ISLAMABAD: Shaan Shahid is an unparalleled star. With an incredible screen presence that matches no one, it’s interesting to see how Shaan has not only stayed relevant even after 25 years but has also maintained a strong footing in the industry. Khuda Kay Liye and Waar were departures from Lollywood and made Shaan the heartthrob that he is today.
And now, after a gap of a decade, Shaan has gone behind the camera for the upcoming Zarrar and also helped write the reboot of Mahesh Bhatt’s intense-romantic extravaganza, Arth. Amidst the hush bush of the local Eid releases (one of which he stars in), the superstar decided to reveal the first-look of Arth, which also stars Uzma Hasan, Humaima Malick and Mohib Mirza.
While it’s evident that Shaan essays a musician in Arth, the posters are way different than what we saw at the first ARY Film Awards. Mohib has replaced Humayun Saeed and the overall feel has also evolved.
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“That shoot was done before the film was made. But since things ended with ARY, I decided to rework the script and add more details. As it progressed, the posters came out with its colour, flavour and the organic texture,” Shaan shared. “I feel it’s a huge character layer, not just a poster and they also don’t say it’s a ‘Shaan Shahid’ film. I feel the characters and the script are far bigger than the actors. I wanted the feel of the film to be retained… that’s what people connect with. Simplicity has more attraction.”
Speaking of the inspiration behind Arth and Zarrar, Shaan noted, “When I went to college, screenplay adaptations from novels were my forte. Apart from that, I’ve gotten to work with the best and worst of writers in my career, which gave me confidence. I also feel I have a writer’s blood flowing through my veins since my father (Riaz Shahid) was a writer and I realised that if people are unable to see me in a certain role; I can write it for myself.”
Hailing from an era that saw the decline of local cinema, Shaan seems to have progressed to contemporary film-making. Whilst Arth’s posters are in line with modern love sagas, veteran film-makers from the 90s seem to be stuck to what caused the fraternity’s downfall, case-in-point: the trailer of Syed Noor’s forthcoming film Chein Aye Na. According to Shaan, it can be disturbing for seasoned directors like Noor to “find an entry to a court where he was once the judge.”
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“Syed Noor wasn’t able to make his film aesthetically sound, but who is? A film exposes you like nothing else; it’s not really adaptation but a reflection of how you live. I don’t think Bollywood-inspired aesthetics are what we are looking for. Fair & Lovely Ka Jalwa, for me, was the same genre,” he stated. “The question is how cheap can we go? Taher Shah’s got millions of views on his songs but what’s the success criterion? I personally feel Syed Noor has an audience that’s bigger than the limited community we have on the internet.”
Moving forward, we asked Shaan whether he feels Pakistan has been able to establish film-stars, like the ones from back in the day. “I feel we do have stars in the making but they’re too busy not being stars,” he responded quickly, adding that over-exposure adversely affects one’s career. “You see, stars only come out at night, television is day and a lot of people need to realise that. You have to wait till the night comes out. Before Yalghaar, my last film came out two years ago and I do want gaps in between. You cannot abuse the star power people have given you to a point where they’re no longer interested in seeing you.”
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While Shaan’s exclusivity is known to all, it’s rather his presence in action-thrillers that’s typecast him as a macho man. “I could’ve said that before, but the industry is now being headed by literate people. If they typecast me now, it will only question your imagination,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do a love story for quite a while now and Arth gives me that opportunity. I’ll soon be working on a comedy too. So I feel, over the years, I’ve gotten myself a license to jump from here to there and convince my fans in almost every character I’ve essayed.”
He continued, “I feel actors must say what they feel like saying. You see it might be difficult for Fahad Mustafa to do an action film because he’s hammering what he’s found. I think it’s very important for an actor to diversify and grow; leave your genre, step out in the wild and challenge yourself. I started as a romantic hero but Pakistan stopped making films of such sort after. I either had the option of leaving or making do with what I have. I opted for the latter.”
Coming towards Shaan’s disappointing Eid release Yalghaar, which was touted as Pakistan’s biggest and most anticipated film, it managed to get a lot of attention because Shaan refused to promote it. Relying on succès de scandale, Shaan says it was the makers trying to bank in on his brand, despite an ensemble star-cast, that made him part ways.
“It’s not that I’m not supporting Yalghaar, I just don’t want to lie to my audience. I want to give them a clear picture of what they’re buying the ticket for,” he began. “Yalghaar is not a Rambo, where the hero has one vendetta, like most of my action films are. Speaking of its marketing strategy, I think they should’ve approached it differently. The film is about the army, and it has an array of characters, all of whom are heroes. I think you need to be true to the film, have the courage to say that Humayun has more scenes and market it as such.”
So was sharing space with his contemporary peers like Humayun or Adnan Siddiqui ever a concern? Apparently not. “I knew the script…it’s a war film based on true events. The film is not about one particular martyr; it brings all those people in the limelight who actually sacrificed their lives for their country. I’m proud of the fact that I could share my talent and pay taxes of my talent to something great but I don’t want to give people false expectations.”
With a massive fan following, seeing Shahid in an all-star film can be disappointing. It’s surprising to see he believes otherwise. “I feel fans are just like us, perhaps more intelligent. All you need to do is tell them how to understand a certain film. I feel I was just a part of Operation 021; it was an Ayub Khoso film,” the Waar actor observed. “Film-makers just care about the byline on the poster and the red carpet. A film is like a child: you must provide it what it wants and if you’re unable to do justice to it, the repercussions are only natural.”
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We concluded our conversation discussing how Shaan isn’t as vocal as he once was. The actor previously would criticise Ali Zafar, Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan for working in Bollywood without demanding equal opportunities and also introduced the hashtag #BanMawra for Mawra Hocane lending her support to Saif Ali Khan’s anti-Pakistani film Phantom.
“Pakistani artists can do as they feel. They don’t concern me anymore, my destination does. I want to focus on what I want to do,” Shaan claimed. “I literally don’t have enough time and energy to teach and they don’t want me to either. When you’re the guru, you learn that you’re not the guru. I found what I was looking for in myself. I wanted the whole fraternity to conquer the world as an army, but I’ve realised that I’ll do that myself.”
Whilst Arth is set to release in December, spy-thriller, Zarrar, which places Shaan back on the director’s chair, will see the light of the day in February, 2018. He is currently working on the script of his next action endeavour i6 which will also star foreign actors. He is open to working with other teams and was unable to take up Project Ghazi and Sonya Hussayn’s Azaadi due to Arth. Relentless in his pursuit for quality cinema.
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