KARACHI: Konstantin Stanislavski was the first director and actor from the Western tradition of performing arts to advocate acting as a craft that requires more than just physical and vocal training.
He created his own ‘system’ that helped actors activate conscious thought processes in a way that indirectly engages emotional experience and subconscious behaviour. What later came to be known as ‘Method Acting’ became the bible for modern-day actors who often go back to Stanislavski’s system to get into character.
For Pakistani actor Shaz Khan, it was not as easy. He was offered to play an F-16 pilot in Parwaaz Hay Junoon but little did we know, he was actually afraid of heights. The stakes were so high that Khan felt there was no way out but to face his demons. He embarked on a SF-260 Marchetti jet fighter to overcome his acrophobia.
“Yaar, the only thing I had in mind was that it was a bad idea,” Khan laughs, while speaking to The Express Tribune over the phone. “But then, I was like you gotta do what you gotta do in life. I dive towards my fears and try to overcome them because that helps you grow as an artist.”
With the help of a co-pilot, Khan performed a close quarter dog fight with another Marchetti. These jets were last used in World War II so they are good for mission and formation exercises but don’t even come close to the capability and control of the F-16.
“The preparation process for this role was the same as any other role that I’ve done. In the end, you have to find the truth in the character. That is why I feel going up in the plane was important. This way, you are able to find a psychological relationship with the character.”
Khan is still in preparation mode and this expedition had nothing to do with the production cost of Parwaaz Hay Junoon. His first priority is to be fully equipped before shooting begins.
“I want to be able to hook into the character and actually feel the sensation,” he says, adding that the flight was going well until the co-pilot handed over the controls. “As soon as I got the controls, I started shivering, and as soon as I inverted the aircraft, I could feel the breakfast coming up in my throat. Man, I learned a lot!”
Shaz came to the fore in 2015, with his Pakistani film debut Moor, wherein he played Ehsaan. The process of approaching a character has emerged so much for him since Moor that he almost felt like a different actor as Asim in Dobara Phir Se and a lawyer defending a gang rape victim in an upcoming serial.
“I withheld a lot of things in Moor because I was nervous, but now I feel a lot more is there to be explored,” says Khan. He is of the opinion that the more you try and control things, the more you lose control of them. “It’s no different in acting. For me, it’s all about allowing a lot of research to come into your body, it’s like the process of osmosis.” Khan is slowly but surely getting back to the joy of acting after being all mucked up initially, as his passion for the art form is no longer getting in his way.
He is easing into this character by going through F-16 operational procedure texts and understanding what an F 16 pilot goes through, day in day out. “Like I don’t need to know them by heart, I don’t have to ‘rattafy’ them. But the process of synching in is really gratifying me. So it’s the difference between a amateur cricket player and someone who is throwing the ball out of the park at PSL.”
The exercise of methodically approaching his character of a PAF pilot has actually helped Khan fight acrophobia; he believes that one odd day, he will overcome his fear of heights. “I used to be really scared of even jumping off a ledge 20 feet above the water. Slowly and gradually, I did a few things that allowed me to get over it. This flying experience was obviously a huge step in the right direction and sky diving will be the last.”
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