Ali Zafars first visit to India was in 2005 when he was promoting his debut album Huqa Paani. While travelling through the country,the Pakistani musician noticed the impact Bollywood has on people. He reminisces,I remember telling my friend,Idhar Bollywood hi Bollywood hai yaar. Even I want to be a part of it. The friend,however,had discouraged Zafar,explaining that the industry is already brimming with talent and that if no other Pakistani actors have succeeded in Bollywood previously,he has little chance. But Zafar had been adamant. I told my friend that I didnt know how,but I will make it, laughs the actor. It is probably this conviction,combined with hard work and the much-needed stroke of luck,that has paid off for him. Now,he considers himself a permanent member of Bollywood.
When Zafar started out as a musician in Pakistan in 2003,acting was just a hobby. I did a few TV shows in my country,including the popular College Jeans. This was only to earn some pocket money so that I could record my music albums, he states. But the popularity of his albums made him a familiar face in the subcontinent. And that is how director Abhishek Sharma spotted him. It was in Sharmas film Tere Bin Laden (TBL) in 2010 that Zafar made his Bollywood debut.
A political satire,TBL was a hit and the industry welcomed the actor into the fold. He followed this up with another box-office success,Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD),in 2011. But Zafars biggest project yet is Anu Menons London Paris New York (LPNY),where he plays the solo male lead for the first time. Apart from that,the musician-actor has also composed the music for the film and lent his voice to his character. Later in the year,he will be seen in David Dhawans remake of Chashme Buddoor,where he will reinterpret the role Faroque Shaikh played in the original.
Incidentally,Zafar is not only a rank outsider in the competitive industry,especially for male actors,but also belongs to our neighbouring country,Pakistan. In the past,many Pakistani artistes such as Salma Agha,Mohsin Khan,Mohammad Ali,Zeba Bhaktiyar and Meera have attempted to establish themselves in Bollywood,but none left an impression. While Zafar chooses not to comment on why their attempts failed,Sharma explains the 31-year-olds rise. It has nothing to do with nationality. Ali is a package he looks good,can act well and also makes music. After this,all you need is the right play of cards and a steady pace for the career, says Sharma.
For an artiste from an unfamiliar territory to succeed in Bollywood,believes Zafar,one has to be willing to think out of the box. I am glad that Abhishek offered me a reporters role, says Zafar,who terms it as a turning point in his career.
But as Ali Abbas Zafar,director of MBKD,puts it,Ali did not stop at that. When I offered him a role in a Yash Raj film,he was quick to grab the opportunity. It was not the lead role,but Ali knew that his talent would reach out to a wider audience.
Aditi Rao Hydari,his co-star in LPNY,says its his easy-going nature. He is not insecure and is always willing to share credit with his co-stars. The musician-turned-actor may not be among the top five actors in the country,but he is gradually carving a niche for himself. However,Zafar doesnt stop to think about his achievements. I live in the moment. Life is a process and so is my career. What I make of this journey will define me, he says,adding,I only hope the run continues and I do not disappoint my audience.