25 years old Dawar Mehmood has achieved what those double his age have not in as many years. His collaboration with the uber-playwright Anwar Maqsood has so far yielded five successful plays, with a sixth one in the offing. The News on Sunday had a chat with this incredible actor-director from Islamabad who believes that sky is the limit, and there is life beyond that as well.
The News on Sunday: You came, you saw and you conquered. But who are you?
Dawar Mehmood: I am the actor no one took seriously when I acted in my first play It Runs in the Family way back in 2005 in Islamabad, my home city. At that time I was hardly 15 and I don’t blame the producer Usama Qazi and director Faheem Azam for ignoring me, because that’s what I would do to someone that young as well. One guy who did take me seriously was Yasir Hussain, the assistant producer of the play and he encouraged me to go ahead with my idea. We did a low-budget play Come Again (in Urdu) that ran for three to four days, and that’s how Kopykats Productions came into being.
I owe my success to Yasir Hussain because it was he who helped me take the first step, and I am successful because I do it my way. The other person to whom I owe a lot is renowned director Shah Sharabeel who took me on board for his Home Is Where The Clothes Are. He showed me how to sell a play; the administrative side of production and I assisted him in the Phantom of the Opera which helped me a lot in establishing Kopykats Productions.
TNS: How did Anwar Maqsood come into the life of Dawar Mehmood?
DM: Anwar Maqsood is one of the best writers Pakistan has produced, and we should be proud of the fact that we are living in the same era as he is. All I wanted to do when I first met him was to shake his hand — not work with him because that would have been too much for a novice like me. I not only managed to shake his hand but make him write for theatre, something no one else was able to do. It was only because we treated him the way he should be treated — as the God of writing — and not as someone who can be made to write for ratings.
TNS: What is the secret of working with Anwar Maqsood — he has written five plays for Kopykats so far!
DM: Anwar Maqsood is a child at heart who, unlike his contemporaries, likes to learn new things. We have had many ups and downs during our association but believe me, we love and respect him because he is the best there is. People don’t know how to handle Anwar Maqsood, they think of him as a writing machine who can get them financial stability. Whereas we work with him because that’s our passion — working with the best!
TNS: How has been the experience of working with senior and junior actors during the last few years?
DM: I have so far been blessed with actors who have done justice to their roles. Just like Anwar Maqsood, working with Sajeeruddin Khalifa and Noor ul Hasan has been an amazing experience. There are a few seniors who try to impose that they know a lot and I don’t like to work with them because when you stop learning, you stop growing.
There have been many others who have parted ways with Kopykats after finding success and I don’t blame them because TV (and film) pays better. Yasir Hussain is still working with us but he has written a film Karachi Se Lahore in which he will be acting; he has been active on television as well along with Hareem Farooq (Sawa 14 August, Aangan Terrha), Gohar Rasheedand Zahid Ahmed (Pawnay 14 August, Haaf Playt) for whom I am very happy. With their theatre background, they can be game changers and I hope they do justice to their talents in coming days.
TNS: How do you propose to select actors now that Kopykats has become a breeding ground for TV and films?
DM: I was hoping that those who migrated to TV and films would be my Burhaapay ka sahaara (laughs). But since we would need actors for our future plays; we plan to do it the old-fashioned way. Conduct auditions in universities and get references from friends who are working in theatre. Theatre is an actor’s medium since he/she should have Confidence, Boldness, Good Voice, Body Language and Clarity. A person without these qualities is a weak actor and presenting one on stage would be a gaali if nothing else for us.
TNS: Which actors have impressed you the most?
DM: There are only two actors who I believe are outstanding and can compete with anyone, anywhere in the world. One is Shafqat Khan Shafqi and the other is Yasir Hussain. Shafqi is the mechanical one whoin simple words follows the Akshay Kumar brand of acting using his mannerisms to invoke laughter; while Yasir Hussain as we all know is a chameleon who can do variety of roles and is a believer in the Aamir Khan school of thought. Put them on stage against anyone, I guarantee you they will not disappoint you!
TNS: What is next on the menu of Kopykats Productions?
DM: The Menu is loaded … We will be coming with Sarrhay 14 August on August 14 which if I may add will be the biggest, the boldest and the broadest play in Pakistan’s history. It will be my best work. Bohat pyar se banaoonga. It will be the last of the political satires as well because it will be covering everything; there is a lot I can tell you about the play but I am summarising it in a sentence — it will be epic!
I am also in negotiations with Shah Sharabeel to get him to directDevdas with Kopykats; that play will be our first musical with Paro, Chandramukhi and all. If we have to go big, why not go big with the masters. As for me, after Sarrhay 14 August, I will try to go international and give one play to Pakistan, and more abroad. With local cast and Anwar Maqsood’s script, we plan to perform abroad more and make Urdu theatre popular internationally.