I am always open to roles on TV but they must be challenging and unique: Moammar Rana
He may no longer be the young man he was back in the day but “Deewane Tere Pyar Main” star Moammar Rana is not someone you can write off. In the last 20 years, he has given more hits than any other actor working currently as main lead (except for Shaan Shahid, of course!).
Be it Deewane Tere Pyar Main that put him on the map of filmdom or Choorian that remains the most successful Punjabi film of all time; be it the trendsetting Yeh Dil Aap Ka Huwa or the murder-mystery Koi Tujh Sa Kahaan, Moammar has seen success in both urban and rural areas of Pakistan.
In fact, he was the first one to quit films a decade back because of the growing involvement of people who should have stayed away from films. In 2016, the actor made a comeback with Saya e Khuda e Zuljalal and will be appearing in one of the Eid films, Azaadi.
Spotlight got hold of the ever-young actor and spoke to him about his place in another revival, his upcoming projects, his opinion of up and coming ‘legends’ and why he continues to support the Gujjar culture.
Momi, you have been part of the revival of the 90’s as well as the current one. What difference have you seen in both the eras?
It’s always great to be working in a film; being part of not one but two revivals is too huge a task if you ask me. We need to make good meaningful films to carve a separate identity for ourselves and with new technology and more professionalism, we can make that happen. However, with great powers come great responsibility (smiles) and we must use these pros to enhance our image both at home and abroad. In the past, the filmmakers used to explore and make films in beautiful locations because they knew that their audience couldn’t afford a trip to either Northern Areas or abroad, and a film ticket was their ‘ticket’ to such locations.
Those were the days when leading men were worshiped as heroes and sets were created only in extreme cases. Sadly, we moved from film mentality to TV mentality even in films and started shooting films inside homes, in turn disappointing the audience. We have to get their trust back by showing them a film frame in cinema and reserve the TV frame for TV. Otherwise, they will stay away from cinema and enjoy films at home like they have done in the past.
Your upcoming film Azaadi has you in the role of a freedom fighter; how was the experience?
Azaadi is a proper film with a message and I am glad I got to work with the sons of Pervez Malik sahib who has contributed a lot to our film industry. Since it’s an action-romantic film, I got to do both action scenes and romantic ones.
You were the first one to quit films back in the day due to unavoidable circumstances … now that you are back, has the culture changed?
Sadly, the culture hasn’t changed despite the passage of time – yes it has become a little better say 5% better but the mindset is the same. Still, most of the producers want to make low-budget flicks so they get quick money in less time. I have repeatedly advised them to combine their budgets and make a good family film but they don’t realize that. They might have jumped to 5D cameras but for me, they are still in the old days; I tried to tell them that Arri Alexa is the next big thing but for them, RED is the limit which is sad.
A few days back a poster of some Gujjar film was released with you in it … when will you bid farewell to those roles?
I had no idea that I had signed a Peshi Gujran Di film until I saw the poster myself. It so happened that I spoke to one of the senior Lollywood producers about doing a film but since he was trying to get some work for his crew, he announced the film without my knowledge. When I confronted the director Masood Butt, he told me that it was not by choice but a majboori and I had to bow down.
I am a God-fearing person and if I had said no to that person, who knows I might have lost work too. We must understand that 75% of the revenue comes from Punjab and if I can do one film after a couple of good ones just for those fans, it will be like repaying them for their services.
So where do you stand in the Lahore vs Karachi fight?
There is no Lahore vs Karachi fight and that’s exactly how it should be. If I shoot a film in Gujranwala would that mean it’s a Gujranwala film industry? No, it will remain Pakistan film industry and we are all part of it, even if we make bad films. People who instigated this fight should be ashamed of themselves considering their film didn’t do well in either of the two cities.
My own film Saya e Khuda e Zuljalal didn’t do well at the box office but did I say anything that stupid? No, because at the back of my mind I knew that this might happen even though I tried my best to save it. A good film is a good film and a bad film is a bad film. The public pays for the ticket and they have all the right to reject or accept a film!
Will your directorial venture Sikander ever see the light of the day or is it canned for good?
It is not canned at all but yes, there were some issues with the film that we will try to resolve as soon as we are through with Eid releases. 65% of my film is completed and it was unfortunate that because of the deadly heatwave of 2016 as well as working in Bhai Wanted, I had to let go of the actors. When I did get the chance to restart the film, everyone was busy and I don’t blame them. That’s when Azaadi fell into my lap and now that it’s complete, I will try to continue Sikander and reshoot some scenes to make it look current.
Is it true that the cast and crew didn’t want Sikander to end … a little birdie told me that!
It could be true because as a director, my first priority was my actors and I tried to keep them relaxed during the shoot. The script I took to the set was edited as per my requirements and that why we ended the day at 3 PM on most days – except for one day when we had to stay back by 7 pm. That happens when the director is all set to roll at 8 AM and the shooting begins at 9 30 AM max! Also, we used to have customized food from renowned caterers and that’s helped in keeping the crew happy and content!
Does getting busy in films mean that you will not be doing TV anymore?
I am always open to roles on TV but they must be challenging and unique. I was offered 3 dramas recently and the best part about these offers was that I had done those roles before and they were no different at all. I don’t want to do zaalim husband versus 2 wives because that’s not what I want to portray on screen. What kind of man would I look if I went with the modern wife and left the first one just because she lives in a village?
You were part of some of the biggest hits of the last 15 years … what has been the most memorable moment for you?
When I did Yeh Dil Aap Ka Huwa back in 2002 … it was a classic film and the response I got was amazing. Reema’s Koi Tujh Sa Kahaan also generated a good response and so did Choorian that ran for a long time. I must mention that when Bhai Log was released, it competed with Reema’s Love Main Gumm but after watching the response on my entry in Bhai Log, I knew that Reema’s film had no chance. The whole Shabistan cinema – which is a huge standalone cinema – stood up and clapped when I made my entry and I can never forget that.
And finally, something about the new legends of Pakistan’s entertainment industry, the actors who are Instagram celebrities and do monotonous roles in films and TV!
Before I comment on their conduct, let me say something about the old way of working where we had to remember our lines and deliver them with the proper expressions, footwork and above all, had no second chances as one eye of the director was on the film material he was using. With the advent of memory cards, actors have become complacent and lazy as everyone takes it easy. Which is why they work so much and have little respect for the seniors as on paper, they have done as many projects as us.
Just a few days back, one such actor was standing with me at the airport and believe me, he didn’t even greet me! I used to consider these actors as T20 of acting but now I realize that they are T10 and a T10 may be exciting but Test match stays for a longer duration!