Actors Zara Noor Abbas and Ali Rehman Khan, who are currently starring in the drama serial Badshah Begum, sat down for a chat with a local publication, shedding light on their experiences on set as well as what they did to get into character.
Zara, who plays the titular character, Jehan Ara, in the dynastic politics drama shared, “When it comes to it, Badshah Begum is an old story, but it is one that hasn’t been told. Sibling rivalry, power and politics, egos within a family that cause rifts between brothers and sisters, these are all very old stories. It’s time to share them.”
When asked what attracted her to the role, Zara explained that, in her opinion, the complex nature of the character made it an easy choice. On her character as well as the story of the serial, Zara shared, “Obviously, if anyone is offered a role with as many layers as this and one with so much to explore, no one will refuse it. Badshah Begum appears to only be the story of one woman, but that isn’t what it is. This is also about the people that are tied to that woman.”
For Ali, who plays Jehan Ara’s romantic interest from college, being separate from the family drama at the heart of the show came with its pros as well as cons. On the downside of his character, Bakhtiar, being an outsider, Ali revealed, “Sometimes I felt jealous about being excluded from the family politics. Their family structure is so intense and there’s so much politics at play, but it’s also nice to be away from it.”
On the positives, he went on to explain further, “I can focus more on my own character. I know who my black and white character is. There is no politics involved. He is a very simple-minded man who has a certain set of goals and aspirations.”
Offering further insight into his role in the serial and what he had to do to get into character, the Parde Mein Rehne Do actor added, “He is an educated man who thinks from the heart… He’s charming to be around. I like the fact that, in contrast with the rest of the characters, I fit very well [into the story]. There’s comic relief as well. I left the gym as well [when playing this character], because if he goes to college then he probably wakes up late and doesn’t really work out.”
For Ali, much like for Zara, saying yes to the serial was an easy choice to make. About the ways in which he believes Badshah Begum stands out when compared to other run-of-the-mill TV serials, Ali reflected, “The name itself is so dangerous that your ears immediately perk up when you hear about the project.”
On relating to the character, he added, “Also, Bakhtiar fit me very well. At the end of the day, I have to keep in mind whether the audience will be able to believe the character or will they be skeptical of it saying, ‘He doesn’t look anything like the character is supposed to.’”
While the role came easily to Ali, who is known to essay soft, romantic characters in most of his serials, Zara shared that transforming into Jehan Ara required her to deepen her otherwise cheery voice. “I worked more on the voice modulation part of it. I changed my voice a bit,” she shared. Narrating a memory from set, Zara continued, “Ali would laugh at that sometimes. In some scenes, in which I had to be very loud, he had set up a prank in which he would make his voice very high-pitched. That ended up making everyone laugh.”
For Zara, portraying women as “substantial” trumps showing them as powerful. Explaining the same, she shared, “It’s a fantastical world we have created. How does the system in this world work? How do men and women run this place? Showing women as powerful is not as important as showing them as substantial.”
Speaking about her male crew and fellow cast members, Zara added, “I have to credit a large part of my comfort and credibility on set to the men who were with me. When you are on set, you feed off of the reaction of your fellow actors. Be it my director, producer or my male co-actors, [I was supported in] whatever I wanted to do, be it wielding a gun or a knife or shoving someone.”
However, when it comes to real guns like the kind used on set, safety is paramount. Ali explained how he took on the role of “gun inspector” on set to ensure no live rounds made their way into a scene. He shared, “I was the gun inspector on set, making sure the chambers were empty. These days you have to take safety into your own hands.”
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