Connecting Desis Worldwide

A desi site for desis living in pardes as pardesis  

Search by
The Web DesPardes

Bangladesh News
Diaspora News
     Eating out
India News
Message Board
Money Transfer
National Anthems
News Explorer
News Features

Pakistan News
Shop on Line

Top Picks
World News Sites

Mehreen Jabbar Unplugged


NEW JERSEY, Dec 29, 2005: Mehreen Jabbar is a Pakistani woman filmmaker, director, who moved to New York from Karachi some time back hoping to hit it big. In her own right, she has. After having raised the bar in Pakistan’s Show Biz, a Bollywood stint or a Hollywood handshake is all she needs to  peddle to the top where silver success is defined not only in terms of dollars and golden dreams but in turning ideas into realities.

In Pakistan, her unconventional style of story telling earned her much acclaim and several awards. In the United States, she is positioning herself for a breakthrough as a first Pakistani-American. Until that happens, she is kaleidoscoping Pakistani and Indian diaspora stories, plots, specially working women related, through the lenses. Pehchaan - a TV drama serial happens to be the latest one such.

Mehreen, who turned 34 today and is single, already has an extensive portfolio. After, directing her first play in 1994 when she was just 23, she went on to create work which ranges from short independent art films to commercial serials for television. Her work has appeared in many film festivals including The Hong Kong International Film Festival, The San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival, and The Leeds Film Festival in U. K. to name a few. team decided to chat online with her and present the excerpts to our visitors.

Happy Birthday Birthday Girl! How old are you. Why are u settled in New York and when do u plan to get married or not at all?

M: I am 34. I came to New York to try out a different venue to work in and the marriage question, I usually never answer. So u r enjoying being a single woman in NY?

M: I don't answer that. Are you making money or....surviving ?

M: At the moment, somewhere in the middle. Do u cook or you order takeouts and deliveries?

M: Well, more takeouts and deliveries. I cook some vegetables. I am mostly a vegetarian, in that i might eat chicken once in 2 or more months Which is your favorite hangout in NY?

M: My room. which has a great view of Brooklyn. And also the Angelika Theatre Cafe in Soho, and Union Square. Your favorite food?

M: Salads, French fries, oranges, avocadoes what is your favorite movie that you have watched more than 3 times?

M: Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders. Do u read books and what kind of books?

M: Nowadays, mostly fiction. Currently I am reading a book called The Vagabond, by a French writer called Collette, based in the early part of the century. Also enjoy Marquez, and Saramego. Are you a practicing Muslim or not yet or not at all?

M: I don't answer that either. Sorry. If you were asked to produce and direct a teleplay depicting desi diaspora in USA, what would u get as the first thing in mind to be the start of your story/plot?

M: Actually, that is what i am doing at present. I am making a series about South Asians in NY and the themes are several. Have you thought about directing a movie in Bollywood at all or not yet?

M: I don't think of that right now. I want to make a good film, and hopefully get a festival screenings and a release in theatres. How would you rate Indian made teleplays? Any favorites out there?

M: Actually, I've only seen some soap operas and sitcoms and I haven't really liked them at all. What is your favorite, I mean an ideal story line you would produce and direct if you were given the chance to do so?

M: I have always wanted to do a film on Queen Nur Jehan and maybe that will happen in a decade or so, when I feel I'm ready. Who are your favorite desi and pardesi directors?

M: Desi directors: Shoaib Malik, Shahzad Khalil. Pardesi: Bergman, Almodovar.. Why do u make films only on women issues?

M: I don't think I make films only on women's issues. My first three telefilms were perhaps more on that line but since then, I've done over 30 telefilms and serials, and they have dealt with a variety of themes. I do tend to portray women as strong and conflicted characters, but that doesnt mean I deal (only) with 'women's issues'. Your teleplays Nivala and Putli Ghar. Were these your 2 breakthroughs or which play was your breakthrough?

