In a fickle industry that is torn between what actually matters and what appears to matter, it is hard to find actors who put their craft above everything else and are determined to keep up with it. Young, passionate and unconventional, Ahad Raza Mir is one of the few actors who prioritize their work over how they look and how many followers they have on social media.
I met him at a film’s premiere almost a year ago when he had just made his debut with Sammi and not many people knew him. Meeting him back then and now when he is on the cusp of being a major star, I find no difference in the way he walks, talks and above all, in his disposition, which is devoid of pride or arrogance. The only part that has changed is his body of work, his popularity and things that he has learnt about the industry and its people in very little time.
His last TV play, Yaqeen Ka Safar, which was his second after Sammi, proved to be a game changer for Ahad not just in terms of high ratings, huge fan following and praise for his work; it also earned him a Best Actor trophy at the recent 17th edition of the Lux Style Awards. However, as big of an achievement as it sounds for a young actor who started off hardly a year ago, it brought some bittersweet remarks his way.
“Winning Lux was a big deal for me; especially the fact that I was nominated along such great actors in our industry,” Ahad shared while he made coffee for us as we sat for an exclusive interview at his office in Clifton, Karachi. “It made me feel proud that my grandfather’s name is still remembered. I am very grateful for all of it. Unfortunately, the response from within the media, specifically people who I have always looked up to, disheartened me. We make such a big statement about who is new and we make sure to constantly remind them, rather than support them in the journey. If the point of an award is to celebrate good work, then we should all be supportive. Winning the award opened my eyes to a lot of things but regardless, I will always have tremendous respect for all and would like to thank the industry and my fans for celebrating my success.”
Honest and completely transparent, Ahad doesn’t mince his words or try to be diplomatic even once, which is probably what makes him so likeable.
“When I stepped into the industry, I was taking everything in,” he added. “But now I have started to realize how work is done here in Pakistan; what’s good about it and what needs to be fixed. I have learnt what the role of an actor in Pakistan is as opposed to my beliefs of what an actor should be and what their job is in any medium, whether it’s film or television. However, I have realized I’m going to stick to certain principles versus kind of going with the flow. I am making a conscious effort to not do things that I feel aren’t right or don’t suit me. So, I am doing my own things that are so far working for me.”
Ahad has recently finished shooting for his big screen debut, Parwaaz Hai Junoon which is an air force film and is scheduled to release on Eid ul Fitr, this year. Speaking of the film’s plot, he shared that it’s not a story about ‘let’s go fight’; it is about the lives of these kids who join the air force.
“How cool it is, how scary it can be, how difficult it is – these are the things that form the crux of the story.”
Aside from his debut film, Ahad has been working on his next drama, Aangan that has become one of the most talked about TV projects to go on air this year. It features an all-star cast including Sajal Aly, Mawra Hocane, Ahsan Khan and Sonya Hussyn aside from Ahad who plays the role of Jameel.
“Jameel is the most confusing character I have ever played,” the 24-year-old actor said about the project he is very excited for. “He is a poet, he is a politician, he’s somebody who is on a journey of what love means, what family bonds mean, somebody who is actually quite relatable to everyone out there.”
Playing opposite Sajal and Mawra, Ahad reveals that there is love line in the drama as opposed to a love triangle or so. “Aangan follows the story of multiple beautiful characters; it is about everybody involved and not just one person,” he continued. “Partition is kind of a theme but it’s about partition at home and how families are affected by partition; the partition between father and son, partition between lovers, and so on.”
Ahad shares great on and off-screen chemistry with his Yakeen Ka Safar and Aangan costar and friend Sajal Aly. If you listen to him speaking of her, you would know how big of a fan he is of Sajal and he is quick to admit it too.
“We work in similar ways; our understanding of how we approach our work and our thinking in general is quite similar. I can vouch for how she works on set; she is somebody who is just committed to the craft, committed to doing good work. She doesn’t care about how she looks, she cares about what makes sense for the character, what makes sense for the story. After seeing her in Aangan, I believe she can do anything. I am very lucky to have worked with her. I feel that’s the kind of work and people we need in the industry.”
Completely in love with his work, Ahad began his acting career in Pakistan with television that remains the most popular medium here. And as he shares, he enjoys his TV roles more than films because he gets to live them for a longer period and they give him more margin to perform.
When asked what is it that he would like to change (or improve) to take the local television industry forward, Ahad responded, “We saw a really good time in TV and I think we realized that. The second you realize it, you stop trying. I think we need to experiment more. When I ask my male fans, they say they don’t see stories about them as much as they are about women. I don’t think this is what the audience wants to see; I feel that’s changing. The sooner we realize it, the better it is. We need to experiment with stories, with topics and we can try different things. We love love stories but anything can be a love story, we have this concept of a ‘hero’ in Pakistan but anyone can be a hero.”
Being raised in a family of artists and having worked as a theatre artist for several years in Canada before coming to Pakistan, Ahad has a strong and distinct perception of what it means to be an actor as opposed to what it is believed to be here in Pakistan.
“For me, it stems from a deeper meaning of what this line of work means,” he confessed. “My family has been a part of it for quite a few generations now and I am very proud of that. But I think Pakistan has more celebrities than it has actors. A lot has changed with the introduction of social media; I disagree that staying active on social media is a part of our job.
Our job is to tell stories, to show the human experience through TV/ film and to do it honestly. I feel we, as actors, especially young actors right now are getting confused as to what our role is. Is our role to do as much work as we can? Is our role to take out time to choose not to do much work? Is it important that I post something on social media every day? At the end of the day, does it really matter? These are the kind of things that I have been exploring lately.”
However, he also spoke about the challenges that actors today have to face given the fast paced and demanding nature of their profession.
“I am expected to do certain things, to look or behave in a certain way,” he admitted. “But I feel if people are enjoying my work, if they like me that’s because of my work and who I am and not because who I need to become. I want to give quality entertainment, that’s my goal. I am here to be remembered. I just want to keep doing something that raises my own personal bar. I probably won’t do something that I’ve done already. I want to make sure that people know I am first and foremost an actor and would try to do different things every time. I feel people should look at acting as an art and we need to change our mentality about it in Pakistan that it is a profession that you can take very seriously. The future is the young people who decide to take on these challenges; the less we think of it as showbiz, the more we take it as an art, I think it will help us.”
Unspoiled by fame, Ahad doesn’t have a publicist or manager yet and he doesn’t feel the need to have one anytime soon. The actor has also been working on some big screen projects with his father Asif Raza Mir lately but he would like to take a small break before he resumes the work. Though he sometimes thinks of himself as a misfit in the industry, he is hopeful for its future and wishes to work towards bettering things.
“I want to focus on Pakistan now and making this industry extremely good. That’s not going to happen if all the actors become selfish and focus just on themselves but by taking command and being more professional. That’s my new goal: setting things up! So, ten years from now, the actors who come in, they will be proud that these guys really set the path for us,” Ahad asserted on a parting note.