Rising up from the heart of Pakistan


DREAM CATCHER: Ali Rehman Khan
DREAM CATCHER: Ali Rehman Khan

HOW POPULAR ACTOR ALI REHMAN KHAN IS MAKING A MASSIVE IMPACT WITH FILM AND TELEVISION PROJECTS

by ASJAD NAZIR

AN EXCITING new wave of Pakistani talent is skilfully balancing big screen performances with winning turns on television.

This has resulted in perhaps the best content being produced in a generation in Pakistan and drawing positive attention from all over the world. A shining star in this fast emerging galaxy of Pakistani talent is Ali Rehman Khan, who has maintained a beautiful balance between cinema and television.

The dashing actor’s successes include the films Janaan, Parchi and Heer Maan Ja, along with top TV drama serials like Bewafa, Khaas, Main Khayal Hoon Kisi Aur Ka and multi-starrer Diyar-e-Dil. He has forthcoming projects like high-profile film Parde Mein Rehne Do on the way.

Eastern Eye caught up with Ali Rehman Khan in lockdown to talk about his acting journey, hopes, inspirations and more.

How have you handled lockdown?
Lockdown has been a very different time in my life. With all the changes it has brought, it has left plenty of time to be with your thoughts, friends and family. It would be nice to start work again, but given the whole world is in despair, I don’t think I should complain about lockdown. Instead, I am trying to use this time to help people in need and invest my time towards social causes and charities.

How do you look back on your acting journey?
It may seem a relatively short journey, but in reality, it has been a long hard road that started with my continual dream of becoming an actor. Now having achieved that, it’s a great feeling. I had to work hard to be to where I am and didn’t get any favours. I didn’t know people in the industry, faced rejection and had to deal with it. My own hard work and the grace of God have enabled me to realise my dream and be on such a rewarding journey, which was never about chasing fame. It has always been about being able to perform and improve my craft.

Which project has given you the greatest joy?
All of my work has given me great joy – from theatre to independent films, television and commercial cinema, I have great pride in every one of them. They all gave me a rush! Working with different actors, directors and people has been quite an experience. If I had to choose an absolute favourite it would be between Diyar-e -Dil and Janaan. Diyar-e-Dil had a phenomenal script and I worked with exceptional actors, and we worked really hard on it. Janaan was really one of the most magical times, doing our first commercial film. The excitement and energy was unmatched.

Bewafa

What has been the most challenging project so far?
My first TV project Rishtay Kuch Adhooray Se was challenging because I wasn’t used to the television format of shooting between 15-26 episodes. So, there was a lot of content to go through within a very short period of time, which meant that sometimes we did scenes from the last episode, and right after a scene from the first episode. So, there was no way to gauge your emotions and prepare for it, but I got used to it. So, doing it all for the first time and adjusting to that type of format was my biggest challenge.

Does your approach change between films and TV?
My approach and style of preparation usually stays the same for both, but with films there is a lot more time to prepare for the role. There is also more time to rehearse scenes compared to television. In dramas, you have 20 odd episodes to tell a story, so even though you don’t get much time to rehearse, it’s easy to get into character because it’s a much longer story. So you grow with the character, as much as the audience does. There is much more room to play with your character and experiment.

Ali Rehman Khan in the film Heer Maan Ja

Who have you most enjoyed working with?
I have had the good fortune of working with some of the best in the industry. To say that I have enjoyed one over the other would be disrespectful and a disservice to their talent and exceptional careers because everyone has a different energy, and a different story. I have learnt so much from each of them individually and I don’t think I can summarise that in words. Everyone brings something unique to the table, so you try learning from them and have a good time while doing so.

What is the master plan going forward?
The plan is to keep on telling stories that captivate people’s imagination, diversify my journey and see where that takes me. I dreamt of being in films since I was a child. But now that I am acting professionally and doing what I love, it doesn’t mean this is where the dream ends. I’d like to experience working in other film industries, in other languages and explore opportunities from around the world. I also want to bring back what I learn and apply it here in Pakistan.

