LAHORE: What initially began two years ago as an attempt to narrate the story of Pakistan via comics has burgeoned into an entertainment project featuring hardcore dialogue on the country’s social issues. Riding high on the success of Paasban (The Guardian) — Pakistan’s first digital comic, released last month by CFX Comics — the enterprising trio of Gauhar Aftab, Mustafa Hasnain and Yahya Ehsan of Creative Frontiers is ready with an animated series based on the Paasban comics.
“We wanted a comic, not just for entertainment but also to bring serious issues to the table and open dialogue through a creative medium,” explained Hasnain, shedding light on the inspiration behind the concept. An avid comic reader and the brains behind Paasban, Hasnain recalled an incident involving the distribution of old comics and storybooks at a local school that reaffirmed his faith in the medium. “There was so much excitement amongst the children while they read! It was a moment of revelation for me,” he shared.
Based on four youngsters Saad, Irfan, Asim and Zara, the Paasban series broaches the topic of violent extremism to a target audience of 15 years and above. The plot sees Asim getting caught up with a ‘charity organisation’ preaching extremist ideas and his three friends coming to his aid. Although the storyline is clear cut and simple, Hasnain revealed that people were initially apprehensive of its central theme. “They were very hesitant when they first heard our idea,” he said. However, according to Paasban’s penman Gauhar, the APS attack of December 16th changed everyone’s minds. “Before the attack, we had a warped justification for everything,” said Gauhar. “But after that day, it changed. Violent extremism became the focus of our work. We wanted to build narratives and open up the issue, although we fully understand the repercussions that might arise.” Fortunately or unfortunately, answers to much of Paasban’s story and character needs were always right around the corner. “Pakistan experiences extraordinary circumstances every day and its people face problems that require perseverance, bravery and heroism on a daily basis,” said Hasnain. “So basically, our hero would be one who is heroic by virtue of being Pakistani.”
Unsurprisingly, the comics have gained much acclaim in a very short span of time. Printed as the pilot project of Umeed Jawan — an organisation working to provide opportunities for the youth of Punjab — the series has already been distributed amongst 5,000 children in over 20 schools across Lodhran, Multan and Lahore. It has been translated into Urdu by the award-winning writer Amjad Islam Amjad and will be available at local bookstores for Rs300 post Ramazan. For those who prefer the electronic version, Paasban’s free smartphone app is up and running as well. “We wanted to cover the entire spectrum of smartphone users for which we have different user-experiences, based on the type of smartphone one has,” explained Muneeb Ali, the chief technology officer at Creative Frontiers. A promotional video will soon be aired on social media websites and cable television to advertise the series.
For now, the team plans to release one issue every month to stretch the series out for at least one year. They are even more enthused by the prospects of an animated series based on the comic itself. For them, creative ideas, stories and books are the latest weaponry in the war against extremism. “Bullets cannot bring piece,” said Yahya, the artist for the series. “Our storybooks have failed to change with the times and still carry the same old images and printing they did back when I was a child,” he added. “With Paasban, we aim to offer an alternate narrative in a beautiful, attractive manner.” A promotional video for the series was recently released online.
Express Tribune, “Paasban to the rescue,” in Express Tribune, June 20, 2015. Accessed on June 21, 2015, at: http://newagebd.net/130966/sufia-kamal-a-poet-of-social-conscience/
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