I can play any kind of a role and bring my own angle to it: Imran Ashraf
A good actor always knows his limitations, a great one knows no limit and if one looks around the actors these days, only one name comes to mind – Imran Ashraf.
Although he has been acting in dramas for nearly a decade, Imran Ashraf rose to new heights recently as Bhola in ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’, where his spontaneous dialogue delivery, erratic mannerisms and the ability to surprise the audience, has made him the most loved actor of the current era.
The multifaceted artist was part of three plays recently on Hum TV – ‘Inkaar’, ‘Jaal’ and ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’ – and if you aren’t an ardent TV watcher, you will not be able to link the actor behind all three characters that he has portrayed. As Bhola in ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’, he won hearts with his realistic portrayal as Rehan Chaudhry in ‘Inkaar’, he was an extremely possessive son of a landlord and as Zaid in ‘Jaal’, he was in a completely different and unrecognizable avatar.
Spotlight talked to this human chameleon actor and asked him why he chooses unconventional roles, what made him try his hand at writing and what makes him want to be a better actor.
Is Imran Ashraf an actor who can perform any role at any given time, is he the guy who can write scripts at will or is he the human chameleon who makes every role his own?
He is the guy who is very good at observing others, feeling their pain and above all, portraying it on screen. I am a firm believer that we don’t act on screen but react, and I consider it a key to all my characters and whatever success they have helped me achieve.
As for the writing part, that was something to break away from the kind of one-track roles I was being offered. I had no issue regarding playing the antagonist but when you are being labeled as one, it is better to steer them into another direction and writing for me was a step in that direction.
What made you venture into acting in the first place, considering no one in your family is into showbiz?
My elder brother Faisal Abbas is a music composer/singer who sang the song ‘Sayyan’ some 15 years back. Since he couldn’t make it big in the industry, he became depressed and left the field. As for me, I was quite content helping my father Mohammad Ashraf Awan who was an award-winning banker in the 1990s’ and was on the Board of Directors of United Bank of Pakistan besides being an advisor to many financial organizations.
It was only after our family business of Asset Evaluation and Loan Recovery was liquidated and we had to close as many as 172 branches countrywide that we were left to try something else. As I was always a good debater and had acted as a child star in a play with Faisal Qureshi, I chose to try my hand at acting. Director Dilawar Malik who had cast me earlier offered me ‘Wafa Kaisi Kahan Ka Ishq’ in 2010 where I played the second lead and to be honest, I was very bad as an actor then.
It was only after I spent time in the editing room observing actors and understanding editing techniques and repeating lines after news anchors, that I managed to improve myself as an actor.
Usually, people are content with one hit drama and move onto another one after that; but you are currently part of as many as three hit serials, playing different characters in all of them. How do you manage to stay so versatile in this day and age?
Had I not been the sole bread earner for my family, had I been a single person instead of a married one, had I been pampered on sets daily, then acting in one hit serial at a time would have been an option for me. Since I have to plan my future, look after my family, make a name for myself in this competing industry, the more the merrier is the philosophy I follow.
The easiest route is working in a hit play and then moving onto the other, but since I love going through the difficult route I go for as many as three drama serials simultaneously and try to be different in all three of them. The way people have appreciated me in all three plays is what I wasn’t expecting and I am glad they loved all three characters.
In Pakistan, we have observed that an actor struggles till he is 30 years old, and then by the time he has matured, he gets to do the kind of roles that he wants. Is that true in your case as well?
In my case, what was the biggest hindrance wasn’t the age but lack of contacts and personal relationships. I am easily the only actor who has had to make repeated comebacks after playing the lead in a hit drama. Thankfully, after Shammo, Bhola and now Rehan, producers have realized that I can play any kind of a role and bring my own angle to it.
As a struggling actor, we don’t have a choice but now that I am out of that zone, the very people who weren’t keen on casting me now want me to be part of their dramas. I am also indebted to those who create memes because this wouldn’t have been possible had they not made fun of Shammo and Bhola because that led many to follow the dramas.
In an artificial world where actors take the easy way out, why did you go for the role of Bhola that could have dented your career had it been done wrong?
You may not believe me but when Faiza Iftikhar penned the script, she chose the director Kashif Nisar and me, as Bhola. Those were the two names that were written on the front page of the script and although I don’t know what made her choose me, I am glad she did.
And there was a time when Kashif Nisar and I had forgotten about the play and were thinking of doing something else when suddenly we realized that we had ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’ with us and the rest they say is history.
Bhola happened due to Faiza Iftikhar and Kashif Nisar, and to some extent to your simple looks. However, no one in his or her right mind would have expected you to do well as Rehan Chaudhary. How did that happen?
When ‘Inkaar’ was offered to me, I took an instant liking to Rehan Chaudhary because, in his mind, he was always right. He thought that by exposing Hajra he was helping his friend when in fact he was pushing him away. By pursuing Hajra for himself, he was in his mind doing no wrong especially since he thought his friend didn’t deserve her.
What helped me in getting into the skin of the antagonist was my own way of acting which might surprise the readers. When I take on a role, I make up my mind that I was born as that person, the actress who is playing my mother gave birth to me, my onscreen father is my real father and so forth. That’s what helps me on the sets, be it that of ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’, ‘Inkaar’ or ‘Jaal’.
I hope to stay creative like that in the future as well so that my fans will always find my new avatar, different and interesting.
And then out of nowhere there came ‘Tabeer’ that featured you as a scriptwriter. Was it always a desire to write scripts or did that happen overnight?
There was a time in my career where I didn’t act for eight months because I was being typecast as a villain when I wanted to explore myself. It was one fine day that Angeline Malik approached me to act in the last episode of her series ‘Kitni Girhain Baqi Hain’ and told me to ask a friend of mine to send the episode’s draft in a few days. That friend didn’t honour his commitment and instead of going empty-handed to the director, I decided to write something myself and present it without my name.
As I began writing, words started to flow and when I submitted the script to Angeline Malik, director Shahid Nizami was sitting with her and he loved it so much that he asked her permission to direct. They had no clue who had written the script but when I told them that I could make changes according to the budget, they realized it was me.
After that, I wrote ‘Tabeer’ which was rejected by every TV channel because the hero died in the first episode, something they couldn’t imagine happening in a drama serial. After two years, Ahson Talish got hold of the script and loved it, then passed it on to MD Productions who accepted the script without any changes. As you know, it did well and people praised my writing so I am thinking of completing my next play in a couple of years.
Let’s see how much drama it faces before being accepted; as for being a writer, I just do it as a hobby. I am not a writer per se, writing is a very difficult task and writers are thinking intellectuals which I am not. It’s good that my name features alongside the giants of the industry and that’s a huge compliment for someone who wrote just to avoid being typecast.
Now that you have spent nearly a decade in the industry, what would you like to offer as advice to youngsters who want to enter the field?
All the actors out there must realize that the process of learning is never over. When I entered the field I used to get irritated when people didn’t act or react as per their potential, but now my ideology has changed. I believe 70 percent of your success depends on your intention and 30 percent on skills.
Whoever wants to act and make a name for himself has to come on board with the best of intentions and give their best without worrying about others and what they might be feeling. Success will come to you slowly but it will definitely come as Allah rewards all who work hard and put their heart and soul into something they believe in.
This article was originally published in GLAM Magazine.
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