During his five decades in the industry, Shakeel is known to have tried his hands at just about everything; from theater to film, and from radio to fashion. Today, he stands among the giants of Pakistan’s entertainment industry.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the star shared his journey through it all, and how certain circumstances influenced the choices he made in the industry. Learning from ups and downs, previous mistakes and criticism has always been Shakeel’s mantra for success.
He stepped into the world of showbiz with Haseena Moin’s Shehzori. “It was my first serial and is still very close to my heart,” explained the actor, “It was also a tremendous success. Moin’s writing career and my acting career both started with this play only.”
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He continued to add that a majority of the roles he was being offered at that time were those of typical romantic heroes. However, his decision to work in Uncle Urfi changed everything. “I realised much too early that I didn’t want to be branded as a romantic hero, and personally, I wanted to get out of that hole. Initially, Uncle Urfi was a series, but after three episodes it was turned into a serial … it soon became PTV’s most popular drama serial.” The actor remarked on the extent of the drama’s popularity nationwide, saying, “Wedding ceremonies wouldn’t happen till after 8pm. It was that popular!”
According to the actor, the state-run channel was everyone’s favourite form of entertainment as it aired good quality plays that highlighted the society’s bitter realities, sans unnecessary glitz and glamour; a worthy mention in the category was Khuda Ki Basti. “PTV did not cater to what people wanted to see on screen but made them see what it thought best for them to see,” he shared.
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With his drama career peaking, Shakeel decided to enter the film industry. However, a number of his initial movies failed to do well at the box office, despite his polished acting skills and charming looks. “My first film was Honehar, with Waheed Murad playing the role of my elder brother. It was a powerful role but the film was deemed a flop. Late director SM Yousuf came to me and said ‘My film may have flopped but you as an actor have done well’.” The fact that Shakeel became readily available for every movie that was offered to him from that point on may have been one of the reasons behind his lukewarm film stint. “I signed up for every film that was offered to me, losing credibility in the long run,” he recalled. “That was a bad decision. The films flopped one by one. It was very depressing but today when I look back; it was a blessing in disguise.” The actor went on to reveal that this experience helped him mature as a television actor, and realise where he actually belonged in the industry.
He went on to talk about his widely popular on-screen chemistry with Neelofer Abbasi, with whom he starred in a number of TV dramas. “I found her to be a powerful actress, and a strong performer. She was also very spontaneous. Initially she was a trained radio artist. But then she mastered body language and facial gestures as well.”
Shakeel also expressed his delight on the success of Pakistani cinema today, deeming Dukhtar, Moor and Manto remarkable and exemplary. “Even our neighbours haven’t attempted anything like this! Indeed this is the revival of cinema.”
He is, however, back in film business and is making a cameo appearance in an upcoming movie, the details of which he refrained from sharing. “Around 75% of my work is complete. The film is good and I hope it does well.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2016.
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