M: My first play that aired was Ab Tum Ja Saktey ho with Khalida Riyasath, and then was Farar, which did very well. Putli Ghar I think was one of my favorites but I would say these three were the establishing ones. Establishing in terms of a career. I still have to make a break through film though. Tell us a little bit about your film 'Beauty Parlor' which was recently screened in New York and which has also been screened in several film festivals around the world.

M: Well, it is a short film made in 1998. It is a special film to me because we made it with the intent of doing something without the constraints of PTV and self censorship and to explore themes that we could not show on Pak TV in those days. It was made with a very small budget and with very dedicated actors and crew who worked for low pay and invested all they had. I'm happy, that it continues to draw interest even now. Were you associated with your father Javed Jabbar's movie "Beyond the Last Mountain"?

M: Well, I was 3 when he made it. So apart from coming in a few scenes as an extra, i don't think i was capable! Do you consider yourself being one of the "enlightened and moderated" individuals?

M: I don't know. I think one is constantly being enlightened as one lives and learns. But I am I guess a 'moderate' individual though maybe not..! If you were to "visualize" a fairly balanced working Pakistani woman how would you dress her up in your movie? I mean a working woman in the cities, let's say Karachi and New York?

M: Those are two very different cities. I don't know what you mean exactly by dressing her up. But I guess it would be a shalwar kameez in Karachi and a suit in New York if she is a banker, or some formal clothes if she works in a corporate firm, or jeans and a shirt if she is an artist. Wearing your "directing hat" how would you depict a typical Pakistani Muslim but educated working single woman in Karachi and another in New York?

M: How would I dress a woman character on Pak TV is simple. Obviously I won't put her in a mini skirt, because that is not how most women dress there. So it would either be a shalwar kameez or trousers, depending on where she works. The West sometimes depicts or is depicting a typical Muslim woman with hijab even though she may be wearing a business suit. Would you as a director of films, depict it similarly if u had to depict a Muslim woman?

M: I would use a hijab if the character that I am filming believes in a hijab, otherwise I wouldn't We understand you developed the story and plot of TV serial PEHCHAAN is it true? (Read: "PEHCHAAN" goes on air )

M: I worked with the writer Azra Babar. We both developed it, but Azra is the one who actually wrote it and took it further. What is your birth star?

M: Capricorn When is your birthday?

M: 29 Dec, 1971

Have Your Say >

More on Mehreen from the web:

After completing the program at UCLA, Mehreen Jabbar returned to Pakistan to practice her craft professionally. Her first play, in 1994, was called “Nivala” (Morsel) which was based on a short story by Ismat Chugtai, one of the foremost authors in the Urdu language. It was the first of what was to be a series of plays for television based on stories by South Asian women writers. Unfortunately, the decision- makers at the state-run television of that time declined from airing “Nivala” because it was based on the work of an Indian writer and, subsequently, the idea for the entire series was cancelled. Though this was a setback, it did not deter Mehreen from doing what she loves. She continued to make short films, feature length plays, and drama serials.

Most of Mehreen’s work has been for the television. Unfortunately, the Pakistani commercial film industry has experienced a sharp decline in popularity during the past two to three decades. Due to the low quality of films being produced and the shady atmosphere at cinema houses, going to a theater is not a viable form of entertainment for the mainstream public. Thus, television remains by far the most popular source of family entertainment. So that has been the industry to which vast majority of writers, producers, directors, as well as, actors turn who wish to hone their craft and create work with depth and meaning for the audience.

Much of Mehreen’s work has focused on the everyday lives of average Pakistani women and the conflicts they experience from day to day. “I have focused mainly on women, maybe just because I find that I can relate to [their] stories on a much more personal level,” says Mehreen when describing her work. While other directors have created fine plays which are obvious in their attempts to raise awareness of women's rights, Mehreen enjoys the challenge of applying subtlety to get her message across. Her viewers often find themselves immersed in the minds of her characters in order to fully understand the characters’ motives. Her tele-film, “Putli Ghar”’ (Puppet House), is an example of such work. It is a story of two young couples living in the same building. The film focuses on the friendship that develops between the two wives; one, a naïve newlywed, and the other, who has been married for a while, more set in her ways, and enjoys making puppets. As the friendship between the two women grows, the bizarre relationship between the puppet maker and her husband is slowly revealed to the naïve friend resulting in adverse effects on her own relationship with her husband. Another tele-film “Farar” (Escape) is about three friends, a widow, a working woman, and a third woman who is a student of classical dance. The play shows the struggle of each woman to sort out her life and find a unique identity for herself.

