After winning the top prize in ARY Digital’s reality show Hero Bannay Ki Tarang in 2011, Asad Zaman quit his job in the corporate world to focus on becoming a model and actor. With one film under his belt and another in production, Asad tells Ally Adnan about his fledgling career in show business, the the importance of image management, and his penchant for the martial art Wushu
You have a masterâ€™s degree in International Relations and worked in the corporate world for a few years. Why did you decide to make a move to show business?
I was working both in show business and the corporate world during the final year of my studies. Once I had the degree in hand, I knew that I could no longer straddle the two worlds and had to pursue a single career with complete focus and devotion.Â I decided to follow my heart and make a living in show business. I was offered the role of the male lead in Hijrat shortly thereafter. The feature film marked the formal beginning of my career in show business.
Have you ever regretted your decision to pursue a career in show business?
No, I have not. I enjoy the energy, creativity and freedom of the world of show business. I like the ability to make decisions about the amount and pace of work that I do. Modeling and acting make me happy. And, I have always believed in doing what makes one happy. Of course, I have days when things appear to be difficult and unpleasant but those are few and far between. I believe that I made the right choice by deciding to make modeling and acting my primary vocation.
â€œI enjoy the energy, creativity and freedom of the world of show businessâ€
What are the biggest challenges faced by show business professionals in Pakistan?
The Pakistani show business industry is hampered greatly by widespread and pervasive unprofessionalism. There is a general lack of discipline, trustworthiness, honesty and dependability. People in positions of authority tend to use their power to mistreat others. The planning and execution of projects is often flawed. Payments are often delayed. The environment can be toxic at times. We will need to change all of this if we want to compete with Bollywood and Hollywood. The good thing is that change is already in the air. A lot of well-educated, highly talented people are joining the industry in large numbers and bringing discipline, professionalism, competence, propriety, and civility to show business. I am very optimistic about the future of Pakistan cinema and television. I believe that it is only a matter of time before the two industries will be ranked among the best ones in the world.
You have been a part of the world of show business for almost a decade now and have been a part of reality shows, television commercials, movies, television dramas, and fashion shows but super stardom seems to have eluded you. Why is it so?
I like to work at my own pace and only take on work that I can do comfortably. I select projects after careful consideration. I do not make moral or ethical compromises to get ahead in the business. I enjoy the work that I do and am in no rush to become a superstar. I believe that superstardom lies in my future and, when it comes, I will have earned it. The most rewarding success is one that comes because of hard work, talent and competence. That is what I want for myself.
You keep a low profile socially, attend very few industry events and are not very active in social media. What is the reason behind this reticence?
My career in show business is very important to me but it is not the entirety of my life. I attend industry events that I feel are important, interact with my fans on a regular basis and spend a reasonable amount of time on social media but do not let the trappings of show business take over my life. I believe in maintaining a balance between work and life. I am also a private person and do not believe in laying my life bare on social media. Thankfully, there is more to my life than just my show business career. I like to read, watch movies, hand out with friends, spend time with family, devote time to kids, work out, and practice WushÃ¹.
â€œThe most rewarding success is one that comes because of hard work, talent and competenceâ€
As an actor, do you find yourself working harder to develop your histrionic abilities or your looks?
I would say that I work harder on my craft and am committed to developing my skills and abilities as a model and an actor. I do pay some attention to my looks but not as much as is common in the industry.
Do you have an image consultant?
Yes, I do. It is PH Solutions.
Is it necessary for actors and models to have image consultants?
I do not think it is necessary but can be beneficial. Professional actors and models need to manage their presence in social media, the press and on television. A good image consultant can provide invaluable help in the area.Â I am glad that I have a capable and very resourceful image consultant. Serious show business professionals have managers and image consultants all over the world.
â€œThe Pakistani show business industry is hampered greatly by widespread and pervasive unprofessionalismâ€
What is your exercise regimen?
