The celebrated actors talk to Haider Rifaat about their upcoming project SherDil. Releasing close to Pakistan Day, the movie pays tribute to the Pakistan Air Force.
Tell us about SherDil and what you love most about the script?
I think most boys dream of becoming fighter pilots while growing up. This was true in my case at least, as I was obsessed with the idea until I was five or six years old. I didnâ€™t get the opportunity to pursue flying professionally but SherDil allowed me to live my childhood dream on camera. The movie focuses around the professional and personal struggles faced by the character I portray. His unwavering grit and focus are truly inspiring; there was no way I could say no to the film.
â€œWe want people to be aware of the exemplary valour of our air force pilots and the reverence they truly deserve. We also have a strong message for the world regarding Pakistan’s resolute strength; no force can undo this country. Pakistan is and will always beâ€
How is your role in SherDil different from the characters youâ€™ve portrayed before?
Iâ€™ve been fortunate enough to play a wide range of roles through the course of my career as an actor, but this was the first time I played an army officer. The production of a feature film is a lot different than drama serials and in that respect I feel this project allowed me to push my limits.
Is there any specific goal the team is trying to achieve with this film?
Yes. Weâ€™ve tried to depict the might of the Pakistani Air Force and the JF-17 Thunder. We want people to be aware of the exemplary valour of our air force pilots and the reverence they truly deserve. We also have a strong message for the world regarding Pakistanâ€™s resolute strength; no force can undo this country. Pakistan is and will always be. We are not aggressors but if someone provokes us, we are fully equipped to defend ourselves, as witnessed recently. In view of our current relationship with India, I feel the timing of SherDilâ€™s release is perfect. Pakistanis are extremely patriotic and they have undying love for its air force. The movie pays homage to that emotion.
As tensions continue between Pakistan and India, do you think there is more responsibility on the makers of the film?
â€œSpending time with the Air Force and witnessing their grit and passion inspired me to look at life in a different way as well. Iâ€™ve pushed my limits as an actor. Itâ€™s been a truly humbling and enlightening experienceâ€
Thereâ€™s responsibility not only on SherDilâ€™s team but filmmakers in general, in fact everyone in the media. Situations like the current one are extremely sensitive and must be addressed prudently. Our film has covered tensions on the border beautifully. Coincidentally, the plot also revolves around India infiltrating Pakistani airspaceâ€”an event that actually transpired.
What appears to be the filmâ€™s greatest strength is visual effects. Is Pakistanâ€™s entertainment industry headed in the right direction with the introduction of new VFX artists?
We had Hollywood teams working with us on this movie, but yes, our industry is getting better at visual effects. Pakistani professionals have great potential and if theyâ€™re equipped with the right technology, thereâ€™s no way our films wonâ€™t be of international standards. Iâ€™m extremely proud of SherDilâ€™s visuals and believe local VFX artists will be able to find inspiration. However, there are many authentic scenes with no visual effects that have been captured just as remarkably. I took several flights myself, maneuvering fighter jets and it was definitely a thrilling experience.
I completed an hour-long mission with the Pakistan Air Force in Sargodha, where we got the chance to fly fighter jets in fog for a fight sequenceâ€”it was dreamlike.
Share your favourite dialogue from the movie for our readers.
â€œIf I donâ€™t return, tell my father martyrs never die!â€ This dialogue appears at the end of the trailer. We often assume the lives of our officers are only on the line in a state of war, but thatâ€™s extremely untrue. Every time an air force pilot flies out in his jet, they are at risk. I have huge respect for how they put everything at stake for our country.
Has your journey with SherDil impacted you as an individual?
Thatâ€™s a very interesting question. I think spending time with the air force and witnessing their grit and passion inspired me to look at life in a different way as well. Iâ€™ve pushed my limits as an actor. Itâ€™s been a truly humbling and enlightening experience.
What else is in the works?
Iâ€™m shooting a drama serial (tentatively titled â€œZard Baharâ€) opposite Sana Javed.
I also have another film, â€œThe Trialâ€ set for release later this year. This is a period film, set in 1971 and centres around the fall of Dhaka.
Moving on to your personal life, how do you think fatherhood has changed you?
The first thing that happens to you when your child is born is acquiring newfound respect and appreciation for your own parents. I remember calling my mother a few months after I first became a father to ask her how she managed four children, I couldnâ€™t even seem to handle one! Parenthood is a beautiful experience though. I began questioning life and my purpose a lot after turning twenty-five. The monotony of daily life had really started to get to me, but once I had my daughters, my life suddenly had meaning again. They gave me the drive to excel so I can provide them with all the comfort they deserve.
If thereâ€™s any one piece of advice you could give your children, what would that be?
My daughters are very young right now so I try to discipline them a lot. Iâ€™d want them to grow up with the same values my parents instilled in me and to try and be good humans and Muslims.Â Iâ€™ve been taught to be loving towards those younger to me and respectful towards my elders. I hope my children do the same.
When have you felt the most proud of yourself?
I feel immense pride right now with the release of SherDil. It was important to me that I bag a successful movie and even though it isnâ€™t out yet, Iâ€™m very confident about it. Apart from this, every time Iâ€™ve been given an award, I felt recognised for my hard work. In my personal life, the proudest moment for me was the birth of my children.
How do you unwind?
There are many ways I unwind. These include spending time alone, detaching from social media and just playing video games or watching a movie with friends, going on a drive or on vacations. I also enjoy playing
Tell us about your character in SherDil.
I portray an Indian pilot (not inspired by wing-commanderÂ Abhinandan Varthaman). The producer of the film, Noman Khan, helmed the entire project beautifully and Iâ€™m ceratin itâ€™s unlike any we have seen in our country or across the border. Despite touching upon a senstive topic, there is no hate for anyone. Iâ€™m lucky to be a part of this movie.
What response are you expecting from the audience?Â
Pakistanâ€™s air force has an undeniable charm that everyone in the country respects. SherDil will further stir that emotion. I can say confidently that our team is setting a new standard for the Pakistani film industry.
What direction do you see your career heading in?
I hope to challenge myself further as a performer. I want to be part of projects and portray characters that allow me to experiment and push my limits. My dream role would be a heroic one, but with multiple layers. I want to perform well to gain the confidence of film and drama producers; I try being as professional and responsible with my job as possible.
What one thing about this industry frustrates you?
There are many things. Iâ€™ve learned from my experience to maintain a safe distance from negative people and instead stay around optimistic ones. Above all, I think itâ€™s very important to appreciate the good in others. As a nation, weâ€™re very critical of one another and always seem to focus on each otherâ€™s flaws. This trend seeps into the entertainment industry as well. If weâ€™re able to undo this, it would feel as if light has overpowered darkness.
Tell us about your family.
I belong to a Niazi household, but Iâ€™m the only one affiliated with the entertainment industry. The rest of my family members are either doctors or army officers.
I donâ€™t fear anything or anyone, except God.
Love Pakistan and our air force!