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“Films and theatre are my domain, TV needs to grow up first.” – Gohar Rasheed

A tête-à-tête with Gohar Rasheed, one of the most versatile up-and-coming actors of his generation

“Films and theatre are my domain, TV needs to grow up first.” – Gohar Rasheed
Gohar’s seem to have taken a liking to the sherwani, looking dapper as he makes a mockery one of the most controversial political figures of the country

Meet Gohar Rasheed. A theatre actor with hit plays on his resume; a film actor with international acclaim; and one of the few film actors working in theatre these days. But who is Gohar Rasheed? Where did he come from? How did he become known in such a short time? Is he related to someone in the industry? Or is it his luck that steers him into the big-budget projects he featured in. Instep on Sunday tried to unravel the mystery behind Gohar Rasheed by asking the man himself, and he had a lot to say about his glorious past, his promising present and potentially bright future. Excerpts:

Gohar Rasheed on Gohar Rasheed:

I was born and raised in Lahore by loving parents who DID NOT want me to go into showbiz, since my family is into the stock exchange. They wanted me to study but since my heart was into acting, I enrolled into the Beaconhouse National University to become an actor. My majors were TV, film, theatre and journalism and believe me, even though I wasn’t a good student, I studied hard to do what I loved the most. When I graduated, I came to Karachi where I knew no one except a cousin (who isn’t even in showbiz) and very slowly and steadily, I began my journey in the city of lights, and after highs and lows, have eventually made it my second home.

The first job I got in showbiz was that of a line producer in Hum TV and I must thank Sultana Siddiqui for giving me the first ‘hope’ that good things come to those who wait. Although the job got me stability, after three months I realized that it was not my cup of tea and I quit it for theatre. You don’t just quit for something until and unless you have utmost confidence in your abilities, and at that point in time, I had just that!

Gohar Rasheed on theatre:

My first break was Shah Sharabeel’s Moulin Rouge where I played the villain but since there was acting and dance involved, I loved it. By luck, Wajahat Rauf (who was associated with Geo TV at that time) came to watch the play and he asked Humayun Saeed to do the same. The day Humayun bhai came to watch the show and after curtains fell approached me – a nobody – it boosted my morale immensely; he applauded my acting and asked me to meet him for some TV projects, which I did. I didn’t quit theatre after my break on TV, I did Bombay Dreams for Shah Sharabeel and I remember it well because four days before the play, I was asked to play the lead as the director had fired the hero. In four days, I transformed myself into the hero (from my earlier role of a villain) and it was a wonderful experience.

Gohar takes questions at the Lamha’s New York premiere, amusing the audience with his witty quips no doubt, along with his quintessentially Pakistani attire that drew praise and attention

Gohar takes questions at the Lamha’s New York premiere, amusing the audience with his witty quips no doubt, along with his quintessentially Pakistani attire that drew praise and attention

It was after I had done TV and films, that I was approached by Dawar Mehmood last year to work in Sawa 14 August as Zia ul Haq. The main attraction for me was to work in a play written by THE Anwar Maqsood, the only legend we have. In order to get prepared for the role, I put ‘stupid tareen’ sawaal in front of Anwar sahib who was always humble and forthcoming, and told me whatever he knew about my character. Karachi Arts Council’s Ahmed Shah also helped me in that regard as he knew the mannerisms of the former President and the way he spoke, etc. I must also mention that it was Dawar’s incredible direction that saw me become Zia ul Haq because had I crossed the line, the character would have either become the villain, or a comic; it was neither, and Dawar ensured that.

Haaf Playt came next and although I had a role that lasted just 15 minutes, it was appreciated by the people. I was skeptical about taking the role of Iftikhar as I was being pit against my brilliant costars from Sawa 14 August – Yasir Hussain (Mirza), Zahid Ahmed (Butt) and Mariam Saleem (Bano) – but Anwar sahib and Dawar convinced me to accept the role as a challenge. I saw people clapping for me with tears in their eyes and that’s what I think is the most difficult thing to make anyone do – cry and clap together. The role had so much to offer, a fact I realized after the first performance, and enjoyed it during the entire run in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. After one of the performances, a lady came to Anwar Maqsood and told him that Bano should have left her husband, and gone with Iftikhar since he was so good for her and loved her so much. Such was the chemistry between Mariam Saleem and me and I must mention that her brilliant portrayal of Bano helped me do better every time.

Gohar Rasheed on films:

If you ask me to select the worst actor for auditions, that’s me – I suck at auditions. That is the reason I didn’t want to go to the audition of Seedlings (Lamha) in the first place, but after I was ‘surprisingly’ selected, I went on with the project on a friend’s insistence. A few days after I had wrapped up the shooting, the producer Meher Jafri called me up and told me that I was nominated as best supporting actor in a festival. My mind wandered on which festival could it be; but not even in my dreams could I wish for The New York City International Film Festival. The producer told me that my character of a rickshay wala – third lead after Mohib Mirza and Aaminah Sheikh – was so liked by the jury that they nominated me. I was thrilled and over the moon; and when the director of the festival took me to the red carpet, it was like a dream come true. People also asked me about my attire – sherwani and Jinnah cap – and I even gave it to one of the Pakistani expatriates in New York as a souvenir.

