You’ve been acting in Pakistani television shows as the leading man for over two decades. What was your reaction when Zee decided to bring Pakistani content to India through their channel Zindagi?
I was neither shocked nor surprised. Instead, I wondered why it took so long for an Indian channel to do that. I’ve seen Indian television shows; your marketing strategy, budgets, packaging. All of it is superior to ours, but we execute drama better. Zindagi has reconnected the two cultures after years of ban and censorship. The connection has become official, and has opened many doors for Pakistani actors. It has also, in the process, demystified Pakistan, its people, life and the times.
What is the USP of Pakistani dramas?
Like your parallel cinema, our dramas are inspired from real life, issues and people. What you see in shows like Maat, Mere Qatil Mere Dildaar, are the complexities of a man-woman relationship, all of it is happening around us. The earthiness of the dramas, with tight teleplays and a definite end, make it appealing to the audiences.
Then why does Pakistani cinema lag behind?
It is disorganised. Also, we can neither copy nor compete with Hindi films. Our culture doesn’t allow
skin show, and we are yet to create our own language of cinema and market it.
You are currently seen on Zindagi as Faisal in Maat and Bakhtiyar in Mere Qatil Mere Dildaar (MQMD). Which do you relate to more?
When I was offered MQMD, I was given a choice to play either of the brothers, but I wanted to experiment with a villainous role, so I opted for Bakhtiyar. We fashioned him accordingly — his signature music, salwar-kurta, a moustache — to add drama and his gaze that reflects his lust for a girl who rejects him. He is a manipulative man who is used to having his way and audiences hated me when they saw me in this avatar.
I couldn’t have refused to play Faisal because Maat has been penned by the renowned novelist Umera Ahmed, a master of drama who writes with simplicity and depth.