Tell us about your roots in the arts. Where did your earliest influence in performing come from and did you always know you wanted to become an actor?

I’ve always had a keen interest in the arts. I have a double major in finance and art, with a minor in psychology. My concentration was sculpting with clay and metal as a medium. However, as far as performing or acting is concerned, it’s something I never envisioned myself doing. I think it was just a way of pursuing my late sister’s dream. She was a director and was intent on getting involved with films. I started working behind the camera and did a few commercials, which were followed by offers to act. One thing led to another and the rest is history. You’re a trained visual effects director from Franklin & Marshall College.

Pakistan’s favourite heartthrob returns on a magazine cover after two years to spill the beans on his highly anticipated project, Superstar, and his life off camera. Dive into our pages to read Bilal’s exclusive chat with Mehek Raza Rizvi

Do you find yourself being finical about how your scenes are executed?

Not really. I don’t believe in interfering in someone else’s creative process. The best results are produced when everyone is trusted to do their job right. The director and his team know best. I will only ever give my input if I’m asked for feedback or advice. As far as finding an outlet to unleash my creativity is concerned, I’ll do it with my own production, which I’ll be able to speak more about soon.

The strong impression you made with Janaan in 2016 was preceded by a cameo in 021 that didn’t get you the same kind of attention. How did you stay steadfast in an industry that was still growing?

021 was a project I did without putting in too much thought. I wasn’t trying to achieve anything specific with that cameo. Janaan, on the other hand, came my way while I was already working on Yalghaar and had started taking my career as an actor more seriously. It offered me a great story, script and team to work with, despite being a small production.  I credit its success to good intent. The whole team of Janaan poured out their hearts and souls into delivering the best they had and I guess that’s what eventually makes a film truly special. However, the movie business is tricky. You can never be sure of what does well at the box office eventually. You just have to give your best shot and pray everything goes well.

As far as performing or acting is concerned, it’s something I never envisioned myself doing. I think it was just a way of pursuing my late sister’s dream

From 021 to Momina Duraid’s Superstar, how has Bilal Ashraf evolved over the course of five movies?

Superstar promises its audience a complete package. People will see sides of me as a performer that they haven’t before. They’ve seen me do action and other serious roles, but this is the first time I’m dancing in a movie. It’s also the first time I’m playing a complete romantic.

Preparing for Superstar has been a phenomenal journey, primarily because Mahira Khan and I were sent for theatrical training in London. I’ve learnt some great new techniques, but applying them to the script proved to be challenging. We work in an environment where using foreign techniques means they need to be altered to suit the script so there’s extra effort required. I feel that helped me grow a lot as an actor. Everyone’s excited to see you and Mahira sharing screen space. Tell us more about the film.

I wish I could reveal more about the film, but at this point I can only assure you that everyone involved—from the spot boys to the actors—is giving their hundred percent. We’re working relentlessly to make this an unforgettable movie and hopefully people will be able to see that.

Once on a flight to London, a girl created a scene because she wanted to sit next to me but the seat was occupied by an eldery man who refused to move

We hear you’ve been working really hard at the gym recently. Why is fitness important to you?

Fitness should be important to everyone. A healthy lifestyle is crucial to a fulfilling life. Having said that, I’m working extra hard at the gym because it’s a requirement for my role in Superstar. I felt having a fitter form would add more layers to the character I’m playing. I was already training before the movie was offered to me, but tweaked my fitness plan further after everything was finalised with Momina. It’s all part of the phenomenal journey of Superstar I mentioned earlier.

“It’s a widespread notion that being vulnerable is a feminine trait—I think that mindset needs to be altered”

How taxing is it to be a public figure in the world of social media? Do you ever feel the pressure?

The pressures of social media are manageable. It’s really in your control as to how much of your life you want to put out on Instagram or Twitter, or how seriously you take trolling. It’s true that negative comments can be overwhelming sometimes, but I accept it as part of being a public figure. Social media is a great tool to communicate with your audience, but at the end of the day it’s really just your body of work that matters. That’s what I try to focus on.

Preparing for Superstar has been a phenomenal journey, primarily because Mahira Khan and I were sent for theatrical training in London

We’re living in the age of change. As an individual of influence, how important do you think is it to reconstruct the cultural ideal of manliness into a more progressive model? What are the necessary steps to be taken?

It’s a widespread notion that being vulnerable is a feminine trait, I think that mindset needs to be altered. Men can demonstrate their feelings, they can cry, and it won’t make them any less of a man. The cultural ideal of manliness is definitely flawed, it doesn’t allow one to be human.

You’ve hardly ever spoken about your personal life. Tell us about your family and childhood.

I do try keeping my personal life away from the public eye, because I feel that’s my space of sanity. My personal life is extremely different from my professional life, although sometimes they do cross over into each other.

At home, I’m mostly found chilling with family and close friends, or indulging in sports. I grew up in Karachi, but spent a lot of my childhood years in London. I don’t remember being a studious child at all, in fact I was always getting into trouble for skipping classes to play sports.

Is marriage on the cards?

Of course. I’m a firm believer in the institution of marriage. I think it’s a natural way of life and everyone wants to settle down with the right person, so do I.

“My personal life is extremely different from my professional life, although sometimes they do cross over into each other”

It’s a widespread notion that being vulnerable is a feminine trait—I think that mindset needs to be altered

SHORT & SWEET

Worst thing about being in the limelight?

Your life is not yours at times.

Attention from the girls: love it or shy away?

Everyone likes attention, but sometimes I don’t know how to react and tend to get shy.

Craziest fan story?

Once on a flight to London, a girl created a scene because she wanted to sit next to me but the seat was occupied by an eldery man who refused to move.

What are the first things you notice about the opposite gender?

Hair and eyes

Who according to you are the best looking actors in the country?

I think Mikaal Zulfiqar is a good looking man.

Favourite co-actor?

Gohar Rasheed. It’s always fun when he’s around.

An actor you consider competition?

Not being diplomatic, but no one. I only consider myself competition.

“My personal life is extremely different from my professional life, although sometimes they do cross over into each other”

Favourite project so far?

Janaan and Superstar

Guilty pleasure?

These days it has to be food, since I’m on a perpetual diet. Chocolate, a good burger or steak.

Favourite song?

Phool Khil Jayien from Rangreza, sung by Abida Parveen & Asrar Shah

Describe your personal style.

Casual and relaxed

Biggest pet peeves?

Greeting people at your convenience.

A habit of yours that annoys your family?

Currently, my obsession with eating clean. Separate meals need to be prepared for me.

Do you have pets?

Yes, a wild cat that just decided to claim territory in my house.

Share your resolution for 2019.

Staying fit

 

Good Times

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