Every actor wants to be known as someone who can win hearts, bash the bad guys and come out as triumphant whenever needed.
There are however some exceptions who prefer to be on the wrong side of the law more often; Shamoon Abbasi is one of them. His entry to show business was inevitable; his late father Zubair Abbasi was an award winning writer, his aunt Seema Ghazal is one of the most popular writers of the current generation whereas his first cousin Syed Ali Raza (Usama) has directed the feature film Main Hoon Shahid Afridi and TV’s most expensive serial Bashar Momin. Shamoon himself has been around since the 90s and with his masculine looks, killer physique and acting talents, he is every director’s first choice to play a villain in films. Why does he want to play villain is one question everyone wants an answer to, especially against our perennial hero Shaan!
“(Laughs) Shaan is a very good friend and an actor whom I respect. Hamari Jodi is lye ban gayi since we work in an industry which is limited unlike Hollywood and Bollywood. Just like Pacino-De Niro or Amitabh-Dharmendra, we are Shaan-Shamoon for our industry and if people like us working opposite each other, I don’t mind at all. After Waar and 021, we will now work opposite each other in Gidh where we will clash as antagonist/protagonist and I am sure that people will like the movie for it is based on Shaan’s character as a real-life superstar. Those who feel that we are working opposite each other a lot will not complain once they watch Gidh.”
The mention of his upcoming venture Gidh excites Shamoon. “Gidh features people who should be in films and had the people who were part of it initially not disappointed me with their unprofessionalism, the film would have been complete by now. It is not just my entry into films as a director, it is a film based on real life issues. It shows the disadvantages of a scenario where news and showbiz is mixed together and how it results in a celebrity’s fall from grace. I have used Gidh as a metaphor for the media who waits for your demise to attack you. The role Shaan is playing the in the movie is that of a superstar, something that is tailor made for him. I have also roped in Sara Loren (formerly Mona Lizza) and Sabika Imam (Queen fame) while I would also be in the movie with few others.”
Can a movie against the powerful media industry sustain in Pakistan? “I don’t know why it can’t – Gidh is not about news channels but about entertainment media. It is a film for the people of Pakistan who need masala in a movie; they invest their money in films and want something that touches their heart and soul. Basically I believe that the media is creating anxiety amongst the viewers and giving out information that isn’t required. That’s the reason why I decided to go against the norm and come up with a movie that deals with real life issues. And yes, there will be masala in the movie as well as songs by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Azmat and Kamran Akhtar (Jannat 2 fame) and we have produced the music keeping in mind that they not only have repeat value but is also played everywhere possible. The teaser is loaded with visual effects and once you get to watch the movie, you’ll understand what we have tried to depict.
Will Gidh be an Urdu Film, unlike his previous ventures that were in English?
“Of course it will be an Urdu film; it’s for cinegoers who love to watch Urdu flicks. I don’t want to take back Urdu from the people for the very reason that I want to make a film in English. You can’t make a nihari lover eat sardines overnight and that’s why we need to educate them systematically. We will try to minimize the use of English in the movie and since the flick will have an international release, we will have subtitles in Arabic and other languages.”
In a country where actors make film debuts when they are young, Shamoon ventured into films quite late – that too through Faisal Bukhari’s Bhai Log in 2010. “I was of the impression that it will be a game changer, with fresh execution but sadly, the way the women were shot in the movie was unthinkable. The elegance was there in the shots featuring the Bhai Log but not in the other shots that brought the film back to its Lollywood roots. People appreciated my acting in the movie and I was happy to have done well, although I had to take a break from films after that to avoid being typecast.”
For all his roles on TV and films, Shamoon is remembered for his portrayal of an Indian Super-Agent Ramal, in Waar. “I wasn’t the first choice of actor to play the cold assassin since there was Noman Ejaz before me. He left the movie as he believed that it wouldn’t see the light of day, and in I walked. When Bilal (Lashari) saw me enter the room for negotiations, he had a smile on his face since he knew that I was the one he was looking for. He was impressed by my variations and ability to don different getups and that’s why I became the villain in Waar.”
If Ramal was such a powerful villain and all, why was his death scene so unimaginably bland? (Laughs) “The first ending that was devised for Waar would have been an epic as it was supposed to be shot in Istanbul, Turkey after Ramal had escaped from the Convention Center. But due to time constraints and other issues, we had to conclude the shooting in Islamabad and that’s why the climax might seem a little dodgy. I did ask the director what Ramal was doing at the top of the building when he could have escaped and even asked them to include a helicopter as a getaway for the super villain but that didn’t materialize. With the original end, I feel Waar would have done even better!”
Director Jami’s 021 was one project Shamoon had high hopes from since it was billed as Pakistan’s first spy thriller. But a controversy (or controversies) resulted in Shamoon’s role being clipped to a cameo from formerly being the main villain. “When I was approached by Summer Nicks (the original director) for the role of Jilani, it was a very important role – he was the anti-hero. Since Summer had to leave, the producers had to delete all the work that was done by him. Us qurbani main main bhi shamil hogaya because Summer was driving my role. After his departure, Jami had to redirect the project. My problem is that if in the good will of the film, you are deleting my scenes, cutting Aamina’s role and not including Ayyaz Sammon, that’s understandable. But when they added unknown goras in the storyline, they killed it completely.”
“The makers had issues with me as well since they thought that I wasn’t sharing the teasers on social media and I clearly told them that I wouldn’t be part of the promotion. Yes, they called me for the posters, the BTS and the meetings but I said no because why would I share anything if I was not in the movie. They haven’t done injustice just to me but also to Shaan and Aamina Sheikh who are sprinkled all over the movie, despite being the lead. I am not angry that they cut away my scenes in the movie; I am sad that the editing killed the human relation between the characters and that’s what damaged the flick. It is about time that the kings understand that they now have to share the Kingdom. Film kay naam par documentaries banana band kardein. Films are for entertainment purposes.”
Shamoon doesn’t stop there. “I ask them where are the scenes in which I do explosions; where I am part of a convoy that goes into Afghanistan; where is the scene that was moulded on Fast and The Furious where I drove a high speed car with six-feet cameras each on both sides? Why did they edit that life-risking scene for which I refused to use a stuntman? Where is that romantic scene with Tara who just comes in and goes in the final version, although she had a substantial role in the original script? Even after all that, I still don’t have a grudge against them because I want to watch films being made in Pakistan.”
The conversation shifts from films to television, where Shamoon tends to transform from cold assassin to warm and humane. “I believe an actor shouldn’t be image conscious because when you become aware of your image that is the end of creativity. Image is for actors with egos and since I have none, I try to be different. I have learnt from the late Amrish Puri as well as talented artists like Anupam Kher, Kader Khan and Shakti Kapoor. One day they are doing comedy and the next instant they are villainous which gives you an insight how talented they are.”
“After playing a deadly assassin in Waar, I wanted to do something different in 021, like talk more in a humane way and interact with other characters,” he continues. “But since my scenes were edited, my role didn’t strike much different in the latter. As for my off-screen persona, I am a people’s actor; I can’t transform into a film star overnight. In Pakistan, people think that a film actor can’t go out to buy bread but I still love to go and sit at a roadside dhaaba for tea. I have to meet people in the area I live, I have to eat out and meet friends. I may be a film actor but I am also a human being who likes it best when people come to me and say nice things.”