DALLAS: He may not be one of the most popular faces in the entertainment industry, but he definitely holds a strong penchant for acting. He may not be a superstar, but he is content with just being a successful actor. And, he may not have multiple blockbuster projects to his credit, but in a career spanning 12 years, he has managed to bag 20 successful TV serials.
Confident and quirky, Affan Waheed speaks to The Express Tribune about trying his hand at Pakistani cinema, being a bachelor in his 30s and more.
The Express Tribune (ET): You have been in the show business for more than a decade and super-stardom has always eluded you. Why is it so?
Affan Waheed (AW): I joined to become an actor and not a superstar. The craft of acting fascinates me. The ability to become another person, take on a persona different than your own, connect with people as a different individual and engage with viewers is wonderful. The trappings of superstardom mean nothing to me. I need appreciation and not celebrity status. I have to be financially comfortable but not rich. I am happy being a successful actor and not a superstar.
ET: You are a graduate of the National College of Arts in Lahore. How did you make a move from painting to acting?
AW: The move happened on its own. I was asked to work in Tere Pehlu Mein for reasons unknown to me and went onto deliver what a lot of folks consider to be a competent performance. I decided to make acting my career after the success of the serial because it was lucrative, interesting and a lot of fun. I also felt that I was a good actor and did not want my talent to go to waste. Twelve years and more than 20 television serials later, I am still working as an actor. I love the work that I do.
ET: Historically, the world of showbiz has had a stigma associated with it and is not considered respectable. How have you found the world to be?
AW: I have found the industry to be positive, warm and kind. It is full of interesting people with a lot of skill and talent. The stigma that you mention does exist but is largely unfair. There are some shady, unscrupulous people in the business but their relative number is no more and no less than in any other industry.
ET: How did you learn to act? Do you enjoy the field?
AW: Yes, I do. It affords me a great high. I’m a very sensitive person with great curiosity and a genuine interest in people, their thoughts and their actions. I feel that these intrinsic attributes of my personality make me a natural actor. As far as the craft goes, I learnt by reading books about acting, participating in acting workshops and tutorials and watching the performances of good actors.
ET: What criteria do you use to select acting projects?
AW: I do not use any specific criteria for selecting my projects. I have worked in different serials for different reasons. I have almost always used instinct to make decisions about acting projects. I’m trying to change that though. After more than a decade in the business, I’m increasingly concerned about my legacy. I want it to be impressive and, going forward, plan to choose projects with great care and forethought.
ET: What do you think of your body of work as an actor?
AW: I think it is good. I wish it was better. I am proud of my work in Kafir, Roshan Sitara, Main Bushra, Aik Pal, Guzaarish, Khamoshi and a few other serials. I think that Iltija, in particular, was very good. I need to work in more serials that are daring, different and groundbreaking and I need to secure roles that redefine masculinity for the 21st century. The angry, brooding young man of the past is no longer heroic. He is comical.
ET: You do not seem to have a great interest in cinema. Is television all you want to do?
AW: No. I love cinema. It is larger than life and has an illusory, ethereal quality that I find very attractive. I want to be a part of cinema but am in no rush to do films. I have made a good reputation for myself in television and cannot take the risk of hurting it by doing a bad film. I’m waiting for the right role in the right film. I don’t believe the wait will be very long.
ET: You often do not show up for industry events, avoid being in morning shows, grant few interviews, and are not very active on social media. Why is it that you do not promote yourself?
ET: Not moodiness?
AW: Oh yes, that too. I’m a very moody person. I cannot handle exhibitionism and do not like to attract attention to myself. The work that I do as an actor is public property but the rest of my life is my own. I want to keep it that way.
ET: You are a well-known actor. Do you enjoy the perks of stardom?
AW: I appreciate them but don’t necessarily enjoy them. I enjoy the love and adoration of fans. I value the respect that I get as an actor. I relish being a part of good drama serials. And I like being able to entertain large numbers of people. The other perks of stardom – free designer clothes, preferential treatment in public places and invitations to glitzy parties – do not mean much to me.
ET: Have you found privacy to be a casualty of celebrity?
AW: Yes. Privacy has gone to the dogs in an age where everyone has become a slave to social media. I have difficulty remembering the days when not everything that one did was a part of public record but I do miss them. It is sad that people willingly give up their privacy in their quest for fame, fortune and glory, not to mention personal validation.
ET: You solemnized nikkah with a young lady in 2016 but the marriage ended in divorce before the rukhsati took place. What went wrong with your marriage?
AW: It ended. I made the wrong choice of getting married to the wrong girl at the wrong time in the wrong place. It was my fault and I paid the price for it. Fortunately, it is in the past now and I am determined never to make an important decision in haste again.
ET: A lot has been said and written about you and Iqra Aziz being in a relationship. Is any of it true?
AW: No, none of it is true. The whole thing started off in jest and took a life of its own. People started believing that the two of us were romantically involved with each other. Iqra and I took it in stride. We still do.
ET: What is the nature of your relationship with Iqra Aziz?
AW: She is a powerful actor, a wonderful colleague and a good friend. My relationship with Iqra is not romantic. Not at all.
ET: You are a successful and good-looking young man in his 30s. Why are you single?
AW: I’m not ready to get hitched at this time. I am single by choice.
ET: Does being single in your 30s invite speculation and gossip?
AW: Of course, it does. A whole hell of a lot.
ET: How do you deal with the speculation and gossip?
AW: I find it amusing and do not let it get to me. It comes with the territory. I do not like it but manage to live with it.
ET: You write poetry too?
AW: Yes, I do. It is something that I enjoy immensely. I wish had training in the field. I am a huge fan of Amjad Islam Amjad and hope that I can become his student one day.
ET: You are also known to have an interest in singing. Do you plan to take up singing as a career at some point in your life?
AW: I have a huge interest in singing. I live on music. I wish I were a singer but feel that it is too late for me to get the proper training needed to become a good one.
ET: What projects do you have in the pipeline currently?
AW: I’m currently shooting for Ahmed Bhatti’s drama serial, Baydardi. It tells the story of Shafay, a young man who is diagnosed with HIV and has to deal with the social, cultural, emotional, and psychological consequences of the diagnosis. The serial deals with the unexplored subject of HIV with great responsibility. Shafay is straight but afflicted with a disease that a lot of people associate with homosexuality and promiscuity. The play destigmatizes the disease and presents the truth of HIV in a very effective manner. I believe that it will be one of the most important plays of the year.
ET: What are your plans for 2018?
AW: I plan to be happy in 2018. Very, very happy.
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