Why you should watch Shamoon Abbasi’s Karachi Division streaming in UAE

Crime and intrigue in the Pakistani city in this Starzplay show


David Light

Published: Mon 4 Oct 2021, 12:54 PM

In what is an increasingly common move, a stalwart of the cinema screens has re-emerged on streaming television and is rapidly reaping the rewards. Known for his action-packed delivery, Pakistani actor, director, producer and writer Shamoon Abbasi of Raasta (2017) fame has launched his latest project, Karachi Division, on OTT platform StarzPlay and it’s now available to watch in the UAE. Based on the titular city’s underworld, KD follows the story of two rival gang leaders at war for complete domination and control over Karachi by any means necessary. We went on a quest to find out more by speaking to Abbasi ahead of the programme’s release.

How did you come up with Karachi Division?

I was born in Rome and at the age of 17 my parents came back to Pakistan. Since then I’ve been living in Karachi. Karachi is driven by political forces. It’s a power game: people want to own Karachi and I believe it happens in every metropolitan area. Karachi is almost like a country. There are so many communities who own the city. I observed that from the age of 17 until now. I wanted to make something that explains and describes how these people operate and why every big city in the world is affected by these political disorders. We didn’t target any particular group. We just wanted to show this game is going on all the time.

Was it a challenge moving from film to TV?

It’s not a difficult task for me to thrill my audience. The audience in Pakistan appreciated Karachi Division on a different channel and are waiting for the second series. I can’t wait for a Gulf audience to see it now.

How did you come up with the show’s name?

When I start writing a project I always need a title to motivate me. It’s a parameter that keeps my mind focused. ‘Karachi Division’ is a statement. We have planned five more seasons. Gradually we are going to show a lot of other parts of the city and how the characters elevate it.

Were you nervous going into the OTT sphere?

I’m always nervous whenever I launch something. I want my audience to appreciate things. It’s not about the market. I want them to convey that they love the project. As an OTT venture, it’s my first. I watch a lot of series myself. I love them. I have always wanted to do a story in an OTT format. This is the first time a series like this has been launched in Pakistan. We’re very good at continuing series, but we are new to this limited episodic way of telling stories.

What was it like working with the cast including Hassam Khan and Maheen Rizvi?

They are marvellous. They are like a family. I took some risks this time. Generally when we cast in Pakistan they look at how famous they are already; how many followers they have on Instagram, how many advertisers they can pull. For me that was not the point. I needed to find people who can fit the roles. I don’t care if they’ve done ads. I have to see how they look and feel in the screenplay.

I saw a guy called Hassam Khan. I randomly called a director who had put him in a short film. I said I want to meet this guy. I called him and we met and I said ‘just do it’. He wondered if there was any audition. I said no. Everyone started appearing after that. Many people who had left the industry because they didn’t like the scripts they were getting also came back for this. I am happy they are back on screen. They are super excited it is going to be shown in the UAE.

What does the show offer an international audience?

Once you know a project is going global I always keep one thing in mind: it may be shot in Karachi, but it could be any city. I never wanted the season just to be watched in Pakistan. StarzPlay has given us the opportunity to show it in the Gulf region. The treatment and language is the same as it may be in India and Bangladesh too. People can relate. You’ve seen Gangs of Wasseypur and it’s time Pakistan had it’s own.

Since Covid, how do you feel the entertainment industry in Pakistan is faring?

Covid has changed everything. Many can still not go to the cinema. There are always debates as to whether to shut shopping centres. There’s an uncertainty that is killing this industry. Lots of people have produced and put so much time and money into films over the last few years and it’s wasted at the moment. If other places can be open, why not all cinemas? It’s better now, but we need to look at that as a whole.

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