Instep takes a look at Urdu literature, stories and characters that should be considered for adaptation.
The rebirth of Inspector Jamshed for a web series has opened a whole new door to content that should be made in Pakistan. Ishtiaq Ahmed’s Inspector Jamshed may be one of the most popular characters ever written here but he‘s certainly not the only one. There are lots of others quirky, mysterious men and women who are waiting to be recreated for different mediums: TV, film, web series or even for theatre.
Instep goes back in time to bring to you five of our favourite pieces of Urdu literature, which are begging for reincarnation…
Character: Ali Imran
Written by: Ibn-e-Safi
Ibn-e-Safi was to Urdu Literature what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was to English literature. Both created powerful characters that lived beyond their life and time; Ali Imran is to Safi what Sherlock Holmes was to Doyle. But unlike Sherlock Holmes, Ali Imran hasn’t been brought to screens yet.
Ibn-e-Safi wrote over 120 books in the Imran Series between the 1950s and 1970s, and although Javed Sheikh’s debut film Dhamaka (1974) was based on an Imran series novel ‘Baibaakon Ki Talaash’, it didn’t feature Ali Imran at all. Not surprisingly, it bombed at the box office.
However, with so many technological advances and the audience’s ability to explore new franchises mainly due to Netflix and Amazon Prime, it might be the best time for Ali Imran, the comical secret agent, to make an appearance.
Characters: Colonel Faridi and Captain Hameed
Written by: Ibn-e-Safi
Ibn-e-Safi wasn’t just limited to Imran Series; he also created Jasoosi Dunya where two characters Colonel Faridi and Captain Hameed solved crimes of national importance. While the former was a world-class spy, an aristocrat by birth, and someone who believed in cleaning the streets of crime and grime, the latter was his light-hearted companion to whom the audience could easily relate to. While Faridi was a man of interesting nature like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, Hameed was more like Dr. Watson or even Captain Hastings.
The two became so popular since their first appearance in Dilair Mujrim in 1952 that till the late 1970s, Ibn-e-Safi churned out more than 120 books featuring them in all sorts of adventures.
The last novel of the series, Sehra’ee Deewana was published in 1979, a year before Safi’s death but even today the popularity of Colonel Faridi and Captain Hameed keeps increasing.
Characters: Aladdin, Sindbad, Ali Baba, etc.
Countless stories to have ever been told over time have originated from the classic One Thousand and One Nights that was translated from Arabic to English, and also to Urdu. Generations have since grown up listening to Aladdin Aur Jadooi Chiragh, Ali Baba Aur Chalees Chor, and Sindbad Jahazi among others.
Although these stories have been transformed from literary characters to animated and cinematic productions in Hollywood, they haven’t been recreated for modern cinema or television in Pakistan and that’s a pity.
Character: Chacha Chakkan
Written by: Syed Imtiaz Ali Taj
Jerome K Jerome’s Uncle Podger was amongst the funniest characters ever written in English literature; naturally, when Urdu literature was gaining prominence, somebody had to create something similar for Urdu readers. Renowned playwright Syed Imtiaz Ali Taj came up with Chacha Chakkan who was not just a perfect tribute to Uncle Podger but was as funny as the original.
Chacha Chakkan should be brought to life on-screen. He could be presented as someone in search of a job and bungles his way through, until he is on the road, again, in search of another job.
Written by: Various writers
And then there was Tarzan, created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and brought to Urdu readers by multiple writers including Maqbool Jahangir, Mazhar Ansari Dehelvi, Zaheer Ahmed and Safdar Shaheen to name a few. Everyone has heard of Tarzan Ki Wapsi, which wasn’t just a one-off Tarzan book, but one of the many that featured the titular character who was given birth by humans, raised by apes, and fell in love with Jane who taught him the ways of humans, completing his circle of life.
Tarzan has been a subject of many films both in Hollywood and Bollywood, with the last one releasing in 2016 featuring Alexander Skarsgard as the protagonist. It’s about time someone brought Tarzan to life in this part of the world too. We already know that it’s a jungle out there!
Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]