA produced my play ‘Nijaat’ and that very fact is a matter of happiness for me.
MAK: As a professional and intellectual, you are a source of pride for the family and society. How do you see Asghar Nadeem Syed as a friend, son, husband and father?
ANS: I am a humble and simple person and I am happy to see my two daughters and my son happy in their personal and professional lives. My wife Sheeba Alam is the Head of Urdu Department at Kinnaird College Lahore.
MAK: Is there an unforgettable incident in your life that still haunts you?
ANS: My first wife Farzana died in 2000 in Lahore due to negligence of doctors and it was always a nightmare and the most shocking incident of my life. This time I was in London.
MAK: Are you satisfied with your life or are there still dreams and ambitions that have not been realized and achieved? Do you have any regrets?
ANS: I pray to the Almighty to grant me life for compiling the cinematic history of the world and my autobiography. Apart from that, I am also working on other books and the journey is continuous.
MAK: We have established many universities and higher education institutions over the past two or three decades, but society is rapidly declining, [with] with regard to social development and the state of moral values, cultural norms, peace and security, etc. As an educator and scholar, what do you think is the root cause of this global social depravity?
ANS: Unfortunately, our universities do not operate on the model of international universities, and that is why we have hardly any universities that can be ranked among the thousand world universities. I have seen and observed the procedures of higher education institutions in many countries: not to mention following the developed world, we cannot compete with universities even in India, Singapore and Indonesia. It’s tragic.
MAK: What would you like to say as advice to the youth of the country?
ANSWER: I advise young people to focus on reading good books and avoid watching Pakistani TV channels and the crude antics of the street clowns they offer.
The interviewer is an educator, author and journalist, can be reached at [email protected]