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Waheed Khan - showing a different side of Pakistan on Desi DNA
31st March, 2006


Waheed with Imran Khan


With the crew in Pakistan

Every week, for the past nine weeks, thousands of fans have been regularly tuning into BBC 2 on Wednesday nights to catch another installment of Desi DNA.

Now on its third series, it has confidently established itself and etched out a loyal following among Asian and non-Asian viewers alike. It remains the BBC's flagship Asians arts and entertainment programme.

Waheed Khan (pictured) is one of the directors behind Desi DNA and has been with the programme from inception.

Starting his career as a camera operator while working on observational documentaries for BBC Current Affairs, he eventually moved into directing and producing documentaries. He has been doing that for the last six years.

He says he loves the medium because its basic storytelling. "My brain works like a camera, I try and see something unique in everything - something different. Turning an idea into a story whether itís a news piece, a documentary or a pop video."

The young director worked on the acclaimed Channel 4 documentary, Hajj - The Greatest Trip on Earth, which he calls one of his favourite pieces. He also directed 'Dating The Asian Way', 'Black Ambition' and 'The Colour of Love' for the BBC.

Before that, he directed films such as Nobody's Child, highlighting the torso found in the Thames, which took him to South Africa. He also worked on BodyPackers, a tale about 'mules' who smuggled drugs into the U.K from Jamaica.

"With my kind of job one gets to travel to some of the remotest parts of the world. Some places so off the beaten track, tucked away somewhere, that you'd never think of going to and other places that you feel privileged to be at."

It can get scary too. While in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, he was jumped by undercover police when making the Channel 4 Hajj documentary.

"One minute I was filming the crowds moving along and the next minute I was being dragged away by four armed guys. I told them I was British and we had permits to film etc. but they wanted me to explain why my country (UK) wanted to 'bomb Iraq'. It was all very surreal. I explained how I didnít agree with the war and I had marched on peace rallies in London, not sure if that fell on deaf ears but they decided to hold onto me for a while anyway.

"After explaining that most of the UK didnít believe in the Iraq war they decided to let me go but wanted to keep the tape I had been filming on which luckily I had switched and so they ended up with a blank one. That was very weird, having to explain the political decisions made by your government on the other side of the world."

Desi DNA most recently took him to Pakistan, where his parents are orginally from. He says it definitely was not easy.

"With the constant mosquito squatting, rising heat wave, crippling poverty and our dodgy tummies, which is expected, there were bombs going off in the city of Lahore - all in a days work for the Desi DNA team in Pakistan."

"The plan was to see and present another 'side' of Pakistan. We are constantly bombarded with images of Taliban, honour killings and corruption," he adds.

"Nobody focuses on the beauty of Pakistan, the magnificant Mughal architecture, the amazing art scene, the rise and rise of media with hundreds of satellite TV, radio and music channels, fashion houses with couture designers, grooming and beauty, the influential music scene with its Sufi rockers, whirling drummers and even heavy metal! Welcome to the 'modern' Pakistan, not as you know it."

He says he wants to go back there eventually with a camera and film more.

In the meanwhile he has just finished a short film titled Orange People, a mockumentary about sun-tanning. He plans to send it to various film festivals and also make a start on making long drama productions.

But he still has one love. "I don't want to stop making documentaries - it's an amazing buzz."

Desi DNA finishes on Wednesday April 5th. 11:20pm




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