Karachi-born writer Rida Bilal has a few strong scripts to her credit; she penned drama serials Be Inteha (2017), which was a love story, and Khudgarz, in addition to mini serial Dil Hi Toh Hai that attempted to break stereotypes and recently came to an end. However, it is Khudgarz that won her an LSA trophy earlier this year, in the Best Emerging Talent category for television.
"Honestly, this has been something beyond a dream coming true because I had to struggle quite a lot for Khudgharz," Rida reflected, as we caught up with her recently. "I saw no chances of winning while being nominated with such known faces, but then again, there was a little hope in my heart that putting me in such a misfit category with four actors has been done for a purpose. I am more than thankful that quality rather than popularity was seen this time around. What is good will find its way; thanks to social media. And this is why I am least bothered by the number game."
Rida graduated with a degree in Film and Television from SZABIST, in addition to a half (forced) MBA in advertising. She had been writing journals since the age of seven and later on, her writings took the form of poetry, but she was still unsure of what she wanted to take up professionally.
"For all I knew, I was told I had a way with words; words that moved others and connected me to them," the young writer shared. Eventually, after working with three channels in the capacity of content management, a major realization paved her way as a writer.
"What paved my way as a writer was the realization that the ideals and education I had taken with myself to these offices with high hopes were of zero value, because anything and everything had to be equated to the rating game, which I am still not up for," she said. "Ironically, when some people find out that you have a talent, they make sure you never make it to the forefront. I don’t mean to turn this into a hero’s story but I really had to fight my way through. I was offered to write the first project as a favour (unpaid). I remember putting in extra hours after my job to get the script done, but it was brought to a halt. It was only after I resigned from the channel that I decided to get in touch with a few people and write independently. This is when Be Inteha happened."
Be Inteha was Rida’s first project that went on-air but she had started writing Khudgarz before that. The writer informed that there were a few speculations regarding the script and she was asked to make changes which she refused, except for a few considering viewers’ sensibilities.
"Some said the story was too spread out, some said it is bold, as we conveniently term all those things ‘bold’ that make us feel uncomfortable," reflected Rida, informing that she refused to change anything because Khudgharz had a lot of imprints and experiences of her own life. "Some of the conversations seen in the play are real. I can alter fiction, not reality. I belong to a generation of bad relationships. The only reservation I complied with was turning an illegitimate relation to a hidden nikah, just to make it acceptable for prime time. I did it since it wasn’t really affecting my narrative."
Reflecting on her work and how she aspires to pursue writing further, Rida asserted, "‘Everything cannot be said, but it can be written or filmed,’ I said these words after my thesis film was screened at SZABIST - a film that ended up shaking a lot of people. I have since then carried this belief with me. I try to delve more into the psychological aspect of every story. I don’t want to show a nuisance of a mother in law making someone’s life hell; I rather want to talk about the insecurities that drive her to do so. Then again, writing has been with me when nothing and no one was. Something that has made me survive deserves way too much respect in my eyes. If it doesn’t move me, I know it will not move others. Hence I am very selective with the kind of work I want to do, if at all."
Rida is quite vocal on social media and doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind on issues that are important. When asked about ‘Me Too’ and its implications in Pakistan, she responded that like everything else we, as a nation, have made a mockery out of the #Metoo movement as well.
"Harassment is a throbbing nerve where you don’t exactly know which point to press; you don’t know when to yell out that you have had enough," she maintained. "It is a tricky topic to deal with. Just recently when I proposed the idea of making a drama on the misuse of #Metoo, I was told to not even think about it as it will invite a lot of criticism. As much as I am in favor of being vocal and standing against abuse, I do not support playing the woman card unnecessarily."
"A relation turned sour does not account for #Metoo," she furthered. "Maligning someone to set an old score even does not account for #Metoo. Sensitive issues like harassment and depression are turning into the weapons of elite. Ask a girl who travels by public transport everyday only to get nudged by strangers what it means to be harassed. Or someone working for the sake of her family and being deliberately placed near her desperate boss where she has no choice but to stay quiet. Ask a girl who has had an abusive past and is bound to stay quiet after finally managing to make a family of her own. I wish I had seen some good outcome of the #Metoo movement in Pakistan, but all I see is a relentless fight between keyboard warriors."
On a parting note, Rida revealed that she has been working for the web for the past one year and it gives her the freedom she wants. A mega web project is soon to be unveiled once things take final shape. With Syed Ali Raza Usama expected to direct it, it is likely to go on floors in October. "A heavy dose of emotions, strong women and family dynamics is coming your way," the Khudgarz writer concluded.
"A relation turned sour does not account for #Metoo. Maligning someone to set an old score even does not account for #Metoo. Sensitive issues like harassment and depression are turning into the weapons of elite. Ask a girl who travels by public transport everyday only to get nudged by strangers what it means to be harassed. Or someone working for the sake of her family and being deliberately placed near her desperate boss where she has no choice but to stay quiet. Ask a girl who has had an abusive past and is bound to stay quiet after finally managing to make a family of her own. I wish I had seen some good outcome of the #Metoo movement in Pakistan, but all I see is a relentless fight between keyboard warriors."
- Rida Bilal