Gohar plays a torrent of talent in Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, sharing the traits of his character Kaali Aandhi, as he rose from dark horse to sought-after star over the course of his young career

Gohar plays a torrent of talent in Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, sharing the traits of his character Kaali Aandhi, as he rose from dark horse to sought-after star over the course of his young career

My second film – which was released first in Pakistan – was Main Hoon Shahid Afridi where I played a Sialkoti guy who bowls fast, and is known as Kaali Aandhi. I am indebted to the producer Humayun Saeed and director Syed Ali Raza Usama for selecting me for the role, but it was the most difficult of tasks to play a fast bowler. Usama is a realistic director and that’s why we had to go through proper training while I had to endure long hours in the makeup since they applied oil to my hair, surma to my eyes and blackened my face. The hot conditions in Sialkot were in contrast to my other project with Usama (Faakhir’s music video Baylia) where he had iced water thrown on my naked upper half – on four occasions and I was asked to shout so as to save myself from getting a stroke!

I got a chance to act with Nadeem sahib, Javed Sheikh and others through the Shahid Afridi film, and I failed to recognize myself at times, considering I was doing Sawa 14 August when it was released. I am fond of getting different getups and that film provided me just that. I was also happily surprised to know that the people loved my character because one day Humayun bhai took me to the cinema and we were received by a mob (after midnight), something I will never forget. Eventually, the mall security was asked to intervene and we went back home after all had gone.

Gohar Rasheed on TV:

Films and theatre are my domain; TV needs to grow up first, because I am not going to end up with roles that have been done hundreds of times. That’s the problem with TV and the bigger issue is, they don’t realize it. Only a handful of people are doing work worth mention because the rest have the same plot – ghareeb larka, ameer larki – in the 90s they used to run away on foot, now they have a car. We just don’t work on characters anymore, which is the right way to do things. Look at X Files, Friends and 24, they had strong storylines and powerful characters and that’s why they changed the scene. Why can’t we do that? Because we need guts to do that and nobody wants to take the stand.

We have success stories like that of Dawar Mehmood, who didn’t have elaborate costumes to back his kind of theatre but he managed to catch the audience’s nerve with Anwar Maqsood’s scripts. He now stands at par with theatre giants Shah Sharabeel and Nida Butt, and if a youngster can do that in theatre, we can do that on TV as well. We just have to find the right people for the job who are willing to do something that is fresh, different and strong, content wise.

Gohar Rasheed on not being chikna:

In the 90s, when Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan were starting their careers, they were a hit because they were pappu and chiknay, terms that have been coined by our TV directors. But now, they are versatile actors rather than young guns and being chikna didn’t help them; being talented did. The day we realize that talent is more important is the day we will become a force to reckon with. The reason why dubbed content (i.e. Turkish plays) is popular in Pakistan is because it is fresh and actors know how to act; not just because it has beautiful women. If our directors and content heads don’t realize the importance of casting good actors, there will be no Pakistani drama in five to six years as by that time, the Turkish invasion – the dramas with a flaw known as synced out dialogues – would be complete. I am not a chikna actor at all but I believe that I have enough talent to give tough time to others. I don’t say yes to offers from TV because all the roles they offer are either too common or have nothing at all. Who knows I might produce a play for myself one of these days and show them how it is done.

Gohar Rasheed on upcoming projects:

My friend Hamza Ali Abbasi is coming up with Kambakht, which will be a Pakistani comedy film after a long time. The one-liner we came up with was made into a script by Hamza with co-writers Atif Siddiqi and Jawad Rana. As we didn’t have a big banner supporting us, we made the film ourselves; I am doing the role of a corrupt SHO named Jibroun – not Jibron, nor Jibran. We were lucky enough to rope in Humayun bhai for a khaufnaak role as well as Saba Qamar, Shehryar Munawwar, Sohai Ali Abro and Shafqat Cheema and I am sure you will like the film when it is released later this year.

I am also part of Summer Nicks’ Operation 021 which pits me against Shaan, Shamoon Abbasi, Bilal Ashraf and one of my favourite co-stars Aaminah Sheikh. Azaan Sami Khan and Zeba Bakhtiar are behind the project and we had a great time during the shooting. Azaan is a munda like us and when you and the producer share the same lingo, it helps. Zeba apa was the motherly figure on the sets and she was very caring and encouraging. I will also be part of Hassan Waqas Rana’s Yalghaar, and considering he has a hit like Waar on his resume – he was the producer – I am very excited about the project.

Gohar Rasheed on his favourite actor/actresses:

My all time favourite actor is Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep is my all time favourite actress. I am also a big fan of Faran Tahir who is making Pakistan proud in Hollywood, and believe me, it takes guts to even share the space with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, and Faran has that. Closer to home, Humayun Saeed is my favourite actor and people in the industry say that if Humayun bhai has said something, Gohar (Rasheed) and Hamza (Ali Abbasi) would do it for him. I also found the acting of Farhan Akhtar likeable, whereas I am a huge fan of Bushra Ansari, the late Moin Akhtar and Saleem Nasir.

Omair Alavi works for Geo TV and can be contacted at [email protected]

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