My father had an association with the Chinese even before I was born, owing to his work. Those work-related interactions turned into friendship over the years and had a spillover effect on the family, in that we got to know and make a lot of Chinese “family friends.” Thus, unlike most of my acquaintances, I am no stranger to Chinese people or the Chinese culture.
Over the years, our trips to China were accompanied by the curious inquiries of our acquaintances: Do they really commute on bicycles? Does everyone do Kung Fu? Do Chinese people speak English?
The real China is nothing like the Americanized, Hollywood version we have been exposed to. Misconceptions and myths about China are endless and it is extremely unfortunate that the average Pakistani is unaware of the merits of our closest neighbor and friend.
My father believes that it is very important for the citizens of our two countries to engage in people-to-people contact. And what better way to encourage this contact than through the influence of television? Thus, the idea of a two-part travelogue was put forward: the first about China through the eyes of a Pakistani and the other about Pakistan through the eyes of a Chinese.
My mother got started right away, as there was so much to be done to realize this vision. She started planning the program. The most daunting task according to her was preparing the itinerary: 22 provinces, 656 cities, 1.3 billion people – where should one start? But she took it in her stride by first addressing all the curious questions that she had been asked and she tried to cover a bit of everything from the bustling cities to the beautiful green landscapes.
After weeks of research and contemplation we decided to cover six cities:
Beijing - The Capital and center of the Middle Kingdom
Shanghai - The financial, cultural and technological hub
Guilin - The city described as being blessed with the most beautiful scenery under heaven
Shenzhen - The Special Economic Zone
Hong Kong - The Special Administrative Region
Macao – The Entertainment Mecca
|Interviewing Pakistani students in Wudaokou, Beijing|
The planning was done but there was still a long way to go for execution. People were to be lined up for interviews, permits from various locations were to be received, and venues were to be coordinated. The correspondence and paperwork was endless, but with the support of PRC’s embassy in Islamabad, our Foreign Office and the Pakistan Embassy in Beijing, the program started coming through. We were put in touch with CCTV who were to be our guides and hosts in Mainland China. We also had on board the Tourism Boards of Hong Kong and Macao and the Ministry of Culture, Macao.
As this part of the pre-production came to a close, the next, and perhaps the most important, phase began – that of selecting the team. We selected the best in the field. And even though this team was well travelled, it had little exposure to China, a fact which resulted in a different and fresh treatment of the travelogue.
So, with a crew of 8 people (of which the producer, director and anchor had never held a collective meeting!) we departed from Islamabad. Apprehensive but excited and anticipating great things, we landed in Beijing. Filming started right away and continued for 21 days. It was due to the unrelenting dedication of each member of our team that we were able to shoot for 18 hours a day and cover more than 60 locations spanning six cities.
When we returned to Islamabad, I reflected that I had undergone one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I had walked on the glass floors of SWFC’s (Shanghai World Financial Centre) 100th floor, discovered the limestone caves of Guilin, shopped at the glitzy malls, bargained in the open-air bazaars, dined in a banquet hall that accommodated up to 5000 people, tasted exotic street food, visited the headquarters of one of the most influential companies in the World (Huawei), took a ride on a stomach-turning, hair-raising rollercoaster, shuttled on a 100 year old ferry service to witness the best skyline in the world, and amidst all these and many more once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I was not only witnessing the history of this 5000 year old civilization but also the reeling speed of its progress and development.
I was so inspired by our work in China that I wanted to take up the job of writing the script of the travelogue. I had no prior experience in scriptwriting, but my writing skills and the fact that I had been involved with every facet of the production made me a suitable candidate for the job. Managing full-time university with such a research-oriented project proved to be an overwhelming task. That we had gone against the norm by filming without a script only made it harder. I had to keep in mind the setting, the time of day, the talkies, and the time constraints of the episodes before I wrote the script. The work didn’t end there. Each episode had to be edited and then watched several times and scrutinized before it could be finalized.
|Danya with the executive and associate producers at the Bund|
After several months of dedicated hard work on post-production, “A JOURNEY OF FRIENDSHIP” was completed. This 13-episode travelogue is a first-of-its-kind Pakistani production. It is a testimony to China’s position as a leader on the world stage. And it is a token of the friendship between our nations, that is labeled as higher than the mountains and as deeper than the oceans. This project is my proudest achievement to date and when you see the travelogue you’ll know why.
We take you to explore this exotic destination, only to discover that China is as dynamic as its size. From delectable cuisine to luxury shopping, from world heritage sites to state of the art technology; China has it all! Join us on our “Journey of Friendship”.
Visit our website to watch the promo www.journeyoffriendship.com
Join our Facebook page facebook.com/JourneyofFriendship
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