"Why do you want to interview me? There’s not much to know about me.” This is what I was asked as soon as I sat down across a dapper looking Adnan Jaffer in a small cafe. Needless to say, I was taken aback, but recovered immediately and asked him why not? Most people would recognise him for his news anchoring gig back in early 2000 but what they don’t know is that Jaffer never planned to do it but just fell for it after he completed his undergraduate in marketing and mass communication from abroad. It was something he could never see himself doing for the rest of his life and always had an inkling that he was meant to do something else. It was about five years later that a friend took him to NAPA and things changed for good. He soon realised theatre is no piece of cake and went back only to return a year later. For a few months after that Jaffer juggled between his job and the classes at the institute before finally bidding adieu to broadcast journalism for good.
“I was so relieved because news anchoring had just stressed me out,” Jaffer says recalling the bitter time. Even when he had joined NAPA he was unsure of what the scope of theatre is? But all such doubts disappeared when he started learning his own capabilities.
“Theatre helps you discover yourself and I discovered Adnan. I came out of my shell, I opened up. You let go of all the inhibitions. I felt so relaxed and that’s what acting does to you. It makes you comfortable so that you can do anything.”
Sharing his experiences as a man in his 30s in a class full of teenaged students, he calls himself the odd one. This maturity hardly matters when you’re learning. He does feel as though he completely wasted his time before NAPA. He was just a learner when people almost a decade younger were performing professionally.
Five years down the road, he has done numerous plays, serials, music videos and recently, his first movie. But like any other good actor, he still shivers while waiting for his first scene. He explains that there are two kinds of shivers; the good kind that shows you’re serious about your work and the bad kind that makes you doubt yourself.
“One should have the sense of fear to do it right and to prove oneself, it makes you focused when you come on stage. Sometimes people break down, that’s the other kind. You’re just lucky if you’re going through the good one.”
Talking about his role in Jalaibee, he says he was more than happy to get Yasir Jaswal’s call; there was no way anyone could refuse such a role.
“That character was a lot of fun. Bilkul bachon ki tarha kia tha mene,” he says about playing the lead antagonist. I wondered if he approached all his characters with such a carefree demeanour. He says after doing a lot of theatre and even screen acting, doing a movie does not feel that hard, unless you have a really intricately written role to perform – something he has recently done with Sabiha Sumar, an art film director.
“I do my roles quite casually and people like that too. So I was in the same frame of mind while working with her. But I froze when I started to work and could not have done it if it weren’t for her direction,” Jaffer says, recalling it to be his most intense role so far, “I had to express strongly so I did a lot of acting through association and had to really dig deep in my acting reservoir. It was a big challenge and I remained quite shaken up even after the project, it’s a surprise I didn’t go to rehab!” he laughs. The short film that will be played in festivals soon and is in post-production for now so even he remains under suspense but he hopes toget really good reviews on it.
The Jalaibee actor seemed irritated though when I asked if he was a part of Maula Jatt 2.
“A lot of people have been coming up to me asking if I’m playing Noori Nath in it. I don’t know where this has come up from, but I deny all knowledge of that project and I’m not a part of it.”
The critics have been nothing, but full of praises for his performances so far, some even calling him a villain of the new age. But he always discourages people when they say something like that as it is very easy for an actor to get stereotyped which is what he is trying to avoid.
“I did the character in Aun Zara very reluctantly; I played father of a 25-year-old girl and I was 38 at the time. I think such a character should be at least 50. But it was being shot in Lahore and I had never shot there so there was that attraction plus Haissam Hussain was directing it.
He is hungry to show people that he is much more than just a villain or a dull father which is why next he is playing a literary romantic, caught up in a classic time period who has fallen for a very young girl with a contrasting personality.
Jaffer gets quite agitated during the days that he does not have much work. He likes to concentrate on one project at a time contrary to others that do multiple projects simultaneously for money and maximum exposure.
For taking up a role, what is most important for him is the graph of the character; he wants to know where it starts from, how it changes and where it ends. He never wants do a flat role that is just there, comes and goes and does nothing, “it has to have an inner conflict, as well as an outer conflict”, he notes.
He has been offered roles that have a lot of screen time and has turned all of them down. He believes serials are brilliant for young girls because the stories are women-centric and one would hardly see as many male characters.
“I was lucky when I came in this field; there was hardly anyone my age, they all come in young and for the lead role; I became prominent in my age group. I started off with supporting roles and gradually started being offered lead roles. I still do supporting roles if they are good, though,” adding that he has never felt he missed out on professional experiences because he started off late.
A dream actor for directors, Jaffer says he is not much fussy about the load or timings when it comes to shootings, but he definitely isn’t social on the sets which might not make him so popular with his castmates.
“There is a lot of loose talk happening, that happens generally in Pakistan, but more in media industries. So I keep a book with me while I’m waiting in between shots. There are big intervals between shots, so when people are just sitting there idle, waiting, they engage in gossip,” he says adding that he comes off as arrogant as a result.
But he fears the young lot will cause more damage to the industry than anything else; “they need a major attitude fix! While some actors are sweet and professional, others behave really badly.” He has liked working with Sonya Rehman and mentions Samiya Mumtaz and Nimra Bucha specifically pointing that the young girls should learn from them.
“All of them are after fame and want to become starlets – they live in a fantasy world and every day is like a red carpet for them, they don’t want to learn. But looks can only get you so far and after 35 you will only have your acting capabilities to take you forward,” he says.
Ending our conversation on a lighter note, I asked him about his personal life and marriage, and Jaffer says he and his wife had a half-arranged and half-love marriage.
“We got set up by our mothers, they fooled both of us. They planned everything and took us to a restaurant. They acted like they bumped into each other and like they were old college friends. So our story started with acting. She loves reading and writing so she helps me a lot with my roles.”•