With acting in his blood, it’s no surprise that heartthrob Ahad Raza Mir gave such an acclaimed performance in Yakeen Ka Safar that it won him not one but two awards simultaneously, one for Best Actor, at the Hum Awards this year. Making his film debut in the action drama Parwaaz Hai Junoon in which he plays the role of a hotheaded cadet, this young man promises to be the next superstar. In conversation with Haider Rifaat, Ahad speaks his mind and opens up about his life and education in Canada, his drive for performing arts and his debut film

What is one fact about you that nobody else knows yet?

I don’t know if you already know this or not but I’m quite shy. I am a shy person when it comes to being in public, but friendly in private. Once you know me, you will understand this about me.

What is your ultimate pet peeve? Is there anything that irritates you?

I am very patient so there aren’t many things that get to me but I always think that you should be polite and kind towards everybody. When I see someone misbehaving, I speak up. Along with that, I am very punctual. If I am told to arrive at 9A.M., I would probably be there by 8:45A.M. Most people aren’t time conscious here, so it can be a little frustrating for me. But I try not to express my displeasure.

If another actor is late but you are on time, does it create friction?

Everyone has their own way of working. For me, time is one of the most valuable things we have. If someone gives me their time, I am there because I value the person’s time, my time and I value the work that we are doing. It does not have to be just about work. Even if you are meeting up with friends or take out time for yourself, punctuality is a key factor of life.

Did you study acting formally?

My formal education is in Drama. I went to a performing visual arts high school where most of my musical theater training took place. Being a Pakistani, I first decided to study Business at university level. Although it was going well, I had always loved acting and it was what I actually wanted to do so I changed to Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama. I studied acting, direction, writing and theater history and I am so happy that I did it.

You have established yourself within a matter of only a few years. Has foreign education played a crucial role to breakout into Pakistan’s industry?

I believe that any form of education will help you, be it a drama or a business degree. I got the chance to explore myself as an artist with the training I received abroad. It might have been difficult to do it in Pakistan, especially if you are doing theater. In practical university setting, I got the chance to direct and write that helped me create a base. One of the things I had to keep in mind when I came here was that I was in a different place, things worked differently here and sometimes I had to unlearn things. The base I had created for myself and the practical experience I received helped me regardless, as a person and as a performer. So, formal education has allowed me to think practically.

When I get a script and see what it requires, I delve into my training. You have to manage yourself as an artist. I explored dance and singing and whether or not I’m particularly good at them, I tried them out so I am not scared to try anything. I will give you an example of taking risks. You have to do a lot of improvisation in university so the first thing they teach you is “failure is your best friend.” Failure is not something that I am scared of, which is a good thing. When I’m on set and sometimes make a mistake and need a retake, I instantly forgive myself for it and move on. I don’t dwell on it or let it hold me back. It’s a learning process. My education keeps me going forward. It not only gives you discipline but confidence.

There is less room for error in theater though you can improvise a little. Has theater helped you translate acting on to the screen?

One hundred percent! There are technical points obviously, like when you are on stage, performing for 1,200 people, expressions are loud and you have to focus on your voice. Performing for 50 people is more intimate. When you are on screen, everything is so focused and hyper realistic that you have to tone down your voice, expressions and gestures. Having been on the stage pushing my limits and then on the screen, internalizing everything that’s a great range to work in. The experience stretches your capability and hones your skill.

Secondly, you have to be emotionally available. When you are doing plays, you have two hours to do it in a consecutive order and you follow this transition. It’s not the same for the screen. You have to spend time to bring yourself to the emotional state of that scene. It is not as if you already have a buildup with the characters. My training on stage has helped me be able to get to that place a little faster.

Do you struggle with perfectionism in this industry?

Perfectionism is unavoidable. I think all artists, musicians and actors strive for perfection. The issue with television and film is that you get to see the result right away so you are always trying to do better. Sometimes you have to allow yourself to be okay with whatever it is. It is important to always do your best but at some point you have to let go. Sometimes perfection is right in front of us but we don’t see it as artists. I have seen actors who, after doing a scene say that it wasn’t good enough but when I see it, I think of it as a beautiful scene. For someone else it might be perfect but for the artist it is always a struggle.

How do you handle it when you hear “Oh, he is Asif Raza Mir’s son and has it easier than the rest”?

It is a great thing that people talk about this because I have many ways to defend it. I hold the Raza Mir name with a lot of pride. It feels good when people say that he is Asif’s son, but it was difficult to create my own identity. My defense to this is that I was in Canada and did my formal education there for four years and nobody knew who my father was. Then I worked professionally there for two years; I produced and wrote my own shows and was a regular actor in doing plays from Shakespeare to the West Side Story musical.

