Gohar Rasheed’s well-earned glory

The actor’s mad genius sees no bounds and Maakha from ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ may just be the beginning

Rida Lodhi April 11, 2023

As credits rolled in, I sat in silence surrounded by thunderous applause and roars from the audience. It was a lot to take in; the film, the cinematography, and the way all the actors completely owned their characters - Lashari's enchanting directorial left his viewers in a spell. I knew I had to watch it for the second time - the film is anything but a one-time watch and not for its heroes. Good movies become great, and great movies become classics for their memorable villains. And if a film features more than one baddie? Well, it certainly gets my attention.

The Legend of Maula Jatt (TLOMJ) was much-anticipated and rightly so; the stellar cast, a huge budget and Lashari's comeback were enough for any cinemagoer to look forward to. But it was really the menacing Maakha Nath played by Gohar Rasheed that breathed the right amount of rage and crazy in what turned out to be Pakistani cinema’s greatest yet. In a Zoom conversation with The Express Tribune, Rasheed spoke about Maakha Natt, drawing a line between art and politics and his upcoming Eid venture, Money Back Guarantee.

Friends not colleagues

Rasheed and Lashari share an equation that dates back decades. Apart from being an actor and the director, they have been close friends for years; but this wasn't the reason behind Rasheed playing Maakha in his ambitious project. It was the actor's prowess that made him a perfect fit for a villain with no redemption arc. "Working with Bilal as a professional has been so rewarding. I think he is an institution on his own. His way of working is in contrast from anyone else in the industry," he says admirably.

"I've learned so much about him. He pushed me to a level that even I was unaware of. He made me learn so much about my skill with ease - there was no pressure."

Speaking about what he learned from Maakha, the actor shared he bears no resemblance to his popular character. "I think one takeaway from The Legend of Maula Jatt, was patience," he chuckled. "Maakha is such a pivotal role in my career but I'd just want to clarify that I am not like that at all. I hold him very close to my heart. I haven't given any character or any project that much amount of time in my life and my career. I've lived with Maakha for good ten years. At the end of the day, all your characters are a part of you that you nurture, value, and then let out for the public."

The praise rolls in

The actor is nothing but grateful for the humongous response his last offering has received. "I can't be thankful enough for loving Maakha Natt despite his insanity and craziness. It's still very surreal. There's also a longing; you spend so much time creating one particular character that you become wary of everything else around you. But now that it's said and done, you question where you go from here?"

Apart from its success in its home country, TLOMJ managed to transcend borders truly. The film has garnered ample praise not just in Pakistan, but globally. The artists on the other side of the border have also been vocal about Lashari's brilliance - an act we haven't seen very often…these days. "I mean, not just from Bollywood but any sort of appreciation has been very fulfilling. It was a very wholesome gesture, we were honoured that such veteran performers and artists were acknowledging the film. It was pleasing to see how art can bring people together and TLOMJ has been a shared testament to it."

The barbed wire and Bollywood

TLOMJ also made headlines when news of a possible India release surfaced on social media. However, the hearsay never came to fruition. Rasheed thinks the exchange of art is always beneficial for all the industries involved. "For India, we are their second largest market; similarly, it is also favourable if Bollywood films are released in Pakistan," he says, adding how the exchange of films also plays a substantial role in revenue. "If we get a good market for one film, we can make ten more. This exchange could also help the political landscape between the countries flourish. You can't live in a bubble and hope for progress. For this, you'd need exposure and banning content has never been conducive."

Rasheed goes on, "The prohibition of the said exchange has been in place for several years due to the political tensions between India and Pakistan. Artists from both sides of the border have borne the brunt of the said censorship." Rasheed points out. "When the borders were open, many Pakistani artists managed to make a mark in India. Whenever a Bollywood film would release here, it would garner massive revenue. It's a little unfortunate. If TLOMJ had been released in India, it would have been great. But considering how things had been lately, we were prepared for the film to not be given a go-ahead for screening."

Rasheed also shed light on how Bollywood's portrayal of Pakistanis is far from reality. Citing Sidharth Malhotra's latest offering, Mission Majnu, the actor says, "I think the way we are essayed in Bollywood just screams lack of research. They're just stuck with cliches. It's a very individual approach; I don't think it's very unanimous. It depends on director to director. It's just sheer negligence. I mean anyone can open YouTube and see how we behave, right? And if that is a big ask, Indian filmmakers are welcome in Pakistan. They should come and see what we wear, how we eat and talk. It only requires good observation."

Are artists soft targets?

For Rasheed, the idea of clapping back at trolls is simple: he draws a line when they get personal. "See, it's very black and white for me," the star says, "Whether you like my work or don't like my work, you have all the right to voice your opinion. Everyone is entitled to this. But the moment you think you have the audacity to comment on my private matters is where I think it's imperative to respond. This isn't a matter of men or women; this is a gender-neutral issue: you should not have the gall to breach someone's privacy. These are basic mannerisms. You can be as big a keyboard warrior as you like, but don't forget to conduct yourself in an argument."

Citing a case where his several female peers were targetted, Rasheed said, "When someone is spreading vile propaganda against you, without any proof, logic or sensitivity, you have to hit back. I strongly believe that everyone should know their due rights; especially women," the Rangreza actor asserts. "Who am I to have a say in someone's matter when they themselves aren't condemning it; I'm an outsider, I am a third person. If someone is just quiet in the face of adversity, hoping that the matter would just fizzle out, how am I supposed to take a stand for that person?"

From 'The Legend of Maula Jatt' to 'Money Back Guarantee'

Rasheed currently is readying himself for his upcoming Eid release, Money Back Guarantee. The film will bring back his TLOMJ co-star Fawad Khan alongside another star-studded cast. "Ah, I am not supposed to reveal much! But I can tell you that my character's name is Nawaz Sindhi," he smiles. "But MBG was such a fun film! I am so excited about it. My role is nothing like Maakha and the transition has been very welcoming."

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