ISLAMABAD: It’s safe to call Fahad Mustafa the most efficacious, followed and sought after actor of the current generation. He is vigorously spirited, a reflection of which is his game-show, which he argues, is as “authentic” as it may get. Debonair, selective about the acting assignments he takes up, yet he’s a people’s man. He lives the best of both worlds, aware of how to strike the right balance between the two and that’s exactly what’s helped him secure his throne.
After a daunting chase, I finally manage to sit down with Fahad at his production house’s office in Karachi. Not too fond of interviews, Fahad does have a lot to say, proving that with his answers that come across as empirical, pragmatic and most of all, believable. He hasn’t been seen on the small screen for a while now, but his cinematic filmography has been impressive thus far to say the least. After making his debut with the satire Na Maloom Afraad back in 2014, the actor has since been seen in poet, Mir Taqi Mir’s biopic, Mah-e-Mir, the hugely popular Actor in Law and voiced a pivotal character in the sequel to Pakistan’s first animated movie, 3 Bahadur: The Revenge of Baba Balaam.
He grabs his mug of black coffee, Americano to be precise, Fahad says what he sips echoes his bitter self in-person. I thought differently by the end of our conversation. We comfortably seat ourselves and he seems prepared to answer my plethora of questions and what better than to begin with what has colossally contributed to Fahad’s abiding rise to stardom – his passion, his projects and his ability to connect to the masses.
“What I possess is a different kind of stardom altogether, nobody has seen it, I don’t know what category it falls under, but it is there and it’s very different from other actors. I feel I’ve been doing well because of my game show, it gave me that boost,” Fahad begins. “It’s also amazing in a way that I wouldn’t enjoy it initially, but it’s now become a habit probably. You see you cannot decide what people will like or won’t, you just need to go with the flow and act accordingly.”
Nonetheless, Fahad’s presence on television every evening may result in over-exposure, something that’s also been pointed out by Shaan Shahid as well; it’s astounding to see him believe otherwise. “I keep hearing about exclusivity, but who are you exclusive from? The people of Pakistan?” questions the actor-turned-host. “Let them decide if they want to see you or not. And if they do, they’ll see you on television and on the big screen as well.”
He continues, “I’m not getting any younger, I’m at my prime-age and with whatever time I have left, I should be in front of people. Not doing monotonous content, but trying out different avenues. The audience is very wise; they know when I am myself on my game show and when I’m playing a certain character in my films. People who either aren’t getting work or don’t have enough potential hide their flaws behind exclusivity.”
Not many actors at the peak of their careers would be comfortable opening up about the inevitable and inexorable downfall that is to be seen by all. “I’m a tale forgotten, a thought bygone. I’m the question which you couldn’t understand,” late yesteryear icon, Waheed Murad was noted to have said in his last interview. On the top of his game, Fahad’s realisation of how unpredictable show business can be is only accommodative to his own self. He is sure-footed, self-aware, but what is truly laudable is how sincere he is to his craft and followers.
“There will be a day when they won’t like me and I won’t be doing what I do today. You can’t put words into people’s mouths; you have to work for it. That’s why I started production in the first place. I know I will get tired and so will the audience,” he candidly shares. “If I’m not enjoying my work, neither will you. It goes both ways. I have to keep enjoying my life and I know that life won’t end when stardom will and you have to do something. I don’t want to create news, but I have over ten plays running on TV as a producer and that’s how I will always be associated to the industry. You just have to play wise.”
Coming back to the game-show that allows an average Pakistani to win gold, cars, bikes and much more, the live-audience that Fahad hosts can be extremely exasperating to say the least. When asked about how he manages to keep-up with the forthcoming ambience that he’s created for all on-set, Fahad nods and answers, “I’ve done shows in Dubai and Qatar also and I see the same audience there, so why should I judge my own people? We are what we are; I just need to know how to deal with them.”
On developing the mammoth following that he enjoys, Fahad confesses that he’s a cut above the rest because of his down to earth persona. “I’m different because I don’t lecture or teach anybody, I play along, I become one of them because I am. I am straightforward, but I don’t misbehave,” he says of taking irk in his own stride. “I have developed a lot more patience, it’s all about tolerance. I’m one of their own because I am in their homes every day, that’s how I’ve kept it and I have to pay the price. Not only do I have to listen to what they have to say, but value that as well.”
