Saba Ahmed meets actor Ali Safina

Actor Ali Safina bends half his body to pass under blinds just high enough for the short people that inhabit my home. He is animated, with great hair, and a larger-than-life ability to make anything funny. His various roles as DJ, TV actor and,soon-to-be film star, do justice to the incredible energies that reside within him. The iconic “Milk Sheikh” — Ali in the garb of an Arab journalist — was enough to demonstrate the actor’s love for novelty and humour. With movie “Jalebi” in the pipeline, Ali is set to carve a niche for himself at the perfect moment when Pakistani cinema is seeing a serious revival.

Director Yasir Jaswal approached Ali to do “Jalebi,” an action film with a comic edge. “My interest was instantly sparked because I could get to do my own stunts which I probably would have had to do anyway because finding a double my height in Pakistan can get very tough!” laughs Ali, who is 6’ 3”.The sports and taekwondo he played when he was younger finally paid off. In the film, his character Bagga is a car thief, the sort of person who responds to everything with a rapidly blunt response. “We were shooting an action sequence where I am getting beaten up,” relates Ali. “They called a martial artist to the set who looked super fit but he was five feet tall! I felt like a child was trying to beat me up. They had to change to a kantoota, a traditional strongman of Pakistan, the kind of man who could pick all of me up in one hand!”




When Ali was invited to GEO to pitch his idea, he arrived dressed as the same sheikh that would become the iconic Milk Sheikh

The people on all of Ali’s sets jokingly complain about his height: yaar tu lamba bara hain. With Mira Sethi and Saba Qamar in drama serial Jaanum, Ali was thrilled to finally be paired with tall women. (For shorter co-stars, Ali has to stand with his legs spread apart with the upper half of his body completely straight and serious). He acts out a scene and it is hilarious.

How did this comedy buff get a turn at serious acting? “Takkay Ki Ayegi Baraat” and “Dolly Ki Ayegi Baraat” were his first major acting breaks.”It happened as a bonus that I got to play with the big boys like Bushra Ansari and Marina Khan,” says Ali. For “Takkay,” Ali was nominated for Best Terrestrial Actor in the 2012 LUX Style Awards, alongside Naumaan Ijaz and Fahad Mustafa. “I don’t think anyone would like their debut to be someone who is being zaleel in the whole show!” laughs Ali. “But I’m okay with not taking myself too seriously.”

Drama serial “Jaanum” currently on A-Plus, is a project close to Ali’s heart.He signed onto it after one meeting with director Owais Khan. Ali was so impressed with Owais’s personality and humility, he didn’t care what the project was as long as it involved working with good people. As it so happens, he is starring alongside Adnan Siddiqui and Saba Qamar! “I wanted to show someone very calm and relaxed, with a lot of depth of character,” says Ali of his role as a writer. At the same time, he is playing a completely different role in drama serial “Kaneez.” (The character comes from a family of pirs). Ali likes to push himself, but he is adamant that he has really been able to explore his full potential in “Jalebi.”


Ali Gul Pir, Komal Rizvi, Feroze Malik & Ali Safina in the PekiStan Talent Hunt Show



For shorter  co-stars, Ali has to stand with his legs spread apart with the upper half of his body completely straight and serious

Ali’s childhood in Oman has served him tremendously well in his creative life. He tells me he could never have anticipated that his ability to imitate Arabs would enable him to run a whole season of shows. When he was invited to GEO to pitch his idea, he arrived to the meeting dressed as the same sheikh that would become the iconic Milk Sheikh. Half the people didn’t recognize him; half fell to the floor laughing. “Milksheikh” became the platform for some of his most famous one-liners, like the one he used on Mustafa Khar: “Don’t forget to sheikh my hand!” On air with film star Sana, the Sheikh asked her what caused the extinction of dinosaurs, to which she replied, “What does mean of that?” When asked about her hobbies, dancer Deedar replied, “My hobby is my professional,” to which the Sheikh said” Mashallah! Good good,” coupled with a definitive air of sarcasm.

 “Our Pakistani sense of humour, I always say is a sense of tumour: someone trips over, someone’s bike falls over, people will laugh,” Ali tells me. Throughout our meeting, the actor has made me laugh with his instinctual grasp of the sublime and the ridiculous. From Arab sheikh to serious writer to upcoming car thief, Ali’s affinity for challenging roles will take him far. Coupled with his irrepressible ability to ease those around him, to make them laugh in spite of themselves, this actor is as talented as he is likable.

Good Times


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