Nazar Ul Hasan Theatre’s Rising Star

Imagine a young Nazar Ul Hasan in an avatar completely opposite to his current shy and sober self – skipping madrasah, not paying attention in class, running in streets and climbing up and down trees. One thing that remains unchanged, though, is his love for learning something new. Fate took quite a bit of twists and turns to finally bring Nazar close to acting, but now that he has found it, it seems like he was always meant for the craft. His performa-nces are inspiring and a treat to watch. As he gears up for yet another play, he takes out time bewteen rehearsals to talk his heart out about his life pre and post-discovering his love for acting. Excerpts:

"Main angrezi se bilkul la ta’alluq hun, main Urdu main hi baat karoonga,” Nazar dictates his terms with a cheery note at the opening of our conversation. Having done countless plays in just a matter of few years, he seems to have a strong hold on the basics, technical knowledge as well as the rest. It is hard to imagine there was a time, and not too far in the past, when he did not know that he would be an actor. It all started while he was working at an advertising agency as a designer. A chance encounter with the process of commercial-production ignited a spark in him. But it was part his fascination with production, part financial stability at home that eventually pushed him to try his luck at prodction. It wasn’t long before he left his job at the firm to enroll in a dilpoma course at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in 2007.

“It was supposed to be a proper three-year diploma in production for me when I started studying at NAPA but the department got shut down after a year because, according to Zia (Mohyeddin) sahab, production, camera work, usage of technical equipments, were being taught by few others as well. So he decided to focus on acting instead,” Nazar shares how his journey at the academy began ominously but which would eventually turn out to be everything he ever wanted. “Bohot buri tarah dil toota tha mera. I didn’t know what to do next. But I had been in this environment for a year and I realised that watching theatre performances and the idea of performing myself is something that excited me and touched me profoundly. So I confided in my teachers and discussed with them. I got a lot of encouragement and confidence from Zia sahab, Khalid Ahmad sahab and a few other seniors, and thus, I decided to go for it.” While most other aspiring actors can’t wait to start acting and seldom bother to get proper training, what prompted Nazar to complete his diploma with acting as his major, instead, I was curious. “Baqaul Naseeruddin sahab ke, ‘actors ab gym main paida hotay hain’ [laughs],” he answers with a quote by one of his favourite actors, and continues on the importance of proper education for an actor, “If you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing, then that action becomes useless. For clarity and satisfaction, you must know the theory behind it.”

How did his family feel about the shift in his line of work? “Main kuch bhi nahi kr ke de raha tha, tou ghar walon ne kaha bhae kuch bhi ban jao! [laughs] I had never even planned on doing it (designing) and I didn’t know what I want to do in life until I came across production then acting. I requested them to be patient and they were very supportive,” he sings praises for his family. But this 10-year journey has been no joy ride, as despite the understanding from his family and the hard work he was putting in, Nazar struggled financially. “I am very grateful to this academy for not only teaching me whatever I know today but also supporting me throughout. Financially, things were not looking up for me when I joined. After the first three months, I got a full fee waiver,” he shared and adds, “Towards the end of my diploma, things at home took a turn for worse, so I decided to drop out. But the management asked me to write an application for scholarship under which I started getting an allowance.” Soon after graduating, the Sammi actor started performing on stage and later, became a member of visiting faculty, wherein he would substitute to teach Zia sahab’s classes.

They say a theatre actor has a strong foundation and can act in any other medium easily. How true does he think that is? “Very true! He may need to learn a few technical things when shifting a medium, but the basics remain the same,” Nazar goes on to explain, adding, “Acting on stage uses up all your muscles – gestures, vocal and facial expressions – no area remains untapped. This is how much it opens up an actor which is probably why it becomes easier for him to switch the medium because then you just need to tone it down a bit as opposed to being loud for stage.” Nazar has given praiseworthy performances in plays like the musical Heer Ranjha, Latri Jo Lafro, Raagni, adapted play Marat/Sade, Naql -e-Makani, Naik Perveen, Court Martial and Manto Rama. Apart from giving stage performances all over Pakistan and participating in numerous literature and theatre festivals in India, he acted recently in television drama Sammi and was seen on big screen in Na Maloom Afraad 2. But like most other theatre actors, his first love, too, remains the stage. “Because it is completely an actor’s medium. Camera is a director’s medium,” he justifies his love affair. “No matter how brilliantly I have given a shot, when the director sits in the editing room, he gets to decide whether it was good enough or not, whether the audience will ultimately get to see my expressions. This is not the case in theatre where the director gives full liberty to the actors to play around with and explore their roles, and that experience is incomparable,” he speaks with his face lit up. He also shines light on the importance of the process of rehearsing which makes the world of difference to the final performance. “We practice for at least 80-90 days before performing a play. That’s how long it takes to gel with the cast and understand what your co-actor is thinking and how they are going to act at any given moment. Without that, you can’t perform well because acting is basically reacting to the other person. Television actors don’t do this, which I hate. This is why you will notice that not many performances on TV are able to create an impact today.”

The NMA2 star is also actively involved in dramatic storytelling in a bid to promote performing arts and bringing entertainment to people. Nazar admires the work of actors like Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, and gets inspired by actors like Om Puri and Irrfan Khan. The busy actor seems completely booked for the next few months, as he excitedly reveals what he has up his sleeves next. “I am rehearsing for a play in Karachi these days, then I will move on to PNCA for Agha Hashar Kashmiri’s play Yahoodi ki Larki and Badshahat Ka Khatma under Khalid sahab’s direction. There is also a Faiz Aman Mela happening in Lahore and Ghalib Library in Karachi where I will participate in storytelling. In December, I will start shooting for a serial directed by Saife (Hassan) bhai and I will also be seen in Chupan Chupai soon, upcoming film starring Neelam Munir and Ahsan Khan, in a minor role.” Where he will go next, is uncertain, though. “Kuch pata nahi. And that doesn’t even scare me anymore, not knowing, that is. I have no hurry of reaching anywhere. I have heard and seen that when you are trying to get somewhere quickly, you have to step on a lot of people to get there,” he signs off on a deep note, but with the sweetest smile.