Sahira and Rahat Kazmi’s handsome son, Ali Kazmi, is all set to conquer Hollywood with the upcoming release of his first major feature film, director Sidney J. Furie’s “Pride of Lions.” In an exclusive conversation with Ally Adnan, he talks about his upcoming film, his life, and his experiences as an actor in both Pakistan and Canada
Do you enjoy being in front of the camera?
I am very comfortable in front of the camera, having had an early start at the age of two, when my mother directed and featured me in the video of Nayyara Noorâ€™s patriotic song, Wattan Ki Matti Gawah Rehna. I have never looked back since. I have worked in a large number of commercials, television serials, plays, independent films, experimental features and tele-films, but, even today, I get excited when I face the camera. This is what I like and what I enjoy. I was born to face the camera.
How was the experience of being raised by two well-known actors?
My parents were two of Pakistanâ€™s first thespiansâ€”actors who devoted their entire lives to the craft. Everything in our home revolved around acting. My home was a veritable institution for learning how to act. In addition to providing education, instruction and guidance, my parents inspired me to seek satisfaction and pride for performing a role well. Even today, I say, â€œIt does not matter what part you play as long as you play it well.â€
â€˜At the age of seven, I acted in the highly successful TV series, Dhoop Kinaray, directed by my motherâ€™
Why did you move to Canada?
My wife and I decided to move to Toronto, Canada, shortly after we got married. The prospect was terrifying because we were both doing well in Pakistan but it was something that had to be done. I needed to broaden my horizons.Â I attended the Toronto Film School and graduated with honors in Film History, Direction and Cinematography. Toronto has treated me well. I have found success, peace, happiness and friendships in the city.
When did you get your first big break?
I got my first break in Toronto with the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival (www.fringetoronto.com). This is an annual theatre festival which features un-juried plays by artists from all over the world, mounted in various theatres all over the city. Quite by accident, I saw an audition notice from the Fringe Festival for Israel Horowitzâ€™s one act play, The Indian Wants the Bronx. I knew the play well. It was the play that had made Al Pacino, the Al Pacino. The play is set in the sixties and tells the story of the fifty year old Gupta who arrives in New York from India to visit his son. The man barely speaks any English and is confronted by two hoodlums at a bus stop. A war of words follows and degenerates into tragic acts of rage and violence. The dark and gritty play was one that I had always wanted to be a part of. This was my chance.
â€˜It was too late to sign up for the audition, but my desire to act in the play was too great to be controlledâ€™
I was too young for the role, did not have an agent at the time and it was too late to sign up for the audition, but my desire to act in the play was too great to be controlled. I showed up for the audition where I found the lobby full of fifty-year-old actors sitting to read from the play. Once they were all done, I raised my hand and sheepishly asked if I could audition. I was allowed to read from the script. I must have done well because I got a standing ovation from the producer and the director at the end. They were, however, concerned about my age and let me leave their offices somewhat flattered but decidedly disappointed. It wasnâ€™t until two days later that they called to tell me that, after reviewing all audition tapes, they had decided to give me the role. After six weeks of grueling rehearsals, the play was mounted at Torontoâ€™s famous landmark, Honest Edâ€™s where it played to sold out audiences and magnificent reviews.
Glickman Talent Managementâ€™s agent, Craig Alexander, saw my performance of Gupta and called me the next day to say that he wanted to represent me. He is my agent even today.
Do you have good memories of Pakistan?
I have great memories of working in Pakistan. At the age of seven, I acted in the highly successful TV series, Dhoop Kinaray, directed by my mother. Mom was worried about my ability to get the scene right and prepared to over-direct me when I surprised her by getting it right on the first and only take. I enjoyed working under my motherâ€™s direction in Enver Sajjadâ€™s play, Zikar Hai Kai Saal Ka, where my father and the beautiful Atiaqh Odho were my costars. My first drama serial, Phir Youn Love Hua, was directed by the immensely talented Rubina Ashraf in which I played the role of a young man named Sameer who falls hopelessly in love with a girl called Imaney played by the gorgeous Nadia Hussain. I worked on many other plays, tele-films and sitcoms, including Kaisa Yeh Junoon, Tere Ishq Main, Meethi Meethi Bathein, U-Turn, Kaisay Kahoon, Aurat Aur Mard, Urban Desi, Socha Na Tha and Haseena, in Pakistan. It is remarkable how Pakistan is able to produce high quality work with extremely limited resources and a socio-political environment that is rarely conducive to artistic expression.
Tell us about â€œPride of Lions.â€
My big break into Hollywoodâ€”the Promised Landâ€”comes with the veteran director Sidney J. Furie action-adventure feature film, â€œPride of Lions.â€ The ensemble cast includes legendary actors including Bo Svenson, Margot Kidder, Louis Gossett Jr., and Seymour Cassel. The movie tells the story of five individuals who decide to embark on a daring rescue mission to save a group of young U.S. soldiers who are held captive in northern Afghanistan.
Sidney is a great director and working with him has been both fun and a learning experience. He really is an eighty-year-old kid! Full of energy, vigor and spontaneity, he brings an intense vitality to the set. The first one to arrive on the sets, and the last one to leave, he is the captain of ship where the entire crew works together as a family. The action-adventure script, written by Furie himself, treads into areas reserved for more serious genres exploring the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren and finding humor in difference of views held by people of different generations.
Do you have a good life?
I am a very lucky individual. I make my living doing what I enjoy. One cannot ask for more.