Fahad is proud of his accomplishments, and rightfully so. However, what he seems to be most satisfied with is his production house, Big Bang Entertainment that he founded three years ago. Churning out one drama serial after another, unlike other producers in Pakistan, Fahad is involved in the entire process, but gives directors’ their creative space as well. “I love producing, I feel very passionately about it. We have a small team, who are equally talented, we haven’t made a mess out of the production house,” Fahad shares, introducing me to his crew.
Whilst Fahad’s introduced us to a number of promising debutants, he has also helped in redefining seasoned actors such as Shaista Lodhi, Saima Noor amongst others. “I feel one needs to cast an actor in the right character, they must justify their part. Saima’s done so well with Rang Laga and the ongoing Mubarak Ho Beti Hui Hai,” he says of changing the veteran’s image. “You see a lot of actors have the potential in them, you just need to channelise or capitalise their talent and they’ll do wonders for you. It’s unfortunate we don’t think much of television, we must realise that’s where it begins from.”
Expanding his production house, Fahad was all geared up to make his foray onto the silver screen as a producer with Anjum Shahzad’s third cinematic directorial, Band Tou Ab Bajay Ga, starring himself. Penned by Yasir Hussain, the film that was supposedly a madcap, situational comedy, Fahad reveals that it has been shelved for the time being. Not wanting a half-baked extravaganza, he feels the only method of making a feature film is to put one’s heart and soul into the project.
“That’s the only way of making a film. You do it completely out of passion and maybe that’s why my films with Nabeel (Qureshi) have always managed to stand out,” Mustafa stated. “We really work hard. I feel we’re crazy people. And if people are positively reacting to your dedication, there’s nothing better than that.”
On the acting front, the trailer of Fahad’s next, the second instalment to Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza’s Na Maloom Afraad, was recently released. The actor returns as the good-for-nothing Farhan, however, now he has tied the knot with his sweetheart, Naina, to be essayed by Urwa Hocane and is all set for another adventure, but this time in South Africa. Mohsin Abbas Haider and Javed Sheikh recur as the film’s trio alongside Mustafa, while budding starlet, Hania Aamir joins the franchise. However, from what one can make-out of the trailer, the film revolves around a gold commode that gets stolen from the Sheikh of an Arab country. Now while the plot may seem a bit non-rational, Fahad begs to differ.
“It’s entertaining, we’re not trying to give out any message with the film,” he exclaims. “I’m dubbing for the film these days and we’re done till the interval, and it’s amazing so far. And even though it’s a fun film, it will make sense.” Adding that the film will offer substance in terms of content and visuals, like all Nabeel-Fizza films have been so far.
And while Na Maloom Afraad 2 is undoubtedly a potential hit, Fahad’s inclination towards commercially viable films is evident as he’s focused on to delivering romantic-comedies, he agrees. “I think it’s too early to be that experimental. If I suddenly start working on a John Elia story, which might be a lot more intellectually stimulating, the people might not react to it as well,” he contends.
Fahad continues, “You want to go to cinemas to have fun, to experience something larger than life, something not very real and for the next few years, I want to work on quality, commercial films. While watching Na Maloom Afraad 2 even, you’ll know there’s nothing uncomfortable about it, but it’s very entertaining. Even Actor in Law had a very serious subject, but dealt comically and we need to do that until local cinema hasn’t reached a certain point. Mahe-e-Mir won’t work if it’s made again, just like it hadn’t before.”
Not only that, Fahad has also replaced Hamza Ali Abbasi in Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2. A casting coupe of sorts, Humayun Saeed, Ahmad Ali Butt and Vasay Chaudhry reappear in the highly anticipated sequel, while Fahad will be seen joining the escapade. Without delving into any details about the film that’s slated to go on-floors post Eidul Adha, Fahad’s grateful to be working with the best directors in the business me we cannot disagree.
“Film is a director’s medium. I think there are two directors who can handle films and I’m glad that both their films are coming on Eid,” he begins with constructive competition. “Nadeem Baig knows the dynamics of a film and I’ve been very fortunate to work with Nabeel. So if you get to work with the both of them, why would I ever say no? We don’t have any other options either and the film that I’ll begin with Nabeel after Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 will be completely different from what I’ve done so far. That said; I want to make films for the masses, not for my own sake.”
As our insightful tete-a-tete concludes, Fahad walks me to the exit of his office. In a little over an hour’s time, it’s quite obvious that people around Fahad feed off of his energy. Passionate and zestful about his craft, heavily opinionated and rational in his approach to art, Fahad has come to terms with following the route that’s been taken before and there’s nothing quite wrong with that. He’s come to terms with the fact that stardom isn’t consistent and he knows exactly where he’s headed.
Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.