He was a droopy-eyed prince in Khoobsurat, who stole hearts with elan. In Kapoor & Sons, Pakistani actor Fawad Khan does an about-turn on sexuality and family dynamics. As the film draws rave reviews, Khan talks about Indo-Pak relationships, pushing the envelope in cinema and how to borrow money from friends and never pay it back.
How do you see your character in Kapoor & Sons?
I see him as grey and am glad we have stopped viewing characters as black or white. I enjoyed playing Rahul because he takes certain decisions that may be unconventional. My track record is largely about roles involving sibling rivalry, which is common in every family. One sibling will always feel that he or she gets less attention from parents.
Have you ever faced sibling rivalry?
I have always been the black sheep of the family. I am the middle child, with an older and a younger sister. The older one was studying architecture and would attend a hip college where they would visit old bazaars or work on assignments till 4 am. But I would be refused permission if I wanted to go out and, that too, on a Saturday afternoon. I grew up feeling that my parents were partial towards
You first gained popularity through your show, Zindagi Gulzar Hai, on Zindagi channel. Now, the channel gets eyeballs because of you.
I hope Zindagi picks the right shows to air. I have always been critical of my work and , sometimes, I wish I could snip through it all and only keep the best moments. That said, the reception I have received in India has been amazing. I was very surprised.
I had apprehensions when the channel was to air my show in India for the first time. I felt that, somewhere, the sensitive India-Pakistan relationship will impact the audience’s acceptance of me. Besides, India has its own stars in both television and cinema. I wasn’t sure I would be able to carve a space for myself here. It came as a big surprise when people appreciated my work.
You began your acting career fairly early.
I was 17 when I first acted on stage. I was a part of an Urdu adaptation of Spartacus in the titular role. The director was a TV director, which I didn’t know then. Two years later, he called me to say that he was directing a sitcom and asked if I’d like to be in it. He told me I would make Rs 3,000 per episode. I quickly did the mental math and realised I would be taking home a cool Rs 12,000 Pakistani rupees. I felt like a king. I hope none of my batchmates reads this interview. I was notorious in college for borrowing money and not returning it. I would borrow from several friends until I had collected enough for a meal at some hip eatery. The friends would all make a sour face and I would promise to return them the money soon, which I never did.
Did you know then that acting would become your career?
Acting, back then, was just an escape. I wasn’t a fan of the university I was attending. I was only bothered about what college my girlfriend — now wife — was going to. Education had lost its importance for me at that point because I was a man who had just fallen in love. Since this university was far from the campus where my wife was, I took up acting as a means of escape. But somewhere, there must have been a tiny desire to become an actor.
Television in India is a popular medium but not a respected one. How about Pakistan?
Since I am not actively a part of television now, I may not be able to comment. When I did join the industry, I did it with a heavy heart. I used to find TV sub-standard and thought no one watched it. After I was cast in the acclaimed film Khuda Ke Liye, I thought it would open up film avenues for me in Pakistan and, maybe, even internationally. When that didn’t happen, I decided to use TV as a means of polishing my craft. But when my shows received a mad response, I realised I needed to pull my socks up and take this medium seriously. Over time, it started to get repetitive, which is why I decided to veer away. Now, Kapoor & Sons has made me realise that what I want to do more than anything else is to experiment.
In what way?
With both genre and character. The film is very real and it has made use of my abilities and made me deliver a nuanced performance. I am more confident of experimenting now, of getting under the skin of interesting characters and doing something different with each one, be it in look or a trait, such as a lisp. If it isn’t there in the script, I’ll work it in.