Monday, September 15, 2014

Fawad Khan

“What I don’t like is too much attention and that people think is a bit arrogant of me”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

Mentioning his name on a social-networking site these days is like inviting women to start an admiration club. They are in awe of him. And no, this isn’t even a hyperbole. That’s the kind of hype around Fawad Khan – not just in Pakistan, but even in India. Tell him that, and he gets embarrassed and blushes, all at once. May be it’s his alluring looks, or the silvery voice and dreamy eyes, that make most go weak-kneed, but just as I meet the man for a tête-à-tête, I realise there’s also a lot more to him. In a white t-shirt-blue jeans-geeky spectacles avatar, he gives me a sneak peek to his intellectual, deep side, just as Khan talks about his maiden Hindi film, Khoobsurat, his craft, his process as an actor and a lot more. But first, by popular demand, I ask him what his name means. “It means heart,” he smiles. Presenting to you, FK in a freewheeling chat…  

So, there’s this whole hysteria around you, and that’s very evident on social-networking platforms as well. How do you react to all of this?
See, it’s endearing, it’s very heart-warming and I tend to blush at such compliments. But, having said that, I might dangerously add that I wish people would pull back a little. The reason why I’d say that, is because, abhi toh bahut kuch karna hai yaar. I’ve done so little, and if people react like this on just this much, then soon they might get bored even. I don’t want them to get bored too easily. I’d rather want them to keep the interest alive.

Being a star in your country, being popular among women, and now starting your career in the Indian film industry as well…amidst all this how do you maintain your sanity?
I come from very humble beginnings, and I’m living the same lifestyle now. That hasn’t changed me. Obviously, the thing is that the more money you make, the better you want to make your life, but that doesn’t change the person you are. For me, I still come from the same place, I still live with the same people. What I don’t like is too much attention and that people think is a bit arrogant of me. I’ll be honest. I love the attention that I get from the audience, but too much of it, enough that it’s always in your face, and getting in your private life, I don’t like. If that’s something which is arrogant about me, then so be it. I can’t change people’s mindset. I believe in being grounded, and the reason for it is that as easily as you rise, you can fall that easily as well, and you need to always keep that in mind.

The audience generally has no expectations from a debutant. But in your case, because people have been exposed to your work in the past, they have expectations. Does that work as an advantage for you, or does it add pressure?
I think it works as an advantage, as well as a disadvantage. The advantage being that more than a knock on the door, it’s become a foot in the door. The disadvantage is that when people see your work and appreciate it, their expectations are raised. I fear that! At the very least, you need to meet the expectations, if not surpass them. Most importantly, not fall below them, and that’s something which makes me very nervous. So, I’d say it has its pros and cons both.

What had drawn you towards doing Khoobsurat? Is it just the script which plays a major role in you doing a project?
I think what had drawn me towards the film, first and foremost, is the chance to actually get out of my comfort zone, which I’d been avoiding for a very long time. As an individual, your growth really depends on it. Seeing the world and exposing yourself to different kinds of people, meeting different kinds of people, getting an opportunity to work with them – that is educating and it’s liberating for me. So, I think that was the biggest reason. As far as a script is concerned, I wouldn’t say that the roles that I’ve done I was bored by, but they weren’t even the most exciting things in the world. Thus, my script scrutiny really depends on how coherent, the structure of the film is, and how much detail or depth can I add to the character that I’m playing. But in case of Khoobsurat, it’s a straight-forward fun film, it doesn’t have a lot of theory or an over-intellectualised content. I think at that point of time, when the film came to me, all these things came together, and I was like, yes, a lot of things are met in this one package, so let’s just take a dive and see (smiles).

I believe you also love to get into the technical aspects of a film, since you wish to be behind the camera someday, so what has your learning curve on this film been? 
As far as being behind the camera is concerned, yes, I do have a fantasy about that, because I feel it comes very naturally to me. Even screenplay for that matter, visualising and writing the screenplay, comes very naturally to me, in my own unique language. I think I’ve had the chance to express that side of me, in a couple of projects that I’ve done in the past. I’ve been good friends with some directors I’ve worked with, and I’ve asked them to let me do a couple of scenes and set up the shots and stuff. So, my learning curve on Khoobsurat has been the same. But this is my first project in this industry, so I thought it would be a bit brash of me to assume so much control. So, I was looking more at things like the production aspects of the film, rather than the creative aspects, so that I can do a whole 360 degree on how a film does work. As an actor, I keep learning and growing every day, and on the film-making front, I’m gathering knowledge with each project, so that at the appropriate time, I’ll be able to employ all those tools while making something of my own.

