Superstar made me believe in love again: Bilal Ashraf
He has taken off his shirt in one of the songs of Superstar and many, including his detractors, have hailed him for going bold in a movie.
In fact, many have praised Bilal Ashraf’s improved acting in the trailer of Superstar where he seems to be more confident than his last two films – Yalghaar and Rangreza. He not only worked on his body but also on his acting skills by learning the tricks of the trade from the very best.
Spotlight met with the youngster who is busy breaking hearts with his moves and impressing all as the next Superstar and spoke about his transition from an actor who had no hits to one who might hit the rest out of the park.
How was the experience of working opposite Mahira Khan, who is undoubtedly the biggest star in Pakistan?
It was a wonderful experience not because she is the biggest star we have but because she is an amazing actress. When we were working in Superstar we were friends who were working together and that’s what makes Mahira Khan different from others. There was nothing starry about her even though she has represented Pakistan all over the world, in the best possible way.
The biggest challenge that we had was to create a chemistry that would set the screen on fire and we were able to do that easily because we were able to generate energy whenever we were working together.
On one hand, you were working with the country’s sweetheart, on the other, there was the King of Romance, Nadeem Baig!
You just can’t imagine who happy I was when I found out that I would be working alongside the legendary Baig sahib in a film; it was like a dream come true for me because I have grown up watching his films and meeting him in person was even better. He is the true legend of Pakistani cinema as he stays calm and cool no matter how hard the scene might be. In fact, I am proud to be the actor who shared the screen with him when he lip-synced after nearly two decades.
The song is still not out but trust me, we had a great time picturizing it. Not just that, we two shared the most crucial scenes of Superstar which were like the film’s backbone. Whatever I learned from him, I will carry with me for the rest of my life, especially his humbleness, his mannerisms and his ability to mesmerize fans no matter how young or old he or she might be. I have never seen anyone that senior receive fans by standing up and giving them respect.
We don’t see you on TV, we only see you in ads or in films; is that a conscious decision or a deliberate one?
When I started acting, I made a point that I will not do TV. Yes, you get to learn a lot from dramas but at the moment I feel films need us more. I consider myself a lab rat who wants to stay exclusive to films and maybe in the future, I might do a web series, but not at the moment. The reason why I didn’t work much after Rangreza was the lack of good story and directors, which sadly didn’t come my way after Janaan.
I prefer a good story and director any day and that’s why when I was approached for Superstar, I just couldn’t say no. Not only was the story appealing, but the chance of working with Ehteshamuddin was also a pull factor. I must mention Momina bhabi here for her trust in my abilities.
How was the experience of sharing the screen with stars like Ali Kazmi, Marina Khan, Jawed Sheikh, and others?
Working with all these wonderful people taught me to love again, something that I had forgotten after I lost my sister a few years back. If it was romance with Mahira, it was bromance with Ali Kazmi who is a wonderful actor and we had some of the best scenes together.
As for Marina Khan and Jawed Sheikh, who play my parents, they are veterans in the field and just being around them helped me learn a lot about acting.
Tell us something about your stint with Sunil Shankar and how it helped you improve your acting skills?
Ehtesham bhai recommended me to theatre director Sunil Shankar who took me under his wings for more than a month. I got to know a lot of things that only theatre actors can understand and that includes live audience’s response, controlling your voice, memorizing lines and the use of your body in a constructive way.
In fact, when I came on the sets, I was more prepared than ever and everyone including the director acknowledged that I was more flexible and agile than before. To become Superstar Sameer Khan, I had to lose 14 kilograms and since I had to convince the audience, I went the extra mile to achieve peak fitness, both mentally and physically.
Who made you go shirtless in the song Dharak Bharak; was it the producer Momina Duraid, the director Ehteshamuddin or was it your own the decision to flex some muscles on the screen?
It was my own decision and I respect both Momina bhabi and the director for accepting it. Apart from Mohsin Abbas Haider, not many actors have gone shirtless in recent years especially in a song and by doing that, I connected more with my character than before. Now people tell me that without going shirtless, that song wouldn’t have been possible and that makes me feel good.
It was to show the audience that we in Pakistan aren’t far