Pakistani heartthrob Fawad Khan on his experiments with acting and growing up on Bachchan movies.
By now you must be acquainted with Mumbai and our film industry. How ‘Bollywoodised’ do you feel?
I’m getting familiar with the geography of the city. I know that pehle Bandra aata hai, then Juhu, and then Andheri but there is definitely scope for more “Bollywoodisation”. Now that we are promoting Khoobsurat, I find it exhausting to talk so much about myself. I’m a man of few opinions, which I prefer to keep to myself. As it is, there is too much noise all the time. Why add to it?
Your character Zaroon in the Pakistani romantic drama Zindagi Gulzar Hai is immensely popular in India. Are there any similarities between the two of you?
Only the romantic part is me.
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That’s practically the entire show then, since he has a romantic approach towards life — he makes the girl believe that zindagi gulzar hai.
That’s not me at all. I know life can be very disappointing and hard. I see life logically but when it comes to my romantic side, then I can even take a bullet for the woman I love.
Why did you choose Khoobsurat as your Bollywood debut?
Because it’s a classic romcom. As a newcomer, I felt it was better to attempt something safe rather than something that is overtly intellectual.
You enjoy huge stardom in Pakistan. Has it been difficult to begin again in a new film industry?
Yes, it’s difficult but had I started from scratch, then, perhaps my ego would not have allowed me to try out Bollywood. I took up this offer with the attitude ki dekhte hain kya hoga (let’s see what happens)! I want the characters that I inhabit to create a ripple, even if it’s a seven-minute role.
Did you always want to be an actor?
I stumbled into acting. When I was in my first year of college, a friend offered me a role in a slapstick comedy show he was making titled Jutt and Bond. The money was great and I had to play an idiot on screen, so I took it up without a thought. Then, I quit acting and started my band, EP (Entity Paradigm). My friends feel that I could have pursued a solo music career. But by this time, my wife Sadaf (then my girlfriend) started getting marriage proposals and I realised that I had to take a few decisions. My father-in-law was a civil servant — I definitely didn’t want him to see Jutt and Bond. To make a good impression, I took up various 9-to-5 jobs — I worked in a construction firm, I even packed boxes. Around that time, the same friend persuaded me to return to acting. I’ve been really lucky. I’m very lazy but I do things only if my heart is in it. I’m trying to change now because bills have to be paid.
When it comes to selecting a role, do you feel trapped by your looks?
I pose to be good-looking; actually I’m not (laughs). I feel it is necessary for me as an actor to try out something new. I’d love to try out facial prosthetics for a role. I must mention my show Akbari Asghari where I really went out of my comfort zone. In fact, the uglier I looked in the show, the better it worked for my character. Versatility is just an illusion. There are very few actors in this world who are truly versatile. For instance, if I mention Anthony Hopkins, who comes to your mind? Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, right? He’s done great roles but he’ll always be Hannibal Lecter first. Marlon Brando did fabulous roles but he had the same style, which we now call Brando-esque. I never get why Shah Rukh Khan is criticised for doing the same kind of romantic roles. How many different ways can he look at a woman? He can try four-five combinations. The thing about great actors is that they know which combination of skills they want to juggle and they disguise it well.
Who are your influences in Bollywood?
I grew up on Amitabh Bachchan films like Do Aur Do Paanch, Mr Natwarlal, Satte Pe Satta, Shahenshah. I love this dialogue: Jis din main koi gori titli dekh leta hoon, mere khoon mein sainkado kaale kutte ek saath bhokne lagte hain, uss din main Black Dog peeta hoon. And Rishte mein toh hum tumhare baap lagte hain from Shahenshah. I’ve also seen Mr India several times.
You are quite open about being a diabetic. Is it a conscious decision to speak about your condition?
Yes. People are still not aware of diabetes. When your sugar is low, people say insulin injection laga lo! When I was quite young, I got a gash on my shoulder following a jump in the swimming pool. I suffered from a viral infection which turned into an autoimmune disorder, which led to diabetes.
How do you plan to go about your career now? Will you juggle Indian movies with Pakistani dramas?
I’m currently in talks for a Pakistani film and a couple of Bollywood films. I’m staying away from television for a while.
Do you support Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI)?
You are talking about my Facebook page where my photo was put in PTI’s colours, right? I had nothing to do with it. Someone from my team in Chicago was managing the page. I wasn’t even aware of this till later. I don’t have a political stance. At one point of time, my music reflected my political ideology but you can’t change the world. You can motivate people, you can inspire them but you can’t change their minds. The day people realise this, there will be peace. I believe in law, morality and humanity. The rest is all marketing wish-wash.