Fahad Mustafa doesn’t give interviews; he says he hasn’t much to say. But we discovered the opposite when we got him in conversation at Jinnah International Airport, enroute Dubai for the Pakistan Super League opening ceremony. He had a lot to say and he didn’t exactly mince his words.
Fahad Mustafa doesn’t hold back from saying it like it is and perhaps his rise to super stardom has cemented his feet so firmly into the entertainment industry that he simply couldn’t care less if he upsets anyone with his honesty. Soft spoken and direct, we found him to be brutally honest and unperturbed about offending anyone with his politically incorrect statements.
Not that he has anything to worry about. Due to his rising popularity thanks to a successful TV show and cinematic hits such as Mah-e-Mir, (which received critical if not commercial acclaim) Na Maloom Afraad and 2016’s biggest film, Actor In Law, Mustafa is fast becoming everyone’s favourite name in the entertainment industry.
“I am doing three films this year,” announced Mustafa over a cup of coffee as he sat waiting for his flight to Dubai where he was to host Pakistan Super League’s opening ceremony later in the week. He arrived at the airport with an entire entourage with him so at first it seemed a little daunting approaching him for a conversation. However, Mustafa immediately welcomed us on his table and didn’t waste any time in letting us know that he has a busy year ahead of him.
Thankfully, Mustafa has now become very discerning when it comes to the films he agrees to do which is why one can be sure that his upcoming films are going to be nothing short of spectacular. “I’m working on Na Maloom Afraad’s sequel, which will be shot in South Africa so it’s going to be a lot of fun, Inshallah.” While the actor did not reveal much about the plot, he did excitedly announce that all the cast members would be returning for the sequel.
The second project in the pipeline is the sequel to Nadeem’s Baig’s blockbuster film, Jawani Phir Nai Aani, the highest grossing film made in Pakistan.
“The third project begins in December and that is also going to be made by Nabeel Qureshi (Na Maloom Afraad, Actor in Law) and that is going to be a little bit different from the other two films I’m doing. The first two are mostly masala films while this one is going to be more of an emotional, drama film.”
Mustafa has a credible name now therefore all his work is commendable and we have high expectations from him. Sadly, that can’t be said for the rest of the films being carelessly churned out by other actors and filmmakers and it has reached a point where audiences, critics and even other members of the film fraternity have become rightfully critical of Pakistani cinema’s supposed revival.
Mustafa builds hope almost immediately with one simple sentence. “It’s going to take time. We are trying to do things much too fast.” This can be said for filmmakers who are attempting to create huge films without working on the basics; they are using half-baked scripts and hiring actors who don’t know how to act.
Coming back to Mustafa’s third film of the year, the actor said it’s too soon to discuss details such as the film title and cast members. We did however inquire about the female lead, to which Mustafa responded, “In my films, it doesn’t really matter who the female lead is.”
Mustafa sounds extremely confident of himself but why shouldn’t he be, his work speaks for itself. But how does the actor justify his self-confidence, which may border on over-confidence? “Because I know my worth. I know that I work hard and I’m extremely punctual.” Mustafa also shared that many people wonder why Nabeel Qureshi always chooses to work with him to which he responds very modestly, “Let’s be honest, I’m not some good looking, handsome man. I enjoy working. I come to the set at 6 am when needed and once I reach the set I give it everything I have. This sort of professional attitude is rare nowadays.”
Since Mustafa has branched out to TV production as well, he has valuable insight into how actors behave on set nowadays. “Shoots that are supposed to take 60 days end up going on for like a hundred days. Why? Because the stars don’t show up. They don’t come on time, they make excuses and that just delays the shoots. It’s sad. We’ve become stars first before proving ourselves and making our place in the industry.”
This is now becoming a common problem, so much so that other senior artists, such as Resham and Ahsan Khan have also voiced similar concerns regarding the newer pool of actors. Why is this happening? “Because there’s so much work and not enough people to do it. They know that if they don’t do this film/drama/project, they’ll do something else. You know what they say, ‘andhay mein kaana raja.’ That’s why you see so many stars joining the industry and then disappearing. It’s because they have the looks and the talent, but they don’t have the mind to behave professionally. If I’m paying you, then you have to give the hours na? People over here want the money and the respect and the fame but they just don’t want to do any work.”
On the whole, Mustafa thinks that Pakistanis are generally stuck on small things and not looking at the bigger picture, and that observation isn’t just restricted to the entertainment industry. Speaking on the ban of the Mahira Khan and Shah Rukh Khan starrer Raees, Mustafa found it to be extremely unnecessary. “We are just focusing on the wrong things. As Pakistanis, we need to build each other up, not make each other’s lives more difficult.”
But Mustafa points out that such is the case for all films in Pakistan, not just Raees. “The film business is not that viable. You can’t be sure right now that there won’t be any bomb blasts or strikes on the day of your film’s release. Anyone can put a ban on your film if they feel like it. I was shit scared while doing Actor in Law. My films sometimes say things very openly so you never know who gets upset and does what.”
Refreshing honesty is what comes across while conversing with Mustafa, and honestly, it looks like he doesn’t give a damn. It’s also fun to hear an established actor echo the same thoughts and feelings that the audience experiences while watching a film, especially a bad film. “You know, you can tell by the look on the faces of cinema-goers how bad or good the movie is. What I don’t understand is how filmmakers can’t see what they’ve made. Come on brother, chehra parh mera, (read my face.) I only want to do films that I can tolerate watching myself in, only then can I feel comfortable making other people sit for three hours and spend their money on me.”
But if one were to play the devil’s advocate, one could say that sometimes the scripts sound good but they are shot and directed poorly so how would an actor know what they’re getting themselves into. “I only do films which directors are able to make me visualize beforehand. Film is a director’s medium. In our country, we have no film directors at all.” At this point we got interrupted by a group of young students who wanted to get their picture taken with the star and Mustafa was extremely warm and friendly while talking to them.
“Right, so where were we?” We reminded him that he said that there are no film directors in Pakistan. “There are no directors. Commercial filmmakers are not directors.”
This is a huge dig at the list of filmmakers today which includes many ad filmmakers such as Asim Raza, (Ho Mann Jahaan) Asad ul Haq, (Dekh Magar Pyaar Se) and Jami (021, Moor) where Ahsan Rahim is also about to join the list with his upcoming directorial debut Teefa in Trouble featuring Ali Zafar. “To be able to tell a story, knowing what to say, how to emote, comic timing, length of the scene, all of this needs to be considered while making a film and most filmmakers haven’t figured this out yet.”
It seems as though Mustafa has figured it all out and one wonders if he comes across as a little arrogant as many people in the industry do say that about him. “I am arrogant, I’ll be honest.” Honesty was the recurrent theme in our entire conversation.
Mustafa went on to argue that professionally, he might come across as arrogant because he’s become disillusioned with many of his peers. But with his fans, he’s the happiest, friendliest guy around. “With them, I’m not arrogant, because to me, they are my celebrities. I treat them like stars. I don’t work for the industry, I work for these people and that makes me happy so I don’t care about anyone else.”