Television and art film actor, Faisal Rehman, who has appeared in many of Mehreen's plays describes her directing style in the following words: "She gives you the floor to play as an actor and becomes a silent spectator and she will only check you when you cross the boundaries of her perceived story in the wrong direction." Faisal feels that, unlike many other directors, Mehreen does not dictate every move of her actors. She allows them to experiment and improvise as they act out a scene. This he believes is a "great way of making an actor feel at home and get the best out of him." As a director Mehreen is not threatened by an actor's ability to contribute to the story. If through improvisation an actor is able to add enhancements to the play keeping it within the boundaries of her preconcieved storyline then, says Faisal, "[Mehreen] will accept your idea with open mind and heart without being egotistic about it. That is a sign of a good director anywhere in the world."

To Mehreen experimenting with a story is one of the most interesting parts of creating a play. It is something which she believes is missing in many recent plays airing on television. She believes that producers are playing it safe and are prone to take on projects which are based on a proven storyline for success. The result is that the same basic plot is repeated over and over again in different plays or films. “For example,” says Mehreen, “[Producers and directors] think ‘Monsoon Wedding’ was a hit so lets make ‘Pakistani Wedding’, let’s make ‘American Wedding’, etc. We really don’t see that many quality television plays anymore like we did back in the Eighties.”

According to Mehreen, she enjoys making films and plays because she loves telling stories and it is what she has always wanted to do. She says of herself that while growing up she was always a "shy and reticent individual". Therefore, taking a written story and giving it life by turning it into a play or film has been her outlet, a way of expressing herself. If shyness is what made Mehreen into a filmmaker than her viewers consider it their good fortune because her contributions have certainly added a new dimension of creativity to Pakistani television plays.

Though commercial Pakistani films remain largely unpopular in the mainstream, several independent filmmakers have emerged in recent years, such as, Shireen Pasha, Farjad Nabi, Hasan Zaidi, and Mehreen Jabbar herself, who seem to be breathing a new life into the Pakistani art film scene. (Source:



Begum (Mrs.) Nawazish Ali
Bobby Cash
Sasha Khokha
Samir Bhatnagar
Monica Yunus
Mehreen Jabbar
Mukhtar Mai
Faiz Rehman
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan
Mirza Aslam Baig
Ferial Haffajee
Omar Sharif
Waheed Murad
Daler Mehndi
Bobby Jindal
Two Indian women
Imran Khan
Dev Anand
Stephen Fleming
Imam Bukhari
Sharon Stone
Reena Pushkarna
Ghulam Mohiuddin
Dr Tahir Ali Javed
Pamela Anderson
Sunny Leone
Zahira Zahir
Urmila Matondkar
Ritu Beri
Ahmed Faraz
Benazir Bhutto
Iman Ali
Mallika Sherawat
Michael Chopra
Reena Pushkarna
Amina Shafaat
Rashi Chandok
Munaf Patel
Abu Zubaydah
Nayla Al Khaja
Rohit Lal
Chirinjeev Singh Kathuria
Sarala Kumari
Ziaul Haq
Ramesh C Madan
Maulana Fazlur Rahman
Salman Ahmed
Salman Rushdie
Hira Rattan Manek
Comical Ali
Benazir Bhutto
Chandan Thakoor
Sohail Morris
Benazir Bhutto
Nawaz Sharif


email us
Copyright © 1999-2005 DesPardes Inc. All Rights Reserved
Site developed & maintained by 
Mamosa Solutions Inc., NJ, USA