PAKISTANI ACTOR BILAL ASHRAF ON HIS NEW MOVIE SUPERSTAR, WORKING WITH MAHIRA KHAN AND DREAM ROLE by ASJAD NAZIR A sign that model-turned-actor Bilal Ashraf has had a remarkable rise since his 2016 debut film Janaan is that he is playing the lead opposite globally-famous actress Mahira Khan in this month’s big Eid release Superstar. The Pakistani heartthrob plays a famous star in the deeply-romantic film and spent a year preparing for the challenging role. Eastern Eye caught up with him on the international promotional trail of Superstar to discuss the movie, Pakistani cinema, working with A-list actress Mahira Khan and his Bond ambition. What first connected you to cinema? I guess, it would have to be my late sister because she was someone who wanted to make films, so for me, it has been just about carrying that dream forward. I did a couple of ads, then one thing led to another and the rest is history. How did you feel when your first film came out and when did you feel like a star? I felt very nervous, but even though there were nerves, I enjoyed watching it in the theatre. Somewhere I felt this would work and my gut feeling was right. I think, right after Janaan when I did this interview for BBC global, it hit me and I thought things have gone real. The kind of response I got back home was phenomenal. You say all aspects of Superstar – from the director and production house to the singers, story and fellow cast members – attracted you to it. Tell us about the film and the character you play? I play the character of Sameer Khan who is a superstar. Then life kind of happens to him after he becomes a superstar, including his whole romantic journey. It is about how that journey takes him on a different path altogether. Sameer is a kind-hearted, likeable guy, softie at heart, who falls hopelessly in love. What was the biggest challenge of acting in this movie? Well, there were several big challenges. The first was that I did a complete physical transformation for the film, which took me a year and did it naturally, which was tough. Then, of course, dancing. I was also put into theatre classes because theatre is a part of the film. So a lot of challenges, one after another. I hope I have done justice to them. Bilal Ashraf with Mahira Khan How did you feel starring opposite a big star like Mahira Khan? I guess, I felt quite normal because we did some theatre workshops where we acted in scenes together. Once you reach the set or are on the film, you are a different person, but I have to say, she is extremely professional and is a giving actor and made me feel really comfortable, which was great. So it was easy and a lot of fun. Tell us about what Mahira is like to work with on set? She is very easy to work with because she brings a lot of positive energy and attitude. Mahira is very helpful. She gives advice and takes advice as well. That is important because acting is a give and take relationship. What is your favourite moment in the movie? It has to be the climax. Every time I watch the scene, it gives me goosebumps. Also, the first time Sameer meets Noor. With each film Pakistani cinema progresses, will Superstar be another big step forward? Yes, definitely Pakistani cinema is evolving and this movie will be a step forward. Usually, what has been happening recently is, films that have been doing well are romantic comedies or action comedies. However, this is purely a romantic movie. This film doing well will open avenues for other love stories to come in. With so many Pakistani films doing well, is it a great time to be an actor there? Yes. But then the pressure is more because it is a growing market and getting audiences to watch the film takes a lot more effort compared to a Hollywood movie because the budgets are different. But, yes, it is a good time because, as the Pakistan film industry is progressing, we are getting more actors, more filmmakers and more people joining in, which means more and better work for everyone. What is the plan going forward for you? I guess, for now, I need a break after Superstar. It has been a lot of hard work and a tough ride. I just want to sit back and relax. I might produce my own film, let’s see. I have been thinking about it and there’s a story I am working on. But first thing I am gonna do is, take a break. Do you have a dream role? I would love to play a crazy negative character in a James Bond movie at some point. Let’s see if that happens. Which movie superstar do you admire the most? There are a lot of stars worldwide, but it would have to be a star I have worked with and that is Nadeem Baig saab. He is a Pakistani legend who has done several movies and good work. When the Pakistani film industry was thriving and at its peak, he was a part of it and right at the top. It has been an honour working with him and learning from him. So, I look up to him and the kind of person he is. What kind of movies do you enjoy watching? All kinds of films. I guess, they just need to have a good story. I love action and comedy movies as well. One of my favourite film of all time is Scent Of A Woman. If you could become a superstar at something new, what would it be? Architecture or interior design. I would love to be a great architect. What inspires you? My dad inspires me in many ways because he says, keep on trying, don’t give up and believe in yourself. That is inspirational for me. Why should we watch Superstar? Superstar is a journey and a message of love from us, which we want to share with you. It is a simple journey that will probably make you fall in love. Not just in a romantic way, but could be any one, like a brother, sister, mother, father and life itself. You will definitely connect with it, so it’s worth a watch. Why do you love cinema? Cinema is life. I could not imagine life without cinema; it inspires you, changes you, motivates you and brings out different emotions. You enter a world of fantasy that takes you on a magical journey where you see different characters and worlds. It’s phenomenal! Superstar is in cinemas on August 9