The last time I went to meet Fahad Mustafa – almost a year ago – was for the same reason as this time. The talented actor has some new feathers in his cap – a blockbuster movie and some fresh ventures, but much remains the same – the delays, the tenor of our conversation, the intertwining of his personal and professional life and the impending quiz. Excerpts of our long chat:
Never in his dreams had Fahad ever thought of becoming heartbeat of the nation. He recalls his first audition as being fluky. One lucky day he went to Iqbal Ansari just like a fresher and he got the role.
“Iqbal sahib didn’t know my background or who my father was. I have never taken advantage of my bloodline in this industry. Till date many people don’t know I’m Salahuddin Tunio’s son,” he says.
Fahad wanted to become a dentist which never happened. He scraped through pharmaceutical sciences for a good three years, before trying his hand in showbiz – as they say you can’t fight what’s written in the stars. However, he knew how to take the chances that mattered.
“I’m a 3rd year drop-out, but I’m still thankful that I went to study pharmacy as I met my lovely better-half in university,” he joyfully remembers.
Fahad believes that acting for his father was a passion who worked to enthrall audiences. On the contrary, for him it is a profession in which he has invested everything. It has earned him bread and butter and garnered adulation for him.
“I’m an actor and that is all I know. There was a lot of pressure as people expected me to meet my father’s standards. But they also wanted me to create my own identity. It was a battle between the pressure of keeping the flame within me alive and living up to the legacy. I had to be me and somebody else at the same time and somehow I emerged successful because of that struggle!”
By this time I was eager to ask what made him switch from a serious actor to a host? What happened to the camera’s chocolate boy?
“Indifference happened – at times I don’t even act and directors and co-actors pat me on my back because of my name! I realised that if I want to enjoy this work for the rest of my life, I should work less, give every character time and attention and focus on the silver screen,” Fahad notes.
He exuberantly points out how he has taken such big leaps in life, “I needed to give time to my movie projects and I can’t focus on them if I’m shooting for dramas 14 hours a day. I sat back and judged what I want and how I want it to be – cleared all ifs and buts of my life once. Choices maketh a man for me.”
To my utter surprise Fahad isn’t just a down-to-earth guy, he is selfish. Before you move on to take this statement as an offence, let me guide you through. He thinks and speaks high of himself – a quality rarely encouraged, but in his case it is robust. He has reached the height of fame and played his cards quite beautifully. It is considered okay to be a self-centred man if you have worked selflessly.
“Some of my dearest friends have become my enemy in this field. We [actors] gave them super hit serials and they became successful producers. I say that I’m selfish in that way. I’m a brand so why can’t I work for myself. Why can’t I cash on it? This is the reason I became a producer. I want to work hard and value my own work and earn what I deserve from it.”
However this doesn’t mean he is selfish about the industry. In the last two years, he has produced 33 dramas and has acted only in three of them.
“You can see the ratio. Recently Faisal Qureshi is playing lead in one of my production. I believe in creating opportunities, not hindrances,” he reiterates.
He is a household name. People know him in front of the camera and behind the lens as well. But the star has complaints – reasons that have handicapped our industry.
“All I hear this day is how we don’t have good dramas and every tom, dick and harry is standing in front of the camera. Comparisons with the long-lost PTV era! For heaven’s sake man, let’s take it as a business. Dramas are not for propagating messages/ lessons. We have enough of ‘drama’ on news channels. A Pakistani needs relief so entertain them with quality productions. We need massive hits. We need a cult following and image building [for our industry]. We live in an age where everything is acceptable yaar… so drop this televangelist rubbish,” he speaks.
“As far as the incompetency is concerned, it’s always been the same. I have learned with time that everybody has their phase. You can’t be a superstar from day one. We hardly have acting schools and no matter how much your mom loves an actor, she will never accept it as a profession. There were bad actors 30 years ago and there will always be. If you are bad, you will fade. Can you name one star in Pakistan who knows nothing and is a legend?” he asks a rhetorical question, and then quickly adds, “I know a few!” with a laughter.
It’s been a decade since this 32-year-old has been in the industry. He has changed himself with time. He’s still learning and discovering himself but the period has helped his decision making. He considers himself very lucky to be a part of some of the best movies that are altering the industry’s dynamics.
“Becoming a film actor is itself an achievement. I’m honoured that my first movie is the longest running flick in Pakistan. I’m an actor who believes in the strength of the script. I don’t like to portray a cynical image of Pakistan; gain fame from spoon-feeding patriotism and sell stories to the world about how difficult my country is,” he explains.
