His name is Zahid Ahmed, but people know him as Rameez from Alvida. The way he has portrayed the character of an obsessive husband has been enough to make him a household name in less than a year. In Mehram, he was the brother who marries his bhabi and in Jugnu, he plays a simple comical man with shades of grey. Apart from Shah Rukh Khan in Darr and Baazigar, no other actor has been able to convincingly portray a bad character and get sympathies of viewers at the same time. But who is Zahid Ahmed and from where did he come remains a mystery… MAG got hold of the versatile actor who reassures his fans that he is not a bad man; people think of him as a villain, but he wants to be known as a good actor. Excerpts:
Your fans are desperate to know more about you… who you are and where did you grow up? All they know is that whoever you are, you are unbelievable.
I am just a mazdoor actor who tries to give his best on screen. After my education in Rawalpindi, I ventured into the telecom industry as a training manager and worked there for 10 years. I wanted to be an actor and that’s why I was associated with different theatre groups and played the role of Quaid in Pawnay 14 August and Sawa 14 August as well as Butt sahib in Haaf Playt. Since an actor needs to explore his capabilities, I grabbed the chance when Sultana Siddiqui asked me to do a play – Mehram – for her. I am glad that I played the central character in my first play and I was able to do justice to her belief.
What brings out the best in an actor – the script or the direction?
I believe both – an actor needs a good script and director and thankfully, I have been blessed in that regard. Mehram was brilliantly written by Zafar Mairaj and directed by Siraj ul Haq and since I knew what was expected from me, I was able to rehearse like we do in theatre and come prepared on the set. The on-going Alvida is the product of Samira Fazal-Shahzad Kashmiri duo where I get to play the obsessive husband and although my character may seem villainous to some, there are many who sympathise with Rameez. The third play currently doing the rounds, Jugnu has been written by Amna Mufti whereas Farooq Rind has called the shots. The play revolves around a comically coward simpleton and unlike the other two roles, this one is different in every way and maybe that’s the reason people like it.
How would you compare television and theatre – which one is more difficult?
TV is definitely more difficult as your acting needs to be at its best. In theatre you are not the sole actor on stage but on TV, there are times when your face is the only thing on screen; that’s when your eyes can deliver more magic than your entire body on stage. I try to use my stage experience on TV and so far it has helped me greatly.
How do you prepare for a role once you have accepted it?
I would like to term my preparation as something between research and observation. Once the writer sends me the script, the first thing I try to do is go through it and grab the idea. Then I try to do research so that I am able to observe people with the same traits as my character. That’s why when I am in front of the camera, I am able to be that character instead of being Zahid Ahmed, the actor.
How does it feel when fans (mostly girls) catch you online or in the open?
It feels good because I am one of the few actors who genuinely reply to posts on social media. As for the female fan following, I enjoy it a lot. I am one of those people who rarely go to public places like malls or cinema, but when I do (after the plays), I am asked for pictures and autographs and it feels great to have this kind of admiration at such an early stage of my career. I know my performances have touched hearts and I do not intend of slowing down any time soon.
Who is the one actor that you love to emulate in Pakistan?
Johnny Depp without any doubt. He is one of the finest actors in the world and the way he changes his appearances and the way he immerses himself into a role is something I would like to impersonate in Pakistan.
Who is your favourite co-star now that you have worked in as many as five plays?
I am new to TV, so I am at the moment concentrating on my own work and not looking to pick any favourites. I respect and admire every actor and actress who is sincere to their work; who don’t go for shortcuts, perform their tasks diligently and is down-to-earth even after success. Those who don’t follow these things aren’t good actors in my book.
Why did you become an actor when you had a good career as training manager in the telecom sector?
I was sick and tired of the mediocre acting on TV. I came into this field because I knew I was better than most of them and that if I got author-backed roles I would be able to either blow them away or make them realise that they were doing a bad job. Thankfully, now many such mediocre actors have realised that they were not being true to their work and will come up with better performances in the future.
And lastly, tell us something about your future projects.
After Mehram, Alvida and Jugnu are over, a couple of my plays will come on air. In Tum Mere Paas Ho, I am playing Bushra Ansari’s son, while Amna Ilyas and Areej Fatima are my co-stars. It was always my dream to work with Bushra Ansari. In Sangat, I am paired with Saba Qamar while Mekaal Zulfiqar and Saba Faisal are playing important roles. The character I am portraying is yet another bold move on my part and will take you into unfamiliar grounds of feeling empathy, fear and in the end, humanity at it’s weakest. Kashif Nisar has directed this Zafar Mairaj-script to perfection and I am sure that people would love it when the play airs. I am also there in Geo TV’s costume drama Moor Mahal that has been directed by Sarmad Khoosat and has an astounding budget of 16 crore rupees. The cast is huge as well and I have a feeling that people will once again love my acting in the play that also has Sania Saeed, Meesha Shafi, Janan Malik, Hina Bayat and Umair Jaswal. •