Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fawad Khan

“I would like to be a global actor – that is my ultimate aim!”

By Ankita R. Kanabar 
(With inputs from Amul Mohan)
(From the March 12, 2016 issue of Super Cinema)

It won’t be wrong to say that there’s this phenomenon called ‘Fawad Khan’ – owing to his popularity and heartthrob status among women across all age groups. While some would wonder why such a hype around him, it would actually take a viewing of one of his performances, or rather a conversation with the man, to understand it. He walks into this plush Juhu hotel in his usual, blazer-and-beard dapper avatar with a pair of sunglasses. While some heads turn for a glance, many come up and request for a selfie to which he obliges with a smile. Soon we have him seated across the couch in his room, as we speak about ‘Kapoor & Sons’, while the actor also shares an in-depth perspective about the craft and his innings in Hindi cinema so far. Now over to this Khan!

It’s been a while since ‘Khoobsurat’ released, yet how has the transition from that to ‘Kapoor & Sons’ been?
It’s a very different character all together, but it’s been two years to ‘Khoobsurat’, so the transition has been quite slow. But I look forward to characters like these, I’m in love with it. Even ten years from now, I would definitely love to present the DVD of ‘Kapoor & Sons’ or whatever is available that time to show people. I mean I am really proud of this film.
Evidently, you have been choosy, so what is it about this film that drew you towards it? It was a very mature, coherent screenplay. You actually do not come across scripts like these which are believable and I was actually not able to find loopholes in it. When I feel that I can sit down and read a script at once (which in this case I went through it like hot knife in butter), then I want to do the film. So, it’s the structure and sensibility of the script. It seemed original and very genuine.
Because of your creative sensibility and technical know-how, you usually have many inputs to give. In that sense, was it equally collaborative with director Shakun Batra?
I actually invested a lot of trust into Shakun because I completely believed in him as a director and that has not been the case a lot o times in my career. So, this was one of those fortunate opportunities I’ve had where I’ve been able to collaborate with someone whose wavelength matches with mine. So, it was a very collaborative effort and we got to explore various facets of the character. Even if I went overboard sometimes, he would pull me back. In terms of my inputs, it wasn’t like we had to change the scenes but it was a matter of collaboratively upgrading it, spontaneously. And he wasn’t the kind of director who would smash your head if you didn’t follow the exact script (laughs). That’s what I feel was the advantage of working in this film, that I could creatively vent out.
You started off with something like ‘Jutt And Bond’ which had a slightly loud character, as opposed to say a ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’. In that sense what do you have to say about this film? And what do you enjoy more?
I enjoy the kind of character I’m essaying in ‘Kapoor & Sons’. This is the genre I enjoy the most although I would like to do other things as well. I would like to become a Peter Sellers or an Alec Guinness. I aspire to become an actor of that league although they are far beyond. Something that we ignore a lot of times while making films, especially in our part of the world – is that it’s important to do something or try something that will make you look different. Because when you look different, you act different. It will give you the license or comfort to be a little more badtameez with the character you have. That is unfortunately not exercised as much. But having said that, this film has been an opportunity to play a very different character, which is poles apart from anything I’ve done so far. Although the sensitivity is there, there is also something which will make you feel, that it was worth trying!
The Pakistani shows you’ve been a part of are high on emotions, and somewhere also display the complex human side. Does such kind of material require a high emotional quotient as an actor?
I’m a very emotional person. So, every time I try to throw a little bit of myself to the character to add that sense of realism and every actor does that. A lot of people might hate me for saying this, but this is just my opinion that there’s no such thing as versatility. You will see an actor, and they will have certain signature moves, be it when they’re eating food, or drinking water. But hamari nazar uss cheez pe jaati nahi hai. Most times you will cry the way you cry in every character. It’s the disguise that changes you. There’s a certain kind of consistency in emotions but those are the kind of core emotions that actors put into their characters which makes them seem real. So, I invest my sensitivity and emotions in my characters, and that shows. The trick will be to basically deflect that.
Which explains why, you’d mentioned earlier that there can be ten different ways of doing the same thing…for instance, crying. So, is that consciously in your head at all times?
It’s really interesting if you think about it. A lot of times actors feel that ‘jitne zyada aansoon bahaenge, utni zyada unki acting appreciate ki jaegi.’ And maybe the audience also feels that way. So, there is a bit of dilemma there. The audience loves to see beautiful people cry or laugh. And if someone who is not as good looking according to their conventions or norms, cries, then they would appreciate the craft more than the person. So with that craft also, these stereotypes also come in. When you cry hard or laugh loudly, they think you have done a good job. They do not notice subtle nuances. I had quoted something earlier from this famous playwright, David Mamet who has written films like, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’. He wrote in his book, ‘If you don’t feel like crying or breaking down then don’t force yourself to cry because it will look like you are acting.” So, I realised that there are ten different ways of doing things. If at that point in time, I’m not feeling that way, then I can do something which is more subtle and that might work since it will look real. That’s what adds a new flavour to a character every time.

