Saba Ahmed talks to Fahad Mustafa – Beloved Host, Actor, Rising Film Star
We see a lot less of you on TV in drama serials. Why is that?
Over the past two years, things have changed when it comes to drama serials. Serials have become less of a priority and films are slowly taking over. There has been a progressive change overall in our industry. I have greatly reduced the number of serials I am doing and have started doing more shows instead. I figured, for me, since I actually enjoy acting, it would be better to do fewer serials so as to keep enjoying acting in them. I saw a transition period where I went towards shows and also had more time to focus on films. I got this film called Mah-e-Meer which will be released in the next month or two. This is a film written by Sarmad Sehbai and I’m playing Meer, in fact I play two very interesting characters. Iman Ali and Sanam Saeed are co-starring with me. I’m currently working on one film and waiting for the release of Mah-e-Meer. It’s already been selected for the Toronto Film Festival just from people having watched the promos.
Tell us about Big Bang Entertainment, your very own production house
Producing a serial is a lot of money. Acting in serials is something I don’t enjoy anymore, but since I’m running my own company and I have a sellable name as an actor, I do a few to sustain my business. Last year we produced over 20 odd serials including Koi Nahin Apna, Arranged Marriage, Mera Hamrahi, Tootay Huay Taaray and we’re currently working on Aashiq Hussain featuring Faisal Qureshi. Producing these serials was the first step for us towards films because television is the only well-functioning, thriving entertainment industry we have. I now have plans to produce my own film also called Band Kab Bajay Ga which will start production around end August this year and will hopefully be released end of this year.
â€œSomething funny that happens is when girls come up on stage and whisper to me that they want to hug meâ€
You are now more inclined to act in and produce films? Why?
Film is a larger medium where you can focus more, it’s less time and fewer scenes than television and you can develop characters far better than in television. 500+ scenes in a serial, and 60, 65 scenes in a film, which do you think would be done better, where would you be able to focus more on, say, art direction and character development? For most actors, drama serials are where they began and that’s what has shaped their identities. Like I said, the drama industry is the only industry that we have, the film industry has only just started and everything is based on wishful thinking. Let’s hope and pray that it will grow and prosper but it still has a long way to go. Somebody like me who’s doing and has done so much can maybe afford to do films now but someone who’s just started out can’t afford to take such a big risk and opt to do films only.
Has your star status changed since Jeeto Pakistan? And how?
I’m hosting the number-one show in the country called Jeeto Pakistan. I’m enjoying it very much, it’s a different kind of stardom that I’ve seen through this show. Whether it’s a rikshaw waala or a rairdy waala, someone from the elite class or from the corporate sector, everybody knows me now. Before, it used to be just the people who were following dramas. Now all of a sudden, I’ve become a public figure and that’s a really different sort of experience for me and I’m really enjoying that.
â€œWhile films about the war on terror are important, people in Pakistan also want to laughâ€
Tell us about your experience hosting such a widely viewed morning show as Jeeto Pakistan
When I started hosting the show, everybody asked me why I had agreed to do this show and why a morning show? Now, every child in Pakistan is watching it. And honestly, I just go up there and have fun, I don’t even host, I just go and have a few laughs, make a few jokes, I get two hours of relaxed fun time in the morning. And I think people see that and enjoy the show for that reason. I think it’s because I don’t pretend to be what I’m not, I just go on the show and be myself. You can’t pretend on television for a very long time, especially if you’re hosting.
Any funny occurrences on the stage of Jeeto Pakistan?
Something funny that happens to me on the show is that when girls come up on stage, they whisper to me that they want to hug me. Unfortunately on our television screens, this is considered rather odd, a girl giving a boy a hug. But I think that perhaps I’m the only exceptional case that I oblige the audience members by hugging them and the viewership at large does not take offence to it either. The producers have also chided me at times and told me not to hug these girls on stage but, come on, it’s not like that. When people appreciate you as a television personality, they just want to touch you, and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, I oblige just to tick off the people at the channel!
â€œYou can’t pretend on television for a very long time, especially if you’re hostingâ€
Tell us about Na Maloom Afraad and the rise of the entertainer film.
We’ve made an entertainer film which is new for our recent wave of Pakistani cinema. We were stuck in the rut of making films about war and mujahedeen so it’s heartening to hear that, currently, in production, are 30 odd entertainer films. While films about the war on terror are important, people in Pakistan also want to laugh. I say show them something they are used to and can relate to, not just jihadists and war. My own film that will be coming out later this year will be a romantic comedy. Whether or not it does well at the box office is a separate concern. I think it’s great to take the initiative to entertain people rather than making people sadder about their circumstances. I’m an optimist and I believe that the conditions in our country will get better and we will be the ones who will make that happen.
Was it as much fun to film as it was to watch?
Filming Na Maloom Afraad was a blast. Each day was so much fun with so much happening. My director had specifically instructed me not to work out as he wanted me playing this average Joe complete with a saggy body. And to top it off, most of the time, on screen and on set, I was not wearing a shirt, a towel mostly. And in the winter too! And when you’re showering and the whole crew is watching you, it’s too much! I just got used to it after a while. There was a scene in which my towel falls off which was immensely difficult to shoot, lots of boo boos there! I think the actors’ chemistry and positive energy on set shone through. No one was bored.
Photography | AB Lakhani