“For me, time is one of the most valuable things we have”

I want people to understand that I am not in this because my father is doing it. I love acting and always have. That is why I am here. My father was a part of A&B Productions in Pakistan and he produced his own plays and serials. If I wanted to cash in on my father’s name and connections, I would have told him to put me in his productions but I didn’t want people to think that I am a star’s kid and I got a foot in the door because of him. I wanted to avoid that. My way of avoiding it was to separate myself from my father professionally.

“Having Raza Mir attached to my name certainly gives me a foot in the door and a first chance but after that it’s up to me”

Producer/director Momina Duraid has followed my career from the beginning. She saw all my plays and kept tabs on everything. She trusted me enough and took the risk to put me in Yakeen Ka Safar, Sammi, Aangan and now Parwaaz Hai Junoon. Having Raza Mir attached to my name certainly gives me a foot in the door and a first chance but after that it’s up to me. I had to prove it to Pakistan, my family, the producers and myself that I can make an impact, can tell a good story and give a good performance. The fact that people have liked my performances so much is a blessing and an honor but it puts a lot of pressure on me because I need to keep working harder.

Do you think senior actors, producers and directors have created a platform for youngsters who aspire to be actors?

I’ll be honest; I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job to give our youth a medium through which they can be given opportunities. We need to find more ways to attract people who want to do acting and be in dramas and films. We don’t have that structure yet. There are students in NAPA (National Academy of Performing Arts, Karachi) who perform and get chances but not everyone can go to NAPA.

We also need to focus on our seniors. There is a lot of focus on youngsters but we have many senior actors who are not exploring themselves enough. We should create more stories for them. We have so many experienced actors from the PTV era whose talent is not being properly utilized. We don’t have to just do the hero-heroine falling in love. We should explore different themes more.

Is acting all about luck or is it something you really have to dedicate yourself to?

It really depends. There are people who have worked their whole lives and they finally get a break in the latter half of their career. It does not mean they haven’t worked hard from the beginning. Then there are people who get a break right away. They start out on a big high but then fizzle out. It depends on the individual. If I take myself as an example, then yes I’ve been lucky and I’m blessed. I was given an amazing project. But the rest of it depends on the work you put in and the dedication you have.

Ahad has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama

Your work is something that puts you on the map. Unfortunately, social media now plays a huge role in Pakistan, which I don’t necessarily agree with. We should focus more on talented people who have the passion and drive for performing and telling stories. The film and television industry can be tough because many things come into play: Your looks, talent and your connections. It ties in to the idea that we should have a medium through which people can audition and give resumes and headshots because I went through that drill in Canada. It is not easy but at least the option is there.

Performing arts aside, what else are you passionate about?

The arts is a huge part of my life. It has been since the beginning. I was born in this industry; I have been to set with my father and have watched my grandfather’s films. I am passionate about the youth and when I say youth, I mean young artists. I am focused on how we can take Pakistan forward. Once I moved to Pakistan and started working, I realized that there are great things happening here. There are great singers, actors, musicians and directors and I thought to myself that I can’t wait to be a part of this revolution. We are going to take this industry somewhere.

I’m also quite passionate about music. I learned how to play the guitar when I was 13 or 14 years old.

Let’s talk about Parwaaz Hai Junoon. Describe the character you play. Why should people watch the movie? What message are you trying to convey to the audience with this film?

I play a hot headed, arrogant cadet. I will say to all the Pakistanis living in different parts of the world to watch this film because Pakistan’s image needs to change. Parwaaz Hai Junoon is showing you Pakistan’s Air Force, our people, our country’s beauty and patriotism. The film gives you romance, comedy, adventure and, most importantly, tells a story.

I agree with you that we need good stories. I hope that once the people abroad watch this film, they can help others, who do not know enough about Pakistan, change their perspectives. The film is about a female pilot. I don’t think there is a movie about a female pilot in Bollywood or Hollywood, at least I have not seen it. It also shows how progressive our thinking really is.

If you converse with citizens of other countries about our film on the Air Force, they will asl, “Oh is she wearing a burka?” We have strong misconceptions about Pakistan and it is our duty as Pakistanis to change that. I too had misconceptions when I first moved back here. I had never spent time here for an extended period of time. I believe that it is my responsibility to change that and be a part of Naya Pakistan.

What one piece of advice, be it from your parents or siblings, has helped you grow in your life and career?

One piece of advice my father has given me is to be patient and it can mean many things. Sometimes I fail at it but I try.

My personal advice is to take risks. If you are not going to take risks in life, it will not be worth it. It is a risk in itself for a Pakistani to be living abroad and pursuing theater. I know many Pakistanis who I grew up with who wanted to pursue arts and music but they couldn’t because of their parents, etc. I took a risk by coming to Pakistan because my entire life was in Canada, my friends, my books and my guitar were all there. You should take calculated risks because only when you venture to take a chance do you gain. Whether it turns out good or bad, at least you will have tried.

Good Times

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