In Pakistan’s thriving entertainment industry, one comes across very few actors who are secure about their work and even fewer who remain humble despite winning accolades and widespread fame. Mikaal Zulfiqar is one such star and we can’t wait to finally see the actor on the big screen in Pakistan.
Zulfiqar made his silver screen debut with the Indo-Pak production, Godfather with Vinod Khanna and went on to do another Indian film, Shoot on Sight, opposite Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. He also played a supporting role in Akshay Kumar and Anupem Kher’s action-thriller, Baby which got banned in Pakistan due to its portrayal of terrorism, but was well received critically and commercially across the border. However, Zulfiqar is yet to be seen on the local turf.
By that we don’t mean to dismiss Zulfiqar’s extensive body of work on television, such as Diyar-e-Dil, Mein Sitara and the ongoing Sang-e-Mar Mar, but to acknowledge the fact that the actor will finally be making his local cinematic debut with his upcoming film, Na Band Na Baraati and has signed on not just one but four films altogether. Instep catches up with the star…
Instep: You initially had an inclination towards Bollywood. When did you decide to work in local films?
Mikaal Zulfiqar: Quite honestly it hit me in 2008 when I started getting a lot of work opportunities in India, but the Mumbai attack took place after which I realized that it’s always a risk to be working there. I also feel that I am a lot more satisfied and comfortable working in my own country.
Instep: Was it disappointing to see Baby getting banned in Pakistan?
MZ: With Baby I had mixed emotions. I wasn’t told the entire premise when I signed the project, especially the anti-Pakistan aspect, and I wasn’t involved in the promotions either. But on the bright side, I received rave reviews from critics in India which I found to be very flattering of course.
Instep: Na Band Na Baraati would mark your debut in local cinema. Tell us a bit about how it all happened.
MZ: Well, I’ve been thinking about doing a film for a while now and one is always very choosy with their first. There were lots of projects being offered but nothing was really materializing. So I stopped being stubborn about what I initially had in mind about the kind of film I wanted to do. That’s not to say that the projects I took up weren’t interesting, but I went ahead with what felt right and finally made the jump with Na Band Na Baraati.
What intrigued me the most about the film was that it had a good family-comedy script and a very unique and fresh cast. The fact that it was being shot entirely in Canada promised a very different look and feel to the film.
Instep: Na Band Na Baraati’s cast and crew are mostly newcomers. Was that ever a concern?
MZ: There was a little hesitation initially, but one of the interesting things about this business is that you never know what’s going to do well. They’re a number of projects that have had such big names associated with it but have failed so there’s no set formula of making a hit film. And even though I have debutants Nayab Khan and Anzhelika Tahir opposite me, the film is backed by a strong cast of Azra Mohiuddin, Qavi Khan, Atiqa Odho and Mehmood Aslam and Ali Kazmi.
There’s also a new approach towards filmmaking since its being made by a bunch of new filmmakers, and in a way, it was my way of supporting people outside of Pakistan who are willing to invest into our film industry.
Instep: Most of your contemporaries feel that they need to focus on one project at a time. Why did you choose to sign over four films at once?
MZ: Once I’m done with a project, I like to quickly move on to the next. I’m not someone who likes wasting time and waiting for things to happen. I also think that I can do justice to all the roles that I take up since I’ve been acting for so long now, it’s easy for me to switch between characters.
Instep: Don’t you think that will over-expose you, considering the fact that you’re also appearing on television simultaneously?
MZ: Film is probably the medium which excites artists the most and it’s also the most rewarding. I’ve been an integral part of our television industry so it was only natural for me to make that jump. A good actor will perform regardless of the medium and I don’t want to limit myself. And at the end of the day, we live in a society of over-exposed people. Just take a look at Shah Rukh Khan for instance; he’s doing TVCs and hosting award shows. He’s done television and is busy with films as well.
Instep: Your second Pakistani flick, The Trial is a period drama. What can you tell us about it?
MZ: I was shooting in Canada when I was approached for The Trial and I was perhaps a little more passionate about this one because it’s a dream role since my character is the driving force of the film. It stars Sadia Khan, Shamoon Abbasi, Resham, Sohail Ahmed, Shafqat Cheema, Alyy Khan and a couple of other extremely talented actors. It’s basically an epic love story of a Pakistani guy and a Bengali girl set against the backdrop of the Dhaka fall in 1971.
Instep: Since the film has a political plot, do you think it will manage to raise eyeballs or create controversies?
MZ: Inevitably, because of the nature of the topic. We live in a society where there’s no tolerance. Of course, there are political connotations since that’s the era we’re depicting, but I feel whenever you delve into the past, it does spark some sort of controversy. Nonetheless, if I’m engaged as an actor, I will perform to the best to my ability. At the end of the day, I’m not the writer or the director. People are open to criticize me on my performance.
Instep: Your third film, Ae Dil Meray Chal Ray has been described as a feel-good entertainer. How different is it from your previous work?
MZ: Ae Dil Meray Chal Ray is a blend of everything. It’s about how we live in colonies here in Pakistan. It narrates the journey of a few households in a housing community and how they interact with each other. It is being helmed by Javed Sheikh’s nephew, Jamal Sheikh and stars seasoned actors, Javed Sheikh, Adnan Shah Tipu and Jawad Bashir. Sana and Sarah Sarfaraz will also feature in the film.
Instep: You are playing a model in the film. Was there some sort of nostalgia when the film came to you?
MZ: For starters, I’ve been getting into shape so that I can look like a supermodel (laughs). But there aren’t any similarities as such. My opening sequence, however, is on the ramp, so I suppose it’ll be a trip down memory lane.
Instep: Lastly, tell us what you have in store next?
MZ: Well I’m simultaneously starting Seema Tahir’s film, Qaid. It is a suspense-thriller with social commentary in which I play a London-based Pakistani lawyer. I’ll also be shooting for a cameo in the family-drama, Cake which stars Sanam Saeed, Adnan Malik and Aamina Sheikh. And lastly, I’ am doing a serial as well. So keeping my fingers crossed!