Cinema is a profound medium – one that can change perception about situations by offering an escape from reality. A school-going kid learns wisdom from Optimus Prime, Vin Diesel’s tribute to Paul Walker makes even the most furious fans weep, and those, who have ever fallen in love, seek refuge in Shah Rukh Khan’s one-liners. This is the magic of cinema and archetypes. Yet, there are a few, who can neither be typecasted, nor do they have a six-pack, but still manage to give the audience a larger-than-life experience. Arshad Warsi is one of them.
“I don’t know why it is [so], but I like how it is. I think it has a lot to do with who I am as an individual,” Warsi tells The Express Tribune, whose latest film Welcome 2 Karachi recently hit the screens. “The phrase, ‘Camera doesn’t lie’, applies to me. I don’t walk around with guards or anything … I’m just an ordinary guy trying to have fun in life,” he adds. This seems to hold true, at least when he apologises for replying to a text message seven hours after the agreed time. “Sorry, yaar. Woh subah se aik naye script main busy tha … bari mast kahani hai,” he says colloquially.
Although his wife Maria Gorreti urges him to be part of the Bollywood ‘party’ scene and stay in the limelight, Warsi likes to find his own means of recreation. “I tend to keep the whole ‘page 3’ scene at a distance … the most I’ll do is go to my farmhouse and relax. This fall, however, I plan on taking my wife and kid for a vacation to New York. Let’s see how that unfolds,” he states.
Warsi was expecting to visit Pakistan for the shoot of his latest project Welcome 2 Karachi. He had assumed that, since the film is about Karachi, it’d be shot in the city, but both Warsi and Irrfan Khan, who was previously casted in the film, were disappointed when the producers decided not to shoot the film in Pakistan. “I would’ve enjoyed shooting the film in Karachi because that is the kind of actor I am. When I can shoot Kabul Express in Kabul, then why not Welcome 2 Karachi in Karachi?” he tells The Express Tribune.
Although the scenes showing Karachi were shot in India and the UK, Warsi got a taste of Pakistan, as actors Adnan Shah Tipu and Ayub Khosa were his co-stars in the film. Where he found a “great actor” in “Khosa sahib,” he found a partner in crime in Adnan Shah Tipu. “Tipu is just like me … ek dum badmaash. I’ve never laughed or cracked as many jokes with any actor as I have with Tipu. He’s just a brilliant guy.”
The film would’ve been his closest chance to visit Pakistan, but that hasn’t quelled his longing for the country. He hopes to personally feel the love that Pakistanis have for him, which he has heard about from Pakistani artists and Indian actors, who visit the country quite often. “It feels wonderful to be owned by Pakistanis and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I would love to visit Pakistan and feel their gratitude personally,” states Warsi.
A scene from Welcome 2 Karachi
But as excited as he has been about Welcome 2 Karachi, its release in Pakistan hangs in the balance as no local distributor has formalised a deal yet. This, however, doesn’t concern Warsi. “I like to move on after my bit is done in the film. All I can say is don’t hate me if you don’t like this film, I’m sure you’ll like my next film,” he says laughingly. The actor holds political interests liable for the prevailing differences between India and Pakistan, countries that are alike in a myriad of ways. Stating that artists are beyond these issues, he says, “I don’t know the difference between a Pakistani and an Indian. When I go to the UK or anywhere else, I see them collectively as fans who enjoy films,” he notes.
Albeit Warsi’s claim-to-fame, Munna Bhai MBBS, released at a time when Bollywood films were banned from exhibition in Pakistan, permeated the masses and classes across the country. If doctors wished to be as morally upright as Munna, every other person wanted to be as spontaneous as Circuit – a role that made Warsi an overnight celebrity.
Be it the barber shop or a gymnasium, local eatery or a rickshaw, the smiling face of Warsi, clad in his signature black kurta and aviators, was to be seen everywhere. To be able to bag this kind of glory isn’t just because of playing a goofy character. The answer to it goes beyond Circuit … it lies within the live-wire Warsi. “You must tell all those rickshaw walas, gym owners and barbers to not remove my picture because I’ll send them a better one myself,” he says.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2015.
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