Shahzad Khalil - Producer per Excellence
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

When this soft spoken, gentle, mild mannered and almost timid producer called Shehzad Khalil died in December, 1990 he left behind a legacy of PTV drama productions that has now no heir to carry it forward, because Shehzad belonged to a different breed of professionals altogether.

He believed in the sensibility of the camera frame. He believed in giving his performers maximum "elbow room" to breathe. He couldn't sleep at night because images started to flow in and around his head. He was punctual to the point of distraction.

He abhorred shoddiness in any form or manner and yet was always too much of a gentleman to tell you directly that you lacked finesse.

His contributions number-wise in the field of PTV dramas are perhaps not all that many but each one is considered a complete art from it itself.

Platform from Rawalpindi, Alif Noon and Teesra Kinara from Lahore, Tanhaiyan and Ehsaas from Karachi are some of the well known TV serials directed by Shehzad. His long plays include Panaah 1, Panab-II, Rashid Minhas in the Nishan-e-Haider series and Sagar Kay Ansoo by Hasina Moin, his last PTV production.

Born of Afghan parents, Shehzad spoke only Farsi at home. Although his father was a general in the Army, Shehzad chose a creative profession and joined PTV quite by accident, while waiting for his B.A. results. Back in 1966 he was a member of the first batch of pioneer PTV producers to step out of the Central Training from Chaklala Rawalpindi.

Until he died, he had produced dozens of ptv plays, acted as Programmes Manager and General Manager of two PTV Centres and was at the peak of his production career.

He was a Producer that believed strongly in making his viewer "feel" through his productions. "If I can create that empathy between the viewer and the actor, then I have created a bond so strong that it will last long after the play or scene ends. The viewer must identify with each performer. His pain, anxiety, tears, laughter must mingle with that of the actor. In my opinion that's true drama".

Shehzad Khalil in the course of his professional assignments came in contract with dozens of performers, writers and technical crew members. How do they recall working with him?

Haseena Moin: I have written only one serial Tanhaiyan and one long play Saagar Ka Ansoo for Khalil. He was one person in whose work I could actually "feel" the beauty of the production, almost as if I could touch the aesthetics of it (if that's possible). Believe it or not, Tanhaiyan was an almost off-the cut idea but because of his sensitive handling, it became such a super hit.

All through the serial, he never once pressurized me regarding the script, nor did he ever change what I had written, nor did he ever impose his ideas over mine.

Working with such a person is both pleasurable and fulfilling. To put it briefly Shehzad transformed my words into visual images. Each smile, each tear, even a sigh, a sharp intake of breath, a look of despair or an expression of sheer ecstasy, he was a person who could capture it all and put it into pictures. He had that kind of talent.

Sabiha Khanum: It was my first TV performance and I was working with this young producer who never, ever actually told me what or how to do it, but just through his conversation, he let me know what he wanted so that although it appeared to be all my effort, yet he was directing me, indirectly.

Shafi Muhammad: Teesra Kinara from Lahore was my first serial and I had to deliver rather long, monologues which at that time for me as a fresh actor was no easy task. It would change my face direction as I worked around them.

Asif Raza Mir: He was a very patient man and a director who was clearly the leader of his team.

The technical crew and even was as performers would be amazed at this capability to quietly take on the role of the director without actually offending anyone.

He would only correct us (the actors) if he felt we got "too out of character" otherwise he pretty much left us alone to interpret our roles as we saw test. After the last episode or Tanhaaiyan, I remember we all cried as if we were parting forever. We had all become so close and worked so well as a team.

Marina Khan: He was a very meticulous person who clearly valued time and understood how precious it was to and for everyone. When he picked me up to act in Rashid Minhas, I told him how awful my urdu was! He listened to my reasons and then said,

"But Marina, I can give you a hundred examples of such persons whose urdu is just as pathetic, if not worse then yours!"

He proceeded to do just that and won me over!!I have a habit of generally pulling faces all the time. He told me I had a plastic face that could turn and twist at the slightest opportunity. If ever he corrected me, it was to "keep my face under control"!
Syed Najm-ul-Hassan (Cameraman) : I remember while doing Piatform with him in Rawalpindi in which his own wife, Badar Khalil, (who was also performing) had to be struck on the face by a fellow actor. This poor man was very nervous about hitting the Producer's wife. Sheehad quietly put him at ease and the guy gave Badar a real hard slap on the face. In another episode of Alif Noon in Lahore, Rafi Khawar (Nanna) started actually crying on set because the play was about a lost child. After a while Shehzad came down from the control room, sat quietly in the Studio with tears rolling down his cheeks. He would become so involved in his work.

Amir Imam (General Man¬ager, Karachi Centre): Shehzad and I joined the TV academy together in 1966 in Rawalpindi and became friends from the first day. He was a very quiet person, in more ways than one. A man of few words who took the fame and the glamour of his creations quietly, almost in his stride. He may be involved in directing a series that would be the talk of the town but somehow, for him it was simply an assign-ment, no big deal was involved.

Mohsin Ali (Senior Drama Producer):

Shehzad believed in the concept of picking the best possible artistes, selecting the most suitable theme and combining both of them to present a beautiful production.

He was not a laborious producer, neither was he a very hard working person. By his sheer talent, he could almost effortlessly produce a creation aesthetically so powerful that it  might take another person years of a hard work to reach such a pinnacle of success!

Sahira Kazmi: At times I wish he had given me more directions when I was acting in Teesra Kinara, I may have been able to perform better.

By Moneeza Hashmi