“My objective is to add some happy moments to the lives of other people. For similar reasons, I did Na Maloom Afraad (NMA). I signed Mah-e-Meer before NMA and playing Meer Taqi Meer is the role of my life, such a character and beautiful script is offered only once in a lifetime and I didn’t waste the chance.”
The best part about the actor is that he is open to criticism and more open to speak his mind. I asked him what he sees before signing scripts and he blatantly credits it to his presence of mind.
“NMA was hard to accept as it had nothing unusual. It was an everyday story and this is what clicked with the masses. I think an actor should create a role rather than depict one that is already tailor-made. That’s why I love playing supporting characters as well. The fun is not being a hero all the time [what usually actors look for], but to be a new character. I could’ve made Farhan a hero in the movie, but I didn’t as it wasn’t needed.”
Moving on to Mah-e-Meer, Fahad is all praise for the upcoming romantic film.
“I am playing two different characters in it. Meer is a rebel in his own way and yet he’s a lover-boy. I was being introduced to things that I’ve dreaded to venture into. It’s one thing to play Meer (poet) and another thing to understand him. I have toiled hard to improve my Urdu diction. Believe me its amazing!
On a lighter note, I even had no clue about romantic poetry and had never understood poetic verses till Meer happened to me,” he quips.
About the brouhaha in media on his foray into Bollywood, Fahad seems unabashed. He doesn’t give it so much importance. Moreover, he takes it [comparison with Bollywood] a drawback.
“I’m very disappointed with our audiences as they compare everything with Indian movies. Their industry is huge and we’re toddlers. We haven’t even learned to walk and people are expecting us to fly! We’re our biggest enemies, cutting each other’s roots,” he notes.
“We have so many rivalries inside that we won’t let our competition succeed. We have to learn how to build an industry first,” he adds.
The actor wishes that he would love to do a movie like Piku someday, but right now he has been offered a role by Mahesh Bhatt.
“I had never met Bhatt sahib before but he called me during his recent visit to Pakistan and shared an interesting story to work on. Anjum Rizvi of A Wednesday fame is producing that movie but nothing has been finalised yet. I have to go there and see how things work, but I am not denying that I’m on board.”
Many a times he is compared to Waheed Murad and Fahad doesn’t happily take it as a compliment.
“There have been many instances when people thought that I’m Waheed Murad’s son but I don’t believe in remakes of movies and wouldn’t work for one, even if I was offered,” he states.
The guy with a tinseled charm and brazen sentimentality has varied opinions. He outspokenly said that he wants some Pakistani films to score bad at the box office so that local actors learn the importance of TV and drama industry the harsh way. He justifies his point further and says, “I want to make a lot of films, but for that we’ve to make a lot of dramas. Pakistani dramas are commercially successful investments. They will earn us money to progress into another medium. We can’t kill a running industry to raise a newborn child.”
At home the star is very humble and family-oriented. He laughs it off when asked how it feels to be a good looking married man in Pakistan.
“There was a time when we used to run after girls, now it’s the other way round.”
“People in the industry can make you question your existence. But I’m very humble to receive so much love from the audience. At times I can’t grasp my own popularity. People know me the way they liked Moin Akhtar. I have travelled all over Pakistan and have hardly met a few who don’t recognise me. It’s overwhelming. I fear the day I will lose this respect.”
“I still clean my street sometimes and I remember my father asked me to fetch naan when NMA was houseful in theatres. So at home I enjoy only a son’s status.”
He recalls a funny incident about his heyday when his father disowned him as every other person was calling him and asking about Fahad. “He was agitated of my celebrity status and said ‘we are no more on talking terms’ just to stay away from all this media attention.”
To many he is just a public figure, and for the rest he is a star and all his crazy fans love and adore him like anything. They sit in front of his house and wait eagerly for a selfie.
No matter how heroic he becomes on the celluloid, we both burst into some serious laughter, when he shares that he dreads dogs and can sleep for 18 hours straight in a day.
Our light-hearted conversation came to an end when Fahad wrapped it up with on an optimistic note. “Ten years down the road we will again be having a conversation dear, let’s hope it will be more fun!” he chuckles.
Coordination: Umer Mushtaq
Grooming & Styling: Sajid Mehmood
Designer: Deepak n Fahad
Photography: Rohail Khalid