Adeel is a content creator from Quetta, who rose to fame nationally with his job as the Creative Director of Mangobaaz (a digital media platform) first and then as Ahmed Nasaz in the blockbuster drama serial Parizad.. His web series Khaas Log and Baayan Baazoo particularly became famous for his distinctive views on issues faced by Pakistan and its people.

Let’s get to know more about his views and ventures.

Tell us about your journey from Quetta to NCA and then making it to Mangobaaz?

AA: I belong to Quetta where I studied at Islamia School, then did my FSc. and BSc. from Science School and then I did my Master’s in Public Administration from Balochistan University. Afterwards, I worked in Quetta for a few years. I worked at FM 101 as an RJ but my first “real” job after my Master’s was at Jang Newspaper in Quetta. In 2010 I applied at NCA for a Film and Television degree because I felt like most of my experience so far had been in radio and print.  Even though I had studied science and even had a Master’s degree, I didn’t see myself having a career in that. I was more interested in arts so I thought I might as well study further. I had myself transferred to Jang Lahore so I could work while I studied at NCA.

I also worked at Express Newspaper and Dunya Newspaper as a sub-editor while I completed my degree at NCA. After completing the degree I stopped working in journalism and started working freelance as a scriptwriter. I was also on the NCA faculty for a while. Then in 2016, a classmate of mine told me about a start-up called Mangobaaz. I had never personally envisioned working in social media because those dynamics were different from what I was used to but I joined Mangobaaz. I worked there until 2019. I created a lot of content. It was a great working experience and I was able to connect with some very different and creative people. After leaving Mangobaaz, I’ve been back to freelancing; writing, acting, giving technical assistance, etc.

What is your content strategy thought process? What do you look out for, and in what order?

AA: When I’m working for an organization like Mangobaaz or even working freelance for a brand, you have many factors to take into consideration, like deadlines or a core message. You work in a very mechanical way when you’re working for views for example what’s trending, what type of content would generate more activity etc. There is a very set process for any paid work I’m doing which has to do with the brief. But when I’m creating content on my own for my own YouTube channel or Instagram page, my process is very simple. So far, I haven’t put myself in the mindset of needing to create content regularly for the sake of numbers. I’m only interested in creating content when I feel like I really have something to say. What matters to me is what I’m talking about and when I really feel like I should talk about something. Medium-wise, I try to ensure that my language isn’t offensive. I don’t know enough to bash anyone so I try to ask questions that can start productive discussions instead of just blaming other parties for everything. I want my content to provoke thought that stays with you for a while afterward, even if that means I don’t get huge numbers.

Which of your work(s) has given you the most satisfaction and why?

AA: I haven’t really worked a lot but I think that my series The Last Puff is my favourite project. I don’t know if others have enjoyed it and I wouldn’t even say that it’s well-made but I’ve enjoyed making it a lot. So far, I’ve only made three episodes but I work on it whenever I can. Other than this Bayaan Baazoo which is a series I did with Mosiki is another favourite because it has gotten me a lot of recognition.

Which is an example of companies in Pakistan that are getting digital content right? What content do you think is lacking in this industry?

AA: There are lots of people creating really good content in comedy and social services. I like content from a page called Soch Writing. I particularly like their aesthetics and their approach. Recently, I’ve also liked some of the work Nashpati has produced. Obviously Mosiki is a channel I work with so I like their content as well. Then there’s an art group called The Colony who do theatre as well as digital content, whose work I enjoy. In terms of what the industry currently lacks, I feel like creators tend to follow along with whatever is working for others. For example, if one content creator’s vlogs are a hit then everyone starts vlogging. I’m not saying they shouldn’t make vlogs but they should try to bring something new to it. That’s what the industry lacks; originality. The problem is that people don’t really believe in original ideas and so they copy off of each other. But if we encourage these ideas then I think we could really bring out a lot of great content

What kind of content creation space do you see for creators in Balochistan? Where do you think they lack or excel?

AA: The art scene in Balochistan is great, people are very passionate and talented. But it really lacks the spirit of teamwork. I’ve worked there a little bit and I have friends in the art circle. Unfortunately, the environment there isn’t one where artists work together. Television, theatre, and radio are all spaces for artists to come together. When I was working on radio in 2003, I met and worked with so many creative people but there wasn’t really an element of working together. The lack of this element makes the content created there seem disjointed. Even when someone has tried to create such a space it starts this race to get the best share and eventually nothing comes of it. If we could create a space in Balochistan where the content would be considered without bias and people would come together to meet and talk without bias, then that would be amazing. The artists there are extremely talented and passionate, they just need a space to come together.

How can people be better educated on the realities of Balochistan?

AA: I feel like whenever we want to talk about somewhere, we talk in stereotypes. Like when we talk about Kashmir, we talk about their freedom struggle and create characters around that. But if we really want to talk about Balochistan then we need to go beyond these stereotypical images. Balochistan is more than just a conflict-stricken place. It has stories of loves, artists, friends, relationships, etc. If we want to educate people, we need to cater to the emotional side as well. We need to talk about the relationship they have with their land, their tribes, their language, and culture. We need to go beyond the action stories, war stories, and hero stories. We need to talk about their culture, their land, their language. Unless we talk about these things, we will never truly be able to get the message across.

What is your opinion on the role of the media on the social construction of gender in Pakistan? What do you think needs to change?