Do you see yourself working in projects in the west?
Yes, absolutely! I don’t think one should limit themselves to a certain type or place, but should keep evolving and working towards bettering themselves and their craft, just like in any other profession. With the amount of exceptional talent around the world, it would be an honour and privilege to be able to work with such talent, learn and hopefully apply some of it back here.

Do you have a dream role?
I had only one dream role since the age of nine, and that was to play a superhero. More specifically, Superman! I got into this world because of that dream. That’s the impact it had on my life. So yes, that would be my dream role. Hopefully, someday, I can play a Pakistani superhero and take it to a new dimension.

Who would you say is your own acting hero?
It’s impossible to have one hero among all the amazing talents. Growing up, I loved Superman so much it was always Christopher Reeve. As I started watching more films, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Amitabh Bachchan, Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, and many more got added to that list. Every actor has a uniqueness to their technique and art. Actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irrfan Khan, Sridevi, Alia Bhatt and Jennifer Lawrence have all done incredible work, it’s hard to like just one. I have accumulated heroes over the years.

Who would you love to work with?
I’d love to work with any of the actors I’ve mentioned. There’s a huge list, but at the top, it would definitely be Jennifer Lawrence. I have loved her work ever since I watched her in Silver Linings Playbook. I also really admire Alia Bhatt’s work and would love to work with Nawazuddin Siddiqui as well. Like I said, it is a long list and I can’t just pick one.

What do you like watching as an audience member?
I watch everything. I’m a big fan of independent and international cinema, especially Korean. I enjoy crime dramas, thrillers and horrors, but my most favourite genre is science fiction and comic book films. Growing up, I adored Superman, but developed a passion for science fiction, adventure and films based on Greek mythology. I love everything that has a fantasy element or is based on something supernatural or science fiction.

What are your big passions away from work?
I keep myself involved with charity work and social causes. I have been doing it for a while now. If there is an opportunity to help people and use my voice as an actor to make a difference, I try my best to get involved. I also really enjoy travelling, meeting new people, disconnecting from the world and being alone with my thoughts. I’ve also learned to really enjoy cooking again. Every time I step in the kitchen, it is somewhat cathartic for me.

If you could master something new, what would it be?
I would definitely want to master the piano. It’s a beautiful instrument, it sings to my heart, and I have always been fascinated by it.

What are your future hopes for Pakistani cinema?
I hope Pakistani cinema continues to grow. I hope we are able to make more screens available for the masses so that everyone can afford to watch a film with their families and friends. I think Pakistani films are now on an upward trajectory, where we already have an international market, which will definitely keep growing. In Pakistan, we have so many unique indigenous stories to tell that the world doesn’t know about and need to start focusing on writing those stories. Once this pandemic is over and when we are back on our feet, I hope we continue that upward trajectory, with more movies and screens in every city in Pakistan.

What is the best advice you ever got?
One of the best advice I got was, ‘if you lose something, it was never meant to be yours in the first place.’ So don’t get stuck with those thoughts. Dream big, keep your head down, work hard and never ever try to find shortcuts in life, because they usually end up with someone doing something wrong. I prefer doing things the right way no matter how long it takes.

What inspires you?
I could say nature inspires me, but I think that’s true for everyone. I think people inspire me. Every day, people inspire me to do something new, try something new, be bold, be confident and think beyond just my four walls. To really go out there and make your dreams come true. And I think that’s the best inspiration one can get.

What is the first thing you’ll do when lockdown is fully lifted?
The first thing I’d definitely like to do is get back to work. Once I am done with my projects and have a little more time on my hands, I’d love to get back to travelling. It is something I really miss. This pandemic has given me a new view on life and what it means to be alive. I feel like it is a reminder for all of us to live every moment like it is your last, be happy and keep others around you happy.