“People living in Saudi Arabia are very keen on content from Pakistan as it suits their value system. Bilateral entertainment relationships with friendly nations are the future for Pakistani content syndication in global markets,” mentioned Atiqa Odho in an exclusive interview with Galaxy Lollywood.
The highly qualified and competent Atiqa Odho is all set to open the gateway for Pakistani dramas in Saudi Arabia. After her recent visit to the peninsula, Atiqa Odho has unearthed cultural similarities and business opportunities that all content creators in Pakistan can benefit from.
In an exclusive interview with Galaxy Lollywood, Atiqa Odho sheds light on her steps towards dubbing Pakistani content in Arabic and showing it to viewers in the Arab peninsula.
You recently visited Saudi Arabia. Tell us a bit about your trip?
I was delighted to visit Saudi Arabia recent. I found the Arab people very humble, hospitable and extremely keen on opening up to the rest of the world in the form of business, art, culture, entertainment and other avenues of mutual interest.
It was a real eye opener seeing how the country is progressing and especially for working women. There are many Pakistanis living in Saudi so felt like home as I met my countrymen and women everywhere I went. Besides this, I had the privilege to visit Masjid e Nabawi and perform Umrah as well, which were both a beautiful and spiritual experience.
We’ve heard you’re looking to collaborate with Saudi media outlets to air Pakistani content. What’re your plans for that?
In Jeddah I was hosted at a meet and greet by Ms. Noshen Waseem, consultant, General Entertainment Authority who was kind enough to introduce me to the Pakistan Press Council of Saudi Arabia. There we all discussed how to take forward this effort of having our dramas and films dubbed and showcased on Arabic channels to engage a wider audience.
I was told that people living in SA are very keen on content from Pakistan as it suits their value system. So, we have started the dialogue on this subject and are encouraging both sides to start working in this direction. Bilateral relationships with friendly nations are the future for Pakistani content syndication in global markets.
Do you think the shared content will initiate a cultural exchange between both countries?
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a deeply embedded history that would help storytellers create mutually interesting narratives for both nations to watch and enjoy. The same would also help in developing an even stronger bond between the people of both countries. We are very close to the cultural values of the Arab peninsula so this is a very comfortable partnership to engage in for us.
Any other countries you plan to release Pakistani dramas and content in?
Pakistan has an unfortunate reality, which is that software producers & storytellers are not allowed to retain their project rights. So, exchange of any kind will have to depend on the networks taking this step to open doors for our industry.
I am in talks with all our major network heads to try to influence them in going in this direction. If they were to dub our content and release it in Arabic, Turkish or in other foreign languages, it would widen the audience outreach for Pakistani content creators.
What would the Integration mean for Local Producers and Talent? Would it mean more revenue generation opportunities?
When we scale up global distribution of content it shall help generate foreign currency revenue for the creators who then reinvest back into further content creation within Pakistan. This helps in elevating the quality of products we create as well as improve the national economy as earnings in a stronger currency will help build not only our national soft image but also build up our national exchequer.
So, it’s a win-win for everyone to move in this direction. It would also encourage other countries to develop joint ventures with us that would bring in revenue into our industry as well as our hospitality and tourism industry if projects were shot in locations around the country.
Have you had any formal talks with Saudi channels yet?
On my visit I met with some officials in my personal capacity that are involved with the general entertainment fund of Saudi Arabia. They are very keen to work with us and are now looking for a plan from our side to review and move ahead with.
We need to start work fast to be able to ride this opportunity in a timely manner before others race ahead of us. The world is looking at Saudi Arabia as a future partner in many sectors, so they have many interested in joint ventures. As Pakistani’s we have an advantage of similar beliefs and culture that gives us an edge over others for sure.
Three popular serials, namely Dhoop Kinare, Tanhaiyan and Aahat, have already been dubbed and shared in Saudi Arabia. What other serials would you like to share with the audience in Saudi Arabia?
I feel we should have a regular flow of dubbed content airing on their networks as they have similar content coming from Lebanon and Turkey constantly. Language is not a barrier anymore as audiences are used to dubbed or subtitled content so makes it much easier for us to project our narratives to other nationalities now.
Our dress sense in projects also suits Saudi Arabia’s social sensibilities, which is an advantage for us. I definitely have a few serials in mind and will disclose their names once the negotiations and processes come through.
Realistically speaking, when can the locals in Saudi Arabia see mainstream Pakistani content on their television sets? What’s the possible timeline?
I can only hope that my humble efforts help open these doors sooner rather than later as it is to everyone’s advantage. All depends on how seriously our mainstream networks look into this opportunity. If left too late, it would become a missed opportunity for sure.
Artists have played an important role in initiating cultural and entertainment exchange between countries. Do you think your visit to Saudi Arabia played a positive role in this regard?
Yes, for sure as I met the right people and got the right responses. If my visit managed to plant a seed in the right direction for our industry then I would be satisfied with the outcome. We have to start from somewhere to build something more substantial and powerful together.
You were expected to mark your international debut in a Turkish drama series, ‘Koyu Beyaz’. How’s that coming along?
I was delighted to work in the Turkish series in context. It was a wonderful experience but since I have signed an NDA, unfortunately cannot say much more. I will say that they are very professional and have invested well into their trade and professionals.
You get a sense of a much bigger scale of production their than ours currently. Hopefully we will do more work together as Turkiya is another beautiful country and people for us to build stronger ties with.
I am keen to see how our collective audience responds to our work together once released.
We at Galaxy Lollywood thank Atiqa Odho for taking out time for this interview and wish her all the best for her future ventures.