Pakistan singer Zafar Ali, who is making his debut as a leading man with Tere Bin Laden, tells us that whatever he has achieved till now has been only due to talent and nothing else and asserts that he has not ever been subjected to the syndrome of the casting couch here or in Pakistan.
What made a popular singer like you to take up the offer to play the lead in a Hindi film in India?
As a singer, you crave for glory but once you get what you seek you want to do something to explore, to feel excited and challenged as an artistic person. I feel that a film is the ultimate medium where a singer also gets the scope to dabble with creativity in a bigger way.
How did you bag the role of Ali Hassan in Tere Bin Ladan?
The role of Ali in the film Tere Bin Laden was offered to me by director Abhishek Sharma and I came all the way from Pakistan to Mumbai to meet the director but look at my bad luck. When I came down for the audition, the director had gone to Pakistan and it was producer Aarti who took my audition. Luckily, I passed the audition when Abhishek came down to Mumbai and saw the DVD.
How did you prepare for your part in the film?
It was a fantastic experience for me as an actor. It was nice on the part of my producers and director Abhishek to have sent me to attend a ten-day workshop with none other than Barry John. I read the script thoroughly and did the rehearsals to get into the thought process of my character in Tere Bin Laden. There I learnt from Barry John Sir the different ways to execute a scene by looking at the possibilities within the periphery of the script. He taught me to go out of my comfort zone and limitations and challenge myself as an actor. Singing has its own level of thrills but I want to do more films now. The acting bug has bitten me fully after my stint as an actor in Tere Bin Laden.
What lured you to say yes to the offer?
What attracted me to say yes to the offer to act in the film is the fact that the subject is very original and different, jo ab tak kahin bhi nahi bani hai. It is a film which is hatke. It gave me a big high that the director had thought of naming his character as Ali Hassan even before he met me. I enjoyed working with actors like Pradyuman, who played the role of Osama in the film, Nikhil, Rahul, Piyush Mishra and Sugandha Garg.
You aren"t the first Pak actor to make his presence felt in Hindi Cinema!
I am very proud of the fact that I am all set to make history in Indian cinema as the first ever Pakistani actor who has done a solo lead in a film. All the other actors from Pakistan, whether it was Jawed Shaikh or Nadeem or for that matter Muammar Rana, have only done supporting roles in Indian films. I have been lucky enough to have been singled out to play the main lead in an Indian film. In Pakistan the film industry has to be revived. Nadeem is seen more on TV than in films. There are also actresses like Monalisa, Umayma and Reema.
Tell me about your role in Tere Bin Laden!
The role of Ali Hassan in Tere Bin Laden is that of a go getter who does not like to quit. I play a reporter from a news channel whose mission in life is to work for a top American TV channel. Ali Hassan"s application for visa gets rejected and he thinks of a sinister plan. He becomes a look alike of Osama. He tries to get visa as an impersonator. I could identify this character a lot with my off-screen character because like Ali Hassan in the film, I am also after my goal. The only difference between Ali Hassan and me is that Ali is a street smart guy who does not mind making ulloo of people and the whole world to achieve what he wants, in real life people make ulloo of me as Zafar Ali.
How did you find Abhishek as a director?
It is difficult to make a film without a heroine and yet make it very interesting. Abhishek is much focused, passionate about his work, intelligent and knows his job and also a little crazy. To his credit, Abhishek Sharma has succeeded in making it so interesting that you would not even feel that there is no heroine or for that matter a romantic track in the film. When I heard the subject for the first time, even I did not feel the necessity of a heroine opposite me in the film.
It is very difficult to make a comedy film. I feel that as an actor, if you do a comedy with knowledge of timing, you can do any kind of a role including the rona dhona kind of emotional role. As far as Tere Bin Laden is concerned, I"d say that there are also some serious and poignant moments in the film. We shot for the film in a span of forty days in Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Who are the actors in India who have inspired you a lot?
My favorite actors are Dilip Kumar, Aamir Khan, Boman Irani, Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Tabu, Kajol etc. My favorite directors are Rajkumar Hirani, Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar.
Singing or acting, which is would you consider your first love?
It is very hard to choose. If I let go anyone of the two – acting and singing, I"d feel as if I am letting a part of me go away from me. Till date, I have come up with two albums – 'Hukka Paani" and 'Masti". I had not only written and composed but also sung all the songs in both my albums. My next album as a singer will be a Sufiana album titled 'Jhoom".
Is it true that your songs have been copied in India by top music directors?
My song Rangeen Hai was copied by Himesh Reshammiya and passed off as his own song in Dillagi Mein Jo Beet Jaaye and my song Channon Ki Aankhon Mein was copied as Chori Ki Bathe Meethi Chori in the film Fight Club by music director Preetam. I did not raise any objection or ask for any legal compensation because my philosophy is 'love and not fight". I feel that love is better than hatred. Even Gandhiji had taught the virtues of tolerance and patience. Sufism also teaches you to tolerate all religions. I have always believed that forces of good will prevail over all forces of evil, whether now or later.
Considering the fact that you are young and handsome, did you have to go through the syndrome of the casting couch to get where you have reached?
Whatever I have achieved till now is only due to talent and nothing else. Frankly, I have not ever been subjected to the syndrome of the casting couch whether here or in Pakistan. I would not say that it does not exist. Hota hoga wahan bhi lekin main iske bare mein bilkul kuch bhi nahi jaanta hoon.