The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. It’s an adage that Ali Kazmi truly holds on to. The star son of Rahat and Sahira Kazmi came back with a bang in his recent drama serial Jackson Heights and left the audience enthralled with what he’s capable of. When asked about the upcoming projects, he has a long list to boast about. He’s no more just a second-generation star, but a powerhouse of talent who has accomplished a lot across the globe and is all set to make waves in Bollywood and Pakistani film industry soon. In a free-wheeling chat with MAG, Ali talked about his life- altering decisions for his passion and how it is a must for an actor to keep the fire within alive. Excerpts:
Was acting a passion or you ventured into it just for fun?
For as long as I can remember… when children wanted to be a doctor, an engineer or astronaut, I had always a dream that ‘I will be an actor’. It is my passion and my love and I hope I will make my parents proud one-day. Simply put, I don’t work as I’m having fun all the time on sets.
Have you enjoyed any advantages in the industry being a son of veterans, Rahat Kazmi and Sahira Kazmi?
Well… with such a great background, comes great responsibility. There is always an unwanted baggage when you get compared to your parents every time. With these fears, choosing my own path and carving a niche was quite challenging. Initially I tried hiding my identity also. (laughs) I tried going on with my middle name Ali Arsalan when I was into modelling, but later in the late 90s, I realised that there was a void to fill in the industry. All actors were playing young husbands like Humayun and Adnan and they were established actors. There were very few ‘boys’… only a handful of names Azfer, Ali Zafar, Ahsan, Mekaal, Imran Abbas so we had a chance to prove our mettle as there were more opportunities.
For us, the ‘star kids’ I guess it’s more difficult to survive if you’re not passionate enough and know the craft because the lapse is too steep. For instance, if a newcomer isn’t up to the mark there will be 1% less chance for him to get a good role. In our case, there is 10% less chance as the critics believe either you have it in genes or you’re hopeless!
Why did you take a sabbatical so early in your career? What’s the story and any regrets?
Seven years ago I moved to Toronto with my wife and that decision was purely for love. I left at a time when I was thriving… when Kaisa Ye Junoon was super successful. Sometimes when you do things for love, they turn out well. I started from scratch and that’s something not any celebrity kid would do if he/she is dependent on the star status. I studied what I was passionate about and passed with three distinctions. Then one fine day I stumbled into theatres and that changed my life. I have done mainstream work in Canadian and American TV shows so yes… I already have a long list of international projects in my cap. I now say that the journey was very important as nobody knew me over there and I accomplished a lot with my perseverance and hard work. People actually advised me to run a cab. So on mounts and merit, I’ve built my own castle. Now I’m working in a production company as a director/producer and making my own films so, should I regret?
Are you happy with your comeback in Jackson Heights?
It was a different story and I didn’t play a nice guy at all but the reaction was pretty good. The audience and industry folks loved it. It was a strong comeback like the one I needed as the drama was very well-received. The funny thing was that people knew me as Ali and they were sure that as the bad boy is being played by Ali, eventually he’ll change. They had this confidence in the actor over the character. It was… amazing!
Are your parents critical about your work and how different it is to work with them?
Yes, they are always open about my work. I love the fact that I took my own journey to make my name and I’m a mirror of my own. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. We’re on the same page because each of us does the work we love. That’s how we roll!
What are your priorities before signing a project?
I think what’s most important to me is the director and then the script. Sometimes an okay script can be portrayed wonderfully with a good director and actor combo. Names don’t matter but a director’s vision is important. I always give my take on it before performing. One should develop everything about a character, his looks, mannerisms, language or style and of course rehearsals are significant. I grew up in a household where all of it is my second nature. An actor has to be 10 times more observant than an average person on the street and a good listener. It helps you to be a different person. So I think the devil is in the details.
What difference did you notice coming back after seven years?
Well… I wish the industry would’ve gotten better especially in terms of time management and efficiency. This is where we are still lacking behind our competitors. People are treating it more like a business and a proper line of work which is a positive change. The success of a profession is when the youth starts to join it without any push. But please come not to become stars but to be good actors!
What’s your take on the ever-going Bollywood debate? Should Pakistanis work across the borders and on what terms?
I have a simple stance – I myself have worked internationally. I have done a Hollywood movie… I’m working in a Bollywood movie Beeba Boys by Deepa Mehta. It’s based on real-life gangsters. There is another movie titled Sardar Ji which is an Indian-Punjabi movie. Then there is this Pakistani film called Sedare which is Pakistan’s first sci-fi thriller and then probably a film with Ajay Devgan called Shivaay which is an action movie. We’re also working on an interesting project with Mehreen Jabbar. So yeah I whole-heartedly believe in it and support it. I have educated people in India about my country. It’s kind of sad when they are surprised to know that I’m from Pakistan. Look at Fawad and Mahira yaar… Ali Zafar has been there and they love them. Why do we view every cross border relation as a threat? We can learn a lot from them about film- making as their industry is old, experienced and more commercial.
Have you seen recent Pakistani flicks? Do you wish to comment on them?
I’m an avid follower of Pakistani films and there is lot of experimentation going on recently. We’re making movies on all kinds of genres which is good. What I believe is that it’s a great effort and it will take at least 7-8 years for the industry at this pace to settle down. I think we need to focus on getting people to the theatres. Na Maloom Afraad got the right formula. Movies are a big deal in Pakistan so first we should make entertaining, commercial movies for the masses to ensure sustainability.
What sort of a person are you at home?
For me it is like what you see is what you get. I’m the same on set and at home. I’m very energetic and love to spend time with my wife and son and even an ideal unwinding time would be having my son on my lap, wife sitting beside and us watching a fantastic movie. (laughs)
How hard it is to stay grounded when you have status, skills and fame at a young age?
It’s hard as you make it. The biggest problem an actor faces is one’s own ego. I give all credit to my family as solid family life helps a lot. I have my parents, grandparents, wife and my son with me – one big happy family. The key to live happily and stay grounded is to not take yourself too seriously all the time and being able to laugh at yourself.•