Ali Zafar is the man of the hour. Having been the helmsman of a glorious career in acting and singing on both sides of the border, he continues to live up to his image of a down-home heartthrob.
His latest Bollywood film Total Siyapaa, which stars actor Yaumi Gautam as his leading lady, is a romantic comedy that attempts to look at the cultural stigmas surrounding the possibility of Indo-Pak romance.
It is a remake of the 2004 Spanish comedy Only Human, which is about a smitten Palestinian boy and Israeli girl, and the obstacles the boy faces when being introduced to his beloved’s family.
“My initial feelings on the film are good,” Ali says about Total Siyapaa. His role was said to have been written with him in mind. On the heels of well-received premieres of Total Siyapaa in both Karachi and Lahore, Ali says he is content with the response the film has garnered.
“It was good to witness the audience’s [response]. It’s a comedy and I saw people laughing throughout, but the challenge the film faces is that there are three other films being released in the same week,” says Ali.
Despite the strong offerings that have released at the same time, Total Siyapaa is currently leading the box office in the international markets. “The film is doing great numbers in neutral territories abroad, and the North of India where the audience can relate to the Punjabi nuances of the film. A lot of the jokes are oriented towards Punjabis,” says Ali.
Selective about the roles he chooses, he shares that he bases his acting picks on his instincts and takes his time to adjust to the demands of his roles. “I am very instinctive by nature; I need to be excited about a project [in order to do it]. Even now, I take my time [in making choices]. I have only done four films, so I think my emphasis has been to search for quality over quantity,” he shares.
Ali epitomises the quintessential globalised film star that new Bollywood breeds on. He is a perfect fit as he is an actor who is not confined to the borders of localised topics and ideas. He is young, vivacious and diverse.
The characters that Ali has played in Bollywood films thus far are mostly global in nature. “I have done some global projects where my character is based abroad, but I personally think it’s coincidental. The reason behind doing Total Siyapaa was simply because the film deals with much more than a romance between a Pakistani boy and an Indian girl. It’s a comedy with a cause. I felt the story looked towards addressing the generalised perception that Indians have of Pakistanis, and vice versa. People assume Pakistanis are like ‘this’ or ‘that’,” he says.
“I feel this film is important for all Pakistanis to watch due to the fact that this is the first time a film with makers and writers from Bollywood can help break a certain perception of Pakistanis,” he says.
“Being a Pakistani, I wouldn’t like to be stereotyped like my character is in the film when he goes to meet the girl’s family. I also feel that in this global age, it is advisable to co-exist peacefully with not just our neighbours, but all [members of the international community]. It’s the key to progress, which our people deserve.”
Ali shares that he tries to maintain a sense of artistic integrity while getting acquainted with a project. He has been experimental with his career choices that have ranged from his breakthrough as a model to his launch as a singer. His music comprises both commercial albums, such as Huqa Pani and Sufi and folk music-inspired Jhoom, which he released after performing songs for the platform.
Total Siyapaa, like London, Paris, New York, also features Ali as its music composer. It’s something he says he manages to deal with because at times, the tasks of acting and thinking of melodies overlap. By composing music in films, he feels he maintains a connection with his fans as a singer.
“I still am working on my own music, but the market is not right to release an album. As of now, Bollywood [is providing me with] the right projection,” says Ali.
His upcoming project is Kill Dil, an action-romance which is director Shaad Ali’s fourth film and will star Ranveer Singh, Parineeti Chopra and Govinda. It is slated to be released in September of this year. For the film, Ali has had to physically transform his body to pull off the rugged avatar of a Kanpuriya.
The release of Ali’s latest film has coincided with his disclosure that he has started working on his first screenplay. On that topic, he has announced that he will also be venturing into production and the screenplay he is presently writing will gradually be brought forth for the Pakistani market. The film will most likely be a launching pad for his own production house. It will also mark his debut as an actor in the Pakistani film industry.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2014.
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