Shaan Shahid needs no introduction.
With nearly 600 films under his belt and that too, of many different kinds, the actor is undeniably a great asset to the Pakistani entertainment industry.
Who knew that the aspiring youngster who made his debut with 1990’s Bulandi would continue acing his game and end up essaying the role of a national hero till 2017’s Yalghaar?
But Shaan’s journey hasn’t been a piece of cake. It’s had its fair share of criticism, flops and most importantly, an awe-inspiring image transformation from being a gandasa-bearing gujjar to rocking a suave and swoon-worthy army avatar.
I believe it was back in the early 2000s when I first saw Shaan in his gujjar avatar. The dhoti he wore flapped in the windy mustard fields of Punjab, while he twirled his mustache at a scantily-clad female lead professing (read: screaming) her love for him.
Just recently, Shaan shared a throwback video of himself on social media and brought these long-suppressed memories back to life. The video featured a song from his film Majajan, which also starred Lollywood beauty Saima.
The post was, I’ll admit, a bit of a shocker but it proved one thing: how far Shaan has come from the good old days. Even haters cannot deny how epic his transformation has been.
Just about a decade back, we were all wondering if Shaan would ever play anything other than the village hero. Was he going to bring something new to the table? Well, we found out soon enough.
A year after Majajan released, the actor starred in Shoaib Mansoor’s 2007 drama Khuda Ke Liye which not only revived his image but the Pakistani film industry on the whole.
Gone were the handle-bar mustache and unflattering kurta: Shaan was now a clean-shaven, black jacket-wearing Pakistani pursuing a life for himself in America. Heck, he had even traded his gandasa for a guitar for his role as an aspiring musician and fallen in love with a white girl.
Khuda Ke Liye tackled the issue of social taboos and misconceptions about Muslims in the West and opened doors for Pakistani cinema for years to come. If you ask me, it’s probably one of the greatest films Pakistan has ever produced.
Sadly, we had to wait a good six years for the opportunity to feast our eyes on the new Shaan again. It came in the form of Bilal Lashari’s 2013 war epic Waar.
With Shaan as the main protagonist and an all-star supporting cast of Hamza Ali Abbasi, Ayesha Khan, Shamoon Abbasi, Meesha Shafi, Waar roared at the box office and fans such as myself breathed a sigh of relief: our boy had still got it! No other actor would have been able to essay the fierce Major Mujtaba Rizvi better than Shaan himself.
Waar proved to be another cinematic milestone in his revived career, not that it had wavered any way. But it certainly looked like Shaan had found his true calling: A morally-upright and determined army officer. Perhaps that is why he was so keen to work on his next project 021, helmed by Jami Mahmood.
As it turned out, 021 was a gamble. It didn’t garner as much success as Shaan’s previous two outing but of course, that didn’t bring him down. The superstar was back in the role of an army officer for a third time three years later, in Hassan Waqar Raana’s Yalghaar.
Naturally, the film’s team had many high hopes pinned on the multi-starrer project. Unfortunately, it only divided the local audience, with some loving its patriotic theme and others not so much.
Many have even highlighted how Shaan keeps replaying a soldier again and again, just as he kept playing the gujjar all those years ago. But oh well, I suppose it fits in well with his staunch patriotism: he is known to be very vocal about his love for his country and vociferously speaks against local artists going to India in search of work.
But despite all this, Shaan is a star that never seems to burn out. Time and again, he has picked himself up and walked on with his head held high. And this time, he has walked straight into Arth – a remake of Bollywood film-maker Mahesh Bhatt’s 1982 hit.
The highly-anticipated project also stars Humaima Malick in the role originally essayed by Smita Patil and Uzma Hassan in place of Shabana Azmi. Kulbhushan Kharbanda has been replaced by Mohib Mirza. Once again, many have criticised Shaan for opting for a Bollywood remake but he remains unfettered – just like his fierce army avatar.
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