SYED JIBRAN - Actor by Profession Restaurateur by Passion

It was almost two decades ago when a 100-rupee bet with friends landed Jibran his first ever role on television. Soon after, he realised that acting may just be his true calling. In a candid sit-down with MAG, he shares what his journey in the entertainment industry has been like, what it means to be an actor, the support of his loving wife Afifa and what the future holds for him.

Q. Tell us about your life growing up.

Life growing up has been an amazing journey. [I am] blessed to have people around me who know the meaning of love, respect, compassion and care. The most understanding parents, loving siblings and a big Pathan family network with very closely knitted ties have made sure that I grow up as a man who realises the value and importance of family.

Q. How did your family perceive your impulsive decision of taking up your first acting offer?

I was in the third year of MBBS at Rawalpindi Medical College. My family had no clue at that time what was cooking in my mind [laughs]. I did tell them when I landed my first role after struggling for almost a year since I placed that bet with my friend, but even at that time, it was like a one off thing for me, so they were actually more thrilled than worried about me discontinuing my studies.

Q. What was your first day on the sets like as an actor?

My first day was worse than appearing for exams! [laughs] I had only a couple of scenes with very limited dialogues but I forgot them, as well. The director had to cut the scene and calm me down because I was a nervous wreck. But after that briefing, I just breezed through the scenes and even got a clap from the director, which honestly made me very very happy.

Q. When did you first realise acting is something you want to continue doing?

During the course of my studies, I was doing television just for fun and pocket money. But once I was in the final year of my studies, I knew that people had started taking me seriously. The offers [I got] shifted from single plays and sitcoms to serious characters and serials. That was the time when I, for the first time in my life, seriously thought that I should give it all it takes and see where I stand.

Q. What are the things you focus on when selecting a project? Has the criteria for accepting characters changed for you over the years?

Now, it is the script, script and only script. The criteria, indeed, has changed over time, as before, I was conscious as to which actors are working with me and many other things, but now, after gaining a certain level of respect for my work and myself, I am no longer conscious of my co-stars or for that matter, the director or producer. If I believe in the script, then I know I can deliver. Of course, it never hurts to work with good directors and better actors [winks].

Q. What are the qualities that differentiate you from other actors and make you better?

I don’t know what qualities make other actors good in their craft because I believe every individual has his or her own strong points. My quality, I believe, is pure hard work and [the will to] learn more and more by focusing not just on the craft but also on the script, my director’s narration and his vision, the chemistry with my co-stars, and most of all, the variation which I can bring every time that would make that particular role look different than the ones I’ve done before.

Q. What is the best and worst thing about being an actor?

As an actor, you get to play so many characters with a lot of emotional sides. This gives you an insight on how different people see things which, otherwise, from our point of view may seem totally wrong. In short, it gives me an opportunity to be in another person’s shoes, and that is amazing, as it increases the threshold of understanding. That is, in my opinion, the best thing about being an actor.

The worst, I’d say, is the emotional stress and toll it takes when portraying extreme characters, as you adapt every character in your personality to a certain extent. Sometimes the characters stay within you, and that can affect your true self.

Q. Which is your most memorable project to date? Why?

Hands down, Chup Raho! The script, the character, the director, the co-stars – very rarely it happens that you get such a winning combination.

Q. Do you see yourself doing a movie anytime soon?

A lot of movies have been offered to me but it’s a totally different ball game when saying ‘yes’ to a film project. I have locked down two projects which will go on floor soon and Insha Allah, as per the expectations of my loyal fan base, I am not going to let them down.

Q. How important a role do you think Afifa plays in making things easier for you with your work schedule and social engagements? Did she take time to adjust to life in the spotlight?

Without her, neither would I have been what I am today nor will I be able to achieve what I am dreaming of. She is the bravest, most intelligent and of course, most beautiful girl I have ever come across in my life. Not only does she manage my entire household to perfection, she also makes sure that I stay fully focused towards my career. Plus, the three beautiful children complete my world. As far as her adjusting to the limelight is concerned, let me tell you something – she is a natural superstar. I very keenly follow her advice on how to roll in different circumstances.

Q. Your children Eva, Yoel and Isaiah have quite interesting names. What do they mean and who came up with them?

We both [Afifa and I] came up with the names; Yoel means ‘Good prevails’, Eva means ‘life’ and Isaiah means ‘salvation of the lord’.

Q. What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

A couple of television projects on floor and films in pre-production.

Q. Many of your contemporaries are now into production. Do you intend to dabble into any other area anytime soon? What do the next 10 years of your life look like to you?

Television, maybe not. Films, definitely yes! Being an entrepreneur and owning multiple reputed restaurants, including Gelato Affairs, 1969 & Time Goes On and BLT, my interest in food business is quite evident, therefore, my goals are set to provide more and more people with different exotic cuisines, so that’s already taking quite some of my time. But yes, down the line, film production is definitely on the cards.