From the scorching heat of the afternoon, I entered junior Sheikh’s cool drawing room decorated with crystal pieces and sky blue furniture. The only thing that brought me back from the relaxing state this cozy room put me into, was Shahzad Sheikh’s captivating presence, the son of industry’s top actor – Javed Sheikh. Not much known about this 30-year-old who just became a father of a cute little tot, so naturally, after exchanging pleasantries, his early life is the first thing I asked about. I immediately identified with him when he told me he was not good at his studies and could not see himself doing a regular 9 to 5 job. He turned to advertising, being the only other thing that interested him, but soon after left the job when he realised he wanted to act.
“[But] before getting into anything I wanted to study properly about it. So I did my acting course from New York Film Academy for a year,” he said. I was impressed by his decision to get a degree in the field when a lot of people do not see the significance of one and think they can just walk into the field. He told me even though studying acting is still a personal choice, this was not the case back in the day when people were not as aware of the importance of learning the craft nor were there too many acting schools available. At the time of his return, dramas were the only flourishing medium around.
“I wanted to make a career out of acting and apply the knowledge. I felt I still had some learning to do,” he explained, “when a person walks into the room in a movie scene, whether abroad or here, there is a relatively calm reaction but when someone walks into a room in a drama, everything is very dramatic and intense, so it only made sense for me to take up some small screen projects before I went for movies.”
Talking about his first film, he says he does not want to consider Main Hoon Shahid Afridi his debut.
“The period in which it was made was so long that by the time it came out I had already worked in other projects, plus my part was cut shorter than what it was originally supposed to be.”
He does not believe that the local film industry has revived just yet.
“When Shoaib Mansoor started directing movies, everyone was too quick to caption the success as revival. But I never agreed with the fact because until and unless the Pakistani cinema produces at least 15 movies a year, there will be no revival,” he says.
“The work coming out now is definitely qualitative. And the best part is that it is a first for everyone, the directors and the actors. Most importantly, our audience has to like the movies; they will bring in the revenue which this industry needs to stand and revive.”
“Judging by Waar and Na Maloom Afraad, people want to go out with families and watch Pakistani films. So hopefully, other projects will do well too,” the actor, who is waiting to see how his movies fare, said.
I obviously wanted to know how he is behind the camera and quickly asked him about some funny incidents on the sets before the conversation turned too serious.
“I had great chemistry with the co-stars, we gelled in immediately. I never felt we were acting. Ahmed is a real sleeping beauty. He manages to doze off anywhere he sits. So we would put weird stuff on him and take a lot of pictures. Yasir would always be busy taking pictures with Ayesha. We always spotted them taking selfies,” he quips.
“Once we were in the sea water and we started seeing fins. Everyone started panicking because we didn’t know whether they were dolphins or sharks. And they turned out to be sharks. Of course, we swam for our lives but they had come so close. It was one of the funniest and most memorable moments with the crew,” he says laughing.
His adorable recollections from the sets reminded me of Dreamers and there was no way I would have ended our conversation without talking to him about the project. He told me he had started auditioning as soon as he returned from New York and he did that for a year but nothing seemed to sit well. Until one day Azfar called him up and said he wanted to show him something.
“He had already shot a small clip. The other characters had already been cast and they had even shot for 2-3 days. They couldn’t find someone for the role of Mickey. I liked the youthful idea, the serial was college-based. I know people would like it, because I really liked it!” Shahzad says.
“It was great working with Azfar, he’s a great director. Everyone could relate to the characters and the story. Every day was a great day on the sets. Every time we’d go on the set, we wouldn’t even know what to do before hand. There was no scene for the day, no script given to us. He would just ask as to change and we’d discuss the scene and decide the script there. There were no rehearsals. Azfar gave us confidence and made us comfortable. The language was easy too, since we were showing college life. So everything was very easy and natural.”
He told me it would not matter how many successful projects he did, Dreamers is one project he would always remember. A question echoed in my mind from the very start. I wanted to ask him how difficult it has been to shatter the celeb kid image or whether he has still able to.
“I’d never tell anyone about my family background. Some people didn’t even know Javed Sheikh had a son, let alone recognise me. I had seen my dad doing the same so I ever wanted to be picked up. I would take my portfolio and audition. When I look at people like my father and what they have achieved for themselves and their country, it makes me realise how much of a way I still have to go.
“Initially it was really hard to shatter the celebrity kid image, too. Everyone would refer to me as Javed Sheikh’s son. I’d go somewhere and they would ask how my father was doing instead of asking about me. But gradually, I realised everyone asks about him because he has given some 40 years to the industry, done almost all kinds of role and even played father to Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor. He has reached a level where people stop him and want his autograph and photograph. I want to reverse this. Instead of being known as Javed Sheikh’s son, I want him to be known as Shahzad Sheikh’s father.”
Things have started to look up for the young prodigy and people have finally started recognising him by his name. Of course, the names spring up in conversations because of the legacy of his family but that doesn’t bother him anymore.