Gohar Rasheed is one of the very few new-age actors who have proved their mettle in a rather short span of time. He started off as a line producer that paved way for a role in a theatre production and then one opportunity led to another. From bagging a nomination for his performance in his first film Seedlings (2013) to a remarkable portrayal of a spoiled brat and an abusive husband, Mikael, in last year’s popular drama serial Mann Mayal, Rasheed has come a long way. And so it comes as no surprise that the actor is gearing up for three big screen projects this year, including Hasan Waqas Rana’s war saga Yalghaar, Amir Mohiuddin’s Rangreza and his own production Maidaan.
We caught up with the actor one sunny afternoon during his visit to Karachi where he’s currently shooting the last spell of Rangreza. He was dressed casually, sporting a moustache and long hair that he has grown for his role in the film. “Just trying to look the part,” he smiled as he started talking about his character Waseem who’s more of an anti-hero.
“I play the role of Waseem, a dholak player in a qawwal band. He is a very complexed and insecure individual and deals with very relatable human emotions. He’s a proper musician with prior knowledge and connection to the field and addresses himself as ‘Waseem Wallay’. He gets insecure when he sees someone relatively newer getting more fame and appreciation.”
Rangreza is a musical commercial film for which the music has been done by Abida Parveen and Q (Qurram Hussain) from music group Josh. “The film is an interesting combination of emotions, situations and of course, music,” Rasheed informed. “It talks about the imbalance in our society; the rich are becoming richer and poor people are getting poorer. But it does that in a very humorous way, nothing preachy. There’s also a love triangle between Urwa (Hocane), me and Bilal Ashraf.”
Gohar Rasheed doesn’t come from a family of actors. His father is a businessman and expected him to join the family business once he completed his Bachelors in theatre, film and television. But Rasheed, who calls himself a risk taker, chose a different path and became an actor “by accident”.
“Becoming an actor was a complete coincidence; it was never in the pipeline for me. I believe acting is the only profession where it doesn’t matter if you’re a star kid or not. You can sustain only if you perform otherwise it doesn’t matter even if you’re Amitabh Bachchan’s son (laughs).”
Coming back to Rasheed’s cinematic ventures, the actor is all set to don the producer’s hat for Maidaan that stars the talented and versatile Noman Ijaz. Rasheed informed that it’s “a complete commercial family entertainment film” based on a true event and will enter its pre-production phase later this year. Besides, Yalghaar that features an all-star ensemble cast including Shaan Shahid and Humayun Saeed will finally see the light of day this year.
Speaking about Yalghaar, Rasheed noted, “Yalghaar is like the Avengers of Pakistan. I’m playing the role of a militant named Baraan. He’s not at all black and white the way our characters generally are – it’s a grey character that deals with redemption and guilt. It’s the only three-dimensional character in the film.”
While discussing films we also talked about the current state of Pakistani cinema. Films that have come out in the recent past disappointed critics and viewers.
“Why are they disappointed?” Rasheed responded with angst.
“Before this current tenure, Pakistan’s film industry was in ashes, it was 6 feet under the ground. At least we’re making films; Pakistani content is coming out internationally as well and people know that Pakistani film industry exists. It’s not that we have a proper infrastructure, several studios or funding from the government for making films and still we’re not coming up with good products. Plus, there’s no prior experience in filmmaking; most of the actors and directors have come from television. There should be some margin for trial and error.”
“The problem with us as an audience,” he continued, “is that we’re largely influenced by Bollywood and we start comparing our films to theirs. They have a long history in filmmaking and yet all of their films still aren’t successful. Their industry has issues too. We’ll learn from our mistakes and will definitely come up with better films in the future. Don’t be too harsh right now. Also, I’m annoyed with these self-proclaimed critics; there’s no film critic in Pakistan except for two-three people. You don’t know the history of cinema and the art of filmmaking yet you call yourself a critic. I don’t call it a review, I call it opinion. We start reviewing films even before they come out. I announced my film Maidaan, the first remark I heard was ‘Ye tou bari art film hogi’. Mera dil chah raha tha unko joota maarun. Sports film kabhi art film ho sakti hai? Art film ka matlab bhi nahi pata inhe.”
Aside from film projects, Gohar Rasheed will also appear in Angeline Malik’s upcoming TV play Mujhe Jeene Dou (tentatively titled) that will tackle the issue of child marriage. He plays the character of Naseeb whom the young girl is married to. Rasheed, who makes sure he attaches himself to projects with strong content, is of the view that child marriage is an ugly reality of our society (particularly rural areas) and it needs to be highlighted.
Content is a major factor for Rasheed to opt for a project since he believes it has the power to leave an impact on viewers. What did Mann Mayal teach viewers?
“Once someone came to me and told me that he was exactly like Mikael in Mann Mayal and my character presented him with a picture of how he treats people around him. He said that it made him realize his mistakes and fix himself. Even if one person is able to bring a positive change to his life because of my work, that’s an achievement.”
But wasn’t the play too regressive?
“It was regressive? Don’t watch it,” Rasheed said sternly.
“I find the audience to be at fault here,” he asserted. “Women watch it, they relate to it. I don’t know why. If they disagree with plays that victimize women, they should boycott them. Aese dramey banna band hojaenge.”
However as an actor Rasheed isn’t comfortable portraying certain roles on screen. While he refused to play a villain in Sonam Kapoor-starrer Neerja that presented Pakistan in a negative light, he has reservations in doing roles that demand abusing women physically. At first this sounds strange since an actor is expected to adapt to his character but after hearing his views, we respect him.
“Within this vicious circle I have a certain responsibility as an actor that I can only fulfill to an extent. And that is I will not abuse women PHYSICALLY. There was a scene in Mann Mayal that required me to slap Mannu but I refused to do that and thankfully my writer and director understood my point. I don’t want to portray that it’s very easy to slap a woman. You’re instilling in people’s minds that it’s normal because they watch it every day on television. The whole family is watching it so it’s normal. It’s not!”
Speaking of competition, Rasheed stated that he is not competing with his fellow artists since he believes they are not risk takers and are here to become heroes while he wants to be remembered as somebody who was a good performer rather than a good hero.
As the interview came to a close, I asked him to describe ‘pappu boys’ – a term he used in one of his earlier interviews. “Pappu boys are the ones with a fair complexion and cat eyes (laughs). For me those who don’t know how to act but are still acting are more pappu.”
This reminded us of someone and we shared a laugh.