It varies from one day to the other but always includes three items â€“ running, weight training and WushÃ¹.
You have a black belt in the martial art form WushÃ¹.
Yes, I do. I love the martial arts and enjoy doing my own stunts as well. I did all of my stunts in Hijrat and did not use a stunt double.
Why is WushÃ¹ also known as Chinese Kung Fu?
The term kung fu refers to a skill that is acquired through learning and practice and the word wushÃ¹ means martial art. WushÃ¹ is known as Chinese Kung Fu because it incorporates all forms of fighting such as taekwondo, karate, wrestling, striking, grappling, and throwing. It is a full-contact sport that is a hard and complete form of kung fu. The martial art form holds a very special place in my life.
Your first feature film, Hijrat, did not do well commercially and critically. How did you deal with the failure of the film?
I was disappointed and, to be honest, a little hurt, but I am a resilient and strong person. It did not take me a lot of time to pick myself up after Hijrat and resume my happy life. Success and failure are a part of life. I believe that I have the maturity to deal with both.
Why did Hijrat not do well?
Hijrat was produced in the early days of the resurgence of Pakistani cinema. It was decidedly different from traditional Pakistani films. I do not think Pakistani viewers were ready for a film like Hijrat at the time of its release. I also feel that the film was not allowed to run in cinemas long enough to become a commercial success.
Zeher-e-Ishq was announced two years ago but has yet to be released. What is the status of the film?
Two thirds of the film has been shot.
Zeher-e-Ishq was to be shot in two spells, one in Turkey and the other in Pakistan. The spell in Turkey has been completed and I am waiting on the producers to start shooting in Pakistan. I do not know when that will happen but hope that it will be soon.
You were offered the role of Abdul Rauf in Hansal Mehtaâ€™s OmertÃ . Why did you turn it down?
OmertÃ dealt with a very sensitive subject and I was concerned that it may not depict Muslims fairly. I was also afraid that my fans would not appreciate seeing me as Abdul Rauf in the film. Hence, I turned the role down.
OmertÃ is not the only international film that you have refused to do.
No, it is not.
I was offered a film that was going to be directed by Pedro AlmodÃ³var and written by Colm TÃ³ibÃn but the subject was very risquÃ© and did not jibe with my personal values. It was a huge opportunity for me as an actor, but I had to turn it down. The film was just not for me.
You have a very large number of drama serials to your credit. Are you satisfied with your body of work?
I believe that I have done decent work in my eight years in show business but feel that I need to do a whole lot more before I can be proud of my body of work.
You received a lot of accolades for your work in Urdu Oneâ€™s Be Aib, Hum TVâ€™s Kuch Na Kaho, GEO Televisionâ€™s Ghuttan and several other serials. What has been your best performance thus far?
I believe that I did well in Ghuttan. My character in the play, Zaryab Shah, was written very well. It had a lot of complexity and nuance. The script gave me a lot of room to explore the character and deliver well as an actor. Zaryab Shah had a dissociative identity disorder and suffered from cancer. At the time of shooting for the serial, I had recently lost a cousin to cancer. Zaryabâ€™s suffering as a cancer patient resonated with me and I was able to make it real because I had seen someone succumb to the disease firsthand.
You have worked in both television plays and feature films. Do you have a preference between television and cinema?
I am a professional actor and like to act in both television plays and feature films. My fondness is for acting. Cinema has more glamor and allure whereas television has greater reach. I love both media but if I had to choose, and I hope I never have to, I would go with cinema.
What are your current projects?
I am playing the male lead in Farouq Mengalâ€™s upcoming as-yet-untitled feature film. I am waiting for shooting to resume on Zeher-e-Ishq. I just wrapped up a television serial and am in talks to do two more. This is turning out to be a busy year.
Photography: Pi Art Studio
Wardrobe: Amir Adnan
Grooming: Beenish Parvez
Lxocation: CafÃ© Koel