Most Hindi films are known for their larger-than-life quality and the song-and-dance sequences, whereas most work you’ve done so far has been very realistic….
I would love to do larger-than-life, very theatrical things. I believe in theatricality. A certain role requires you to do that. It obviously depends on the stylising of the films. When I say stylising, I mean, some things are meant to be played to the audience. It’s not something I don’t want to learn, I don’t disregard that, I love watching larger-than-life films, but I feel, everything has its own time and place, and that’s something I need to incorporate. Most recent example of that will be a promotional video we did for Khoobsurat, and I was just given three hours to practice. I just wish I was given more time for it. I need my time to get that right. Not the acting bit, because I started out as an extremely loud actor, so loud that I used to find my performances cringe-worthy. But this dance bit is something I want to really learn.

And as an actor, what’s your process of improvising like?
Whenever I can take advantage, whenever I feel I have that much leeway, I try to improvise as much as possible. I like to keep things real, and whenever I’m permitted, I like to apply that to my scenes, my lines. Whenever I’m caught acting on-screen, you can say that someone else has interfered (laughs). I believe in improvising, because I feel it’s about reacting and feeding off from your co-actors. Your performance is just as good as your co-actor’s, in any project. You cannot make the magic happen alone. And when you see isolated performances in films, it’s because actors are not co-operating with one another. The magic has to happen together. When people say that I cannot do this scene, more than 2-3 times, that for me is a bit bothersome, or disturbing. I feel if you want to do it the right way, you do it even if it takes 20 times. Obviously, there’s a limit to how far you can go, when it comes to re-takes, because after a point, it starts looking rehearsed and mechanical. So, I understand that limitation. But, it’s also important that you develop patience to do things again and again. That’s a part of the job. I totally believe in the art of improvising, and the more connect you have with your co-actors and team, the more you can do something unexpected on-screen, and it’ll click.

So are you self-critical?
Of course, I criticise my work, just because it is my work. I wouldn’t criticise someone else’s work. I’ve mostly done television in the past, and I’ve always felt that television for me is like a rehearsal ground, to sort of polish my craft. So, once I’ve done a project, the reason why I would watch my work again, was to actually see and analyse what I’m doing wrong, rather than what I’m doing right. And if I’m doing something wrong, I shouldn’t repeat the same mistake again, so that has been my learning curve as an actor.

When you spend so much time living one character, is it difficult to shed that image or traits and move to another?
You’re absolutely right! For me, it’s very difficult. A character sticks with me for a while. If there’s a persona that I dawn for a character, it’s very hard to shake that off. I’m beginning to shake off Prince Vikram now. I wish there could be a way that you could just go take a shower, and move from one character to another, but it doesn’t happen that way. A little bit of every character sticks with you, for your life to come, it’s very natural. For the average reader, a fair comparison would be, when an 18-year old goes to USA to study. They may have lived all their life here in India or Pakistan, but within four years of being there, their accent has changed. When they come back, it’s difficult for them to shake that accent off. It’s the same philosophy. When you are resuming a personality to put on display, later, the whole unlearning process is difficult because a character does tend to linger on.

Putting various emotions to display on celluloid may be difficult for some actors, especially the ones who aren’t open about their emotions in real life. How does it work in your case?
Because I’m so reserved off screen, when I’m on-screen, that’s my outlet. I become besharam in front of the camera. But that’s only possible when your director or co-actors don’t make you conscious. When you make your actors conscious, you destroy their ability to potentially perform 20 per cent or 30 per cent more than what they are actually performing. You need to take them into confidence, and they need to take you into confidence as well. When the whole team is open and comfortable with each other, nothing is really difficult on set, and you’ll get away with anything. When you know that nobody’s judging you on set, the performances tend to come out better, and I assure you, that happens to the biggest actors. If they go on set, and they feel some sort of tension, their work automatically speaks for themselves, because it’s not as good. So emoting on-screen for me gets easier, when I know that the people around me are people I am comfortable with. But my philosophy is that you can’t have a standard way, that this is how you have to cry in every film or show. There are ten different ways of crying. Some people are very sensitive but their way of expressing their emotions is being deadpan and that in its own is an expression. And then, sometimes, you just completely break down. That’s what adds originality to the character.

Over the years, through the ups and downs, how have you changed? Have you emerged strongly?
I think when you come out of defeat, defeat again is a word I’m using very subjectively, it does make everyone stronger, because you’ve conquered a bad time. Though there are times, when the feeling does linger on within you and you do have a certain regret. Though the best thing is to not have regrets, but the more you tell yourself that consciously, the less we act on it. But every time a downer hits me, I think I take it more calmly, as compared to the way I used to take it years ago.

Are there any other projects lined up for you after Khoobsurat?
In Pakistan, there are 2-3 projects that we are very seriously in talks about, but nothing is concrete now. Similar is the case in India, there are a few things that I’m being approached with, but again, it’s just table talk, nothing on paper. But I’d love to come out with it when the time is right. 


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your interview with Fawad Khan! He answered all your questions so intelligently! So humbling and very charming!