Comedy is the real test: Shafaat Ali
Ever since he started making videos of his mimicry, Syed Shafaat Ali has become a YouTube sensation.
It’s not that he wasn’t doing much before that but people tend to forget that he was one of the main guys in The Four Man Show and later on in Banana News Network. Since going solo, his career has been on the rise and now you can see him on TV and even in films.
In Parwaaz Hai Junoon, people liked his role of a cadet who joined the Pakistan Air Force to impress his girlfriend while he was the man behind the many voices you recognize in The Donkey King. Spotlight got in touch with the superb mimic and asked him about his past, present and upcoming projects.
People loved your comic timing in Parwaaz Hai Junoon and praised your role despite it not being a major one. Care to share something about that?
Shafaat Ali: I can only thank those who praised my acting that too in a serious film. I got many messages from around the world and all I can say is that all the hard work I put into the character paid up.
I have just started acting and believe that in order to do well in comedy, one has to work extra hard, since making people laugh is most difficult.
You can shout patriotic dialogs to capture the audience and cry to make them cry but comedy is the real test. You need to have an excellent comic timing, have command over your body language and your facial expressions must be perfect if you want people to laugh along with you.
How was the experience of playing a 19-year old cadet; what steps did you take to look young in the role?
Shafaat Ali: It was a life-changing experience because as a mimic, you have to be a little heavy so that you can play with your features while imitating others. However, when I signed Parwaaz Hai Junoon, I weighed 79 kg and in order to play a cadet and look the part, I set myself the target to lose 9 to 10 kilograms in 40 to 50 days.
Thankfully with the help of a strict diet and exercise, I was able to achieve the target. As for the experience of working in an Air Force Film, I can only state that I had become half airman when the story was narrated to me by the Air Commodore.
The biggest compliment I got was from the Air Chief himself who gifted me his cap as a token of appreciation for my fitness. There can’t be anything better than that!
Is it true that you nearly froze during the first day of shoot at the Academy?
Shafaat Ali: I didn’t freeze but yes, the temperature was minus 4 that first day of shooting where some cadets including myself were supposed to go through a punishment routine – that has since been abolished.
We were supposed to be exercising outside because we had eaten more than the food assigned to us and in order to add reality, cold water was sprayed on us which was too much as we weren’t wearing inners. Yes, I shivered a lot but thankfully didn’t freeze and was able to complete the film.
You also made your acting debut in TV this year which also made people take notice of you as an actor?
Shafaat Ali: My first TV drama as an actor is Romeo Weds Heer which is currently on air and people are loving my character. However, before this Anjum Shehzad play, Aijaz Aslam’s Kis Din Mera Viyah Howega aired during Ramadan and that makes it my debut, technically.
I am excited that people are accepting me as an actor and hopefully I will not disappoint them in the coming years.
And then there have been comparisons with the legendary Moin Akhtar …
Shafaat Ali: I am in no way near Moin Akhtar sahib who was an icon. I can’t match his achievements in two lifetimes and it would take me a third one where all I can do is do comedy to even come near him.
Yes, I did act with Anwar Maqsood Sahib earlier this year but that was an honor for me to sit on the very seat that he used to sit on. It would be an injustice to him if I am compared with him because I have to achieve a lot to be mentioned in the same sentence as him.
What about your career as a mimic and stand-up comedian … will it suffer due to your acting assignments?
Shafaat Ali: Working as a mimic and a stand-up comedian is my life; it is, in fact, my obsession and the crowd’s reaction serve as oxygen for me. At times when things don’t go the way you expect, it does become carbon dioxide (laughs) but the winner is that person who doesn’t give in to the pressure but releases it by raising the bar.
I take it as an adventure and my next appearance in Karachi would be on 4th November at a Comedy Night arranged at the Beach Luxury Hotel. After that, I am planning tours so don’t be surprised to find me in your city, soon.