AA: So far, the media hasn’t played a good role. Our media is corporate, their source of income is not the viewer but the company that spends money on advertising. These companies are not concerned about breaking stereotypes because they just want to sell their products. The media wants to create content that gets like numbers so companies will pay it. They will only get these numbers when content is controversial or acceptable to the masses. When we look at stories created in the past in the 80s and 90s, the women were almost always independent, brave, and strong. The stories were vast and everyone would enjoy watching them. Now, unfortunately, the media creates stories that are based on trends that will make them money in the short-run rather than real stories. So obviously because of that, there’s still a gender bias. Even though they talk a lot about gender equality, they lack the kind of content to support that. Women are still portrayed in certain roles or as objects. That will soon have to change because future audiences will not watch content when they can’t find characters to relate to. So the media will have to understand that if they continue to rely on these companies then we will continue to have the same gender biases and they will eventually lose money.

What is your opinion of the media storm created around the Aurat March in the last couple of years?

AA: Every time the media covers the Aurat March there are ideas that it’s due to some conspiracy. But, you look at any march or protest, if there isn’t coverage for it then the media will be accused of being biased. There’s coverage for every movement be it religious, political, a student movement, etc. So obviously, when women come out to protest gender inequality, there will be massive amounts of coverage. Mainstream media will discuss it since it’s so widely discussed on social media. Looking at social media stats one can tell that the youth is active there. Gender inequality is not just a women’s issue, so there are lots of men who are vocal about their support of women’s rights. Mainstream media wants to stay relevant so they will cover anything that trends on social media. So the vast coverage of the Aurat March doesn’t surprise me at all because any topic that trends will be discussed on mainstream media at length.

What role can content creators play in terms of creating a better understanding of Feminism in Pakistan?

AA: I don’t think we can tell content creators what kind of content to make. If I’m talking about myself, when I’m making content then I’m not going to make it to please or offend anyone. Usually, people will consume and like content with messages that align with their own ideas and beliefs. But there’s no real sharing of opinions. If I create content that supporters of women’s rights like, then that’s nothing extraordinary. They will obviously like it because they support the message. What would really make a difference is if my message can reach those who do not agree with it. Even if it offends them, it starts a conversation with them. Our content creators need to stop competing with each other first. Secondly, they need to avoid those biases and stereotypes in their content that we’re already condemning. This way content creators and followers can develop a better understanding and then contribute to ending these biases themselves too.

How can younger people be more involved in politics in the country beyond just voting or supporting a political party?

AA: This is very important! First, the youth needs to be educated that their role is not just to vote or support a leader or party. But for this understanding, we need to allow student politics. By student politics, I do not mean opening student wings of mainstream political parties. I mean allowing student politics in which students operate and work for students’ issues, rather than becoming violent. We have seen in the past the influence of mainstream political parties on student politics. Unless students engage in politics, they will not know how it works. This is a huge modern feudalistic conspiracy to keep the youth and middle-class so far away from politics that even during elections they’re debating whether or not they should even vote. Their role in politics has been limited to the extent that they don’t think they can contribute. We need to bring younger people into politics; and that too from the masses. We complain about how children from political families are entering politics. This is because politics has been open as an option for them. Children from middle-class families should also be allowed into it. But unless they learn politics on some level, at colleges or universities, they will not feel confident enough to participate in it. We need to create an environment of peaceful politics at the grassroots level and involve the middle-class in it.

What kind of Pakistan would we have if we had younger, more literate leaders?

AA: I don’t know if I can say anything about that for sure. I do think that younger people have better thinking than older ones. Their souls have not yet been corrupted and they tend to make their own paths. But on the other hand, I also fear that there are some of them who have had a little bit of exposure online and they think that everyone who came before them is illiterate. They tend to constantly criticize the generations before them. So I can’t say that things will be better either way; with younger leaders or older leaders. We need leaders who are connected to the land, who understand the culture and core of the issues we face, and who live here. It doesn’t matter if they’re younger or older. Yes, maybe if younger people, who haven’t been part of the system yet, get better responsibilities, the country will be in a much better state.

What is youR take on the recent cancel culture on social media? Is it akin to the kind of accountability we need in that space?

AA: ThE cancel culture has become such a controversial thing to talk about. While it is great that social media creates pressure and forces real action, when it comes to serving justice, we cannot talk in majorities and minorities. Then it is more about the evidence and whether the accused has been allowed to defend themselves. If that does not happen then the process and subsequent judgment become ambiguous. The cancellation can be from any party, but unless those allegations have been proven true or false and the accused is allowed to present their side of the story as well, we cannot make any judgment. In the current culture, we are becoming a little extreme where we don’t even just give opinions but instead give decisions. When we just look at numbers on Twitter it doesn’t really benefit anyone. It isn’t valid for society because it can be used against anyone. So unless we are actually following the right process to serve justice, it is just a fight on social media.

What’s next for Adeel?

AA: I don’t know that yet. What I want is to create content. I’d like to make some vlogs and work on something with a narrative. So, I’m just working hard for that and hoping that Insha’Allah it will work out for me.

A message to the youth of Balochistan.

AA: I would tell them to stop telling others the same stories they’ve heard throughout their lives. There is more truth to tell. We need to look for stories of our own times. We need to explore and we need to keep our minds open during that process. If we let our biases get in the way of that then our thinking and observation will become limited and with that our expression will also be limited. So the mindsets and thinking of the people of Balochistan need to be as vast as the landscape of Balochistan. We need to explore within ourselves and others and when we express ourselves after that, there will be many greater stories to tell.


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