PESHAWAR: For many actors in the Pashto drama industry, an acting career only serves them well until they are performing. Once off the stage, these actors are left to struggle to make ends meet.
One of such skilled person is Sardar Khan, known in the drama world as Mareekhi Mama (uncle from Mars). In the 35 years of his acting career, Sardar has worked in hundreds of dramas and films. His performance has won him dozens of awards, but has not left him with enough to spend a comfortable life after leaving the field.
While talking to Geo News, Sardar said he has not only worked in Pakistan but has also performed stage dramas in Qatar and Afghanistan.
He has also worked in the famous drama Kala ba Zai (When will you be leaving), which highlights the issue of Afghan refugees’ repatriation. However, Sardar said, the fall of drama and film industry has left him struggling for a steady income to run his household.
The actor has three children, a daughter and two sons both of whom are married.
Sardar said he has spent all his earnings raising his children. At present, his daughter Saima is running a beauty salon after completing a degree in Bachelours of Arts. She has also completed courses relating to the work of lady health workers and ultrasound, among others.
However, according to Sardar, the main reason why he and his children cannot bring a decent income home is their physical appearance. The actor said their restricted growth sets them apart from others and that is what hinders them from getting jobs elsewhere.
But restricted growth is not only a barrier to employment opportunities, said another actor Zardad Khan. The actor said he has mostly come across people in the entertainment industry who mock people with restricted growth and pass unpleasant remarks.
Zardad has worked in 30 Pashto movies and hundreds of dramas. A few years back he even started an arts council for people with restricted growth, of which 120 are members. However, the actor said he never got a good response to run the council from the government.
“Although the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had announced to give Rs30,000 to 500 actors for eight months, only four of us were given the promised funds,” he said.
Lack of appreciation for their work from the government and instability of the Pashto entertainment industry has forced many actors into doing jobs that were not part of their plans.
Actor Asfandyar has been working part-time as a waiter to make ends meet. “Others are also either working at restaurants or shops as producers pay nothing for acting,” he said.
The KP directorate of culture is going through a financial downfall, which is why they are unable to pay actors well for their work. However, while speaking at an event, KP Director of Culture Ajmal Khan promised that they will soon start funding actors and will also use Nishtar Hall to promote dramas.