Do you still believe that magic can be created only when it’s a team effort and you’re feeding off your co-actors? How was it for this film, since it also has some veterans?
I always have felt and will feel that it’s a very easy way for one to escape the blame of a performance by saying my co-actor was not good. If you co-actor is giving then your performance also turns out good. I’m a very reaction kind of actor; most times I like to react to what someone is saying. I think owing to the natural camaraderie that Sidharth and I shared, we bonded very well on the set. That has translated. This exercise of bonding with the whole team has paid. I like to know the actors I’m working with. The more I know them, the more open I will be to perform in front of them, I won’t have any anxiety or stress. Alia is very spontaneous, she’ll easily come and do her scene. That doesn’t mean I am not spontaneous, I am spontaneous as well. But I need a little amount of introduction and comfort zone because I come from a very different place all together in an industry where I’m new. So, you have a certain amount of fear and anxiety. Secondly, there’s a bit of difference in my language. I might say, ‘alfaaz’ instead of ‘shabd’. That is something I’m working on, because there is a difference between Urdu and Hindi. I remember during ‘Khoobsurat’, I was fumbling with this dialogue which was going completely well, but I would just put one word out of instinct. So, that is a challenge. But with these people, because we had that off-set exercise and bonding, we were able to correct each other if we went wrong. That has translated into great relationship on-screen. Even with senior actors like Rishi Kapoor. Okay I am going to toot my horn and say that I think I’m an actor who can adapt well to any actor, any age. So, that has not resulted in a difficulty anywhere. In fact, I like working with senior actors more. They perform with so many emotions that you can automatically feed off that.
When you’re already enjoying a certain kind of popularity, is it difficult at several levels to start from scratch in a new industry? Sometimes even keeping your ego aside, that is if you have that kind of ego!
Yes, of course I have an ego. Every person has an ego. There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t have it and I’m not an angel or someone running for a presidential campaign. So to combat that could be difficult but I have not really been confronted with that sort of a situation. For example, during the promotions, people are in love with Sid and Alia’s chemistry. So a lot of times, questions get directed towards that. And I have no qualms about it because my policy has always been that I rather have my work speak for itself. My ego comes in when my work is not good. So far, I have been satisfied with my work, and I always have tried to give my best to that. Moreover, promotions is something I have not done earlier. I never had a PR in Pakistan and for the past two years, even after ‘Khoobsurat’, I didn’t have any PR here. So, eventually, it is your work that will speak for itself. Also, Sid and Alia are the superstars of this generation so they enjoy a certain popularity. But starting afresh can taxing sometimes because you don’t enjoy the same amount of perks.
Now you’re being modest…
No, I’ll be very honest with you that you I cannot enjoy the same amount of perks. For instance, I cannot ask for that exorbitant amount of money here that I do back home, because I am in a different industry. And that will happen wherever I go. I’ll be a new entrant in any industry if I want to try something new and it’s taxing that you have to start with the minimum wage of sort or compromise on that part. But, the thing is, my kitchen is running, my son goes to school, I have a home, my wife is happy, we get to enjoy luxuries in life and that is enough for me. This is anyway an added bonus. So, basically, I’m just trying to expand myself.
How else do you think you want to expand yourself?
I would like to be a global actor – that is my ultimate aim! Not just an actor in Indian films or Pakistani shows. That’s something I like to achieve. My influences while growing up, like I mentioned, were actors like Marlin Brando, Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness among so many others. I have been inspired by such actors and aspire to be like them. I want to achieve a status wherein – I can work anywhere in the world, hold my brand of acting and have people appreciate me. If people appreciate, it would be great, and if they don’t, then tough luck. But my aim is to go all over the world! 

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