I want to do every challenging role that shocks the audience: Zahid Ahmed
Meet Zahid Ahmed, one of the better-looking actors in our TV industry.
Not only is he tall, broad and handsome, he is also blessed with a powerful manly voice that completes his masculinity.
However, with great powers come great responsibility and this amazingly talented actor wants to use his talent for something other than just being a pretty face on TV. He wants to do every challenging role that shocks the audience and that’s why when the teaser of Moomal Productions’ Ishq Zahe Naseeb was released, everyone wanted to know more about Zahid Ahmed’s Sameer, and his ‘other side’, Sameera.
Spotlight got hold of the talented actor and asked him why he went for a risky role when he could easily play safer characters, how did his family react and why he continues to choose unconventional roles when his colleagues are happy with playing heroes.
In Pakistan, we usually have straight-forward dramas and in it, straight-forward characters that are either good or bad. But in Ishq Zahe Naseeb, you have gone one step ahead and surprised the audience with your characterization of Sameer, and Sameera. What made you go for the role(s) in the first place?
Ever since I became an actor, my mission is to play characters that no one else is doing and that’s why audience accepts me as someone who can play both good and bad at ease. While I was doing Visaal, the writer Hashim Nadeem and I had a discussion regarding the lack of characters that are different. I told him that I wasn’t getting the kind of scripts I wanted and he roped me into play a Man-Woman character, saying that ‘I want you to play it’.
I had no work for 7 months as whatever I got wasn’t that great; in the meantime, I waited for Hashim sahab to complete the script and the result is now in front of you. It is characters like these that will be remembered for a long time. As for why did I do it, well, all I can say is that I want to do every challenging role that shocks the audience as this role did.
What was the basic challenge while doing this role?
It’s a split / dual personality character which not many people have attempted in Pakistan, neither as a writer nor as an actor. Since I am not playing a transgender or someone who becomes a girl by donning lipstick, we didn’t go for a ‘visual change’.
The challenge was to portray a character that is neither a cross-dresser nor a khusra, but a man suffering from a mental problem. To me, it was always a tempting proposition, not because it would be a challenge to become a larki but because the character had depth. He is essentially a man who conceives the ‘other’ personality as a result of mental trauma and carries it with himself for 30 years, making it all the more powerful.
You must have been anxious to know the audience’s reaction, while you were playing the character?
To be honest, I was, initially but their positive feedback has taken me by surprise. I was confident that the audience has matured and their reaction proved me right. I have never been tagged this much on Social Media since the teaser’s release and nearly all of the comments have been positive.
The praise and love I have been receiving vindicate my stand that our audience has evolved and it isn’t basic anymore. Had they been as basic as I used to think they were, then I would have been blasted for attempting such a role, but I am glad that the hard work paid off. I am not just happy that they loved the teaser, I am happy because they understood the difference and appreciated it.
You have the ideal physique of an Amitabh Bachchan kind of hero, even then, you play unusual characters on TV when you could be the Angry Young Man in films. The kind of roles you pick are usually reserved for actors who have no other option but to play character roles. Why do you attempt the unusual, always?
Let me explain it to you in two answers – I can play two kinds of roles. One is the hero, that I played in Besharam where in order to change the society, my character goes into politics. The other is the run-of-the-mill central figure in a drama who might be the protagonist, but not the hero.
There is nothing heroic about these characters which are just created by the writers because they have to have such a figure in the play. I am an artist who wants to challenge my own self, grow my abilities and establish my credentials, and that will not happen if I give one emotion 10 times.
If a person who looks like a hero doesn’t get a good heroic role, it is better to play a well-written villain instead and I have done that on many occasions. In fact, I play a villain three times a year and a hero once in every two years, because our writers make the villain more interesting in their scripts.
The protagonist is usually a confused, spineless individual stuck between two women, which is something I would rather not play. We don’t write heroes properly and you should ask the writers why they have forgotten that there is something called the hero.
Describe Ishq Zahe Naseeb in one sentence, for the audience?
A brave writer met a brave director and the two approached a brave producer who selected a dream cast to come up with a play called Ishq Zahe Naseeb. It was great to work again with Sami Khan (after Tau Dil Ka Kia Hua) and Yumna Zaidi (who has a guest appearance) whereas I got a chance to share the screen with fascinating actors such as Sonya Hussyn and Zarnish Khan.
I would say this drama is a win-win for people like me who want to take challenges. Kudos to Hashmi Nadeem for picking such a powerful yet taboo subject and I would hope that people love and appreciate it on its merit so that overall, it turns out to be good for everyone. If this doesn’t work, it would be bad for the industry but I hope it will be liked by the audience. They are ready for different content as long as it’s treated tastefully.
Director Farooq Rind has done a fantastic job, not less than Hollywood; the teaser that you have seen is technologically the most advanced I have ever seen.
What was the reaction of your family, especially your wife when you told her about accepting the role of Sameer/Sameera?
Whenever I have gone for a challenging role, be it that of a psycho or a rapist, my wife has supported me because she knows that in my heart I am giving my 100% to that character.
She shares my belief that these are the kind of roles that will satisfy the actor in me, so when I went for this character, she fully supported me. In fact, she is very proud of me, that I have the courage to attempt such roles.
Every TV channel has a flavor; how do you handle that?
Most of my life I have worked for Hum TV and ARY Digital because these are the two channels that cater to the bulk of the audience. Since I am always in search of good content, these two channels take the lead as they offer better scripts.
Whenever Hum TV is falling behind in the race, they go for an out-of-the-box idea and that helps people like me who are waiting for such an opportunity. I am working in another play after this for HUM TV where I play a blind man opposite Sanam Jung. I am sure you haven’t seen a mainstream actor play a blind character like the one I am playing on TV in recent years.
In your theatre days, you stayed in your Character for nearly an hour; did you do the same when you played this challenging character?
Not at all! (Laughs). I used to do that in theatre because I wanted to maintain the illusion of my character in front of the audience who wanted to meet me at the curtain call.
In their absence I was Zahid Ahmed and I stay my own self in TV dramas as well and don’t carry the element as here the audience is on the other side of the screen.
How do you manage your personal life while doing Voice Overs for commercials, acting on TV and films, all at the same time?
I have lessened doing Voice Overs for Commercials because of my acting commitments but I would continue to work tirelessly because, for me, acting is not a job but passion. I came into acting from a more lucrative and established job just because I wanted freedom and I will continue to act till the day I find it boring.
That’s why wherever I am needed, whether it is my voice they need, my craft or my skill, I am there for it. I take off on Sundays because that’s my time for my family, otherwise, I am here to challenge myself and do quality work, as long as I have the passion for it.