KARACHI: In a behind-the-scenes video of Moor, screened at a press event, a man in a slick American accent begins narrating his experience working in the film. But his part is soon interrupted by a technical error. This man is Shaz Khan. Absent from the meet due to prior acting commitments in the United States, his short appearance on the video leaves us intrigued. The Express Tribune speaks to the actor to know more about performing in his debut Pakistani film.
Although most of Khan’s work is based in the American entertainment industry, he describes his role in the Pakistani film as a leap to “another level.” He says, “I know Urdu fluently but to perform in the character’s circumstances, his inflections and behaviour was a huge challenge for me. That’s where the actual work comes in.” Originally from Pakistan, he has spent most of his life in the US and worked in the banking sector in New York City before shifting gears to acting. He enrolled in a three-year Master of Fine Arts programme at the Actor’s Studio, staying on the lookout for acting gigs while he was a student.
Working in the film wasn’t something Khan had planned in advance. He terms it as a ‘surprise’ that came about when he was on a trip to Pakistan to visit family. “I was able to give an audition for the film and I think all those years of work culminated in those two minutes, where I sort [of] knew Ehsaan [his character in the film] and was able to make some choices that were strong enough to convince the filmmakers.”
Khan plays a Pashtun from Balochistan in the film and one may assume his evidently fair complexion and looks played an important part in securing the role for him. But he feels the decision has more to do with his acting skills than anything else. “I think it’d be disservice to Jami Mahmood [the film’s director] and the casting team if that was the only reason,” he states. Given the country’s political landscape, he knew it’d be no easy feat to portray such a character, but he was up for the challenge. “My responsibility is to portray the character in the most honest way, just as the director wants it,” states Khan.
As the film’s shooting took place over an extended period of time, Khan developed camaraderie with the cast, mainly Hameed Sheikh and Ayaz Samoo, something which he feels has helped him contribute to enhancing the authenticity of the scenes. Of the man behind the film, he says, “Jami is a creative brother-in-arms. He gave me a huge opportunity and I was lucky to find someone, who shared my desire to portray truthful, dynamic characters on the screen.” Perhaps the most memorable experience for him was shooting in panoramic yet dangerous locations, such as Muslim Bagh. “It was under some severe conditions but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got to portray a character that I cared about. You could’ve thrown me in hell and I would’ve made it work,” he notes.
Having stayed there for over a month, Khan got the opportunity to interact with a few locals on a personal level, getting a taste of their culture. “I made sure to avail every opportunity to interact with the locals as, through their behaviour and conversations, they offered more insight into my character’s past than any book or interview I had gone through earlier,” he shares. With the movie expected to release on August 14, Khan remains hopeful that the audiences will warm up to his performance. “I gave it my all, the audience will decide if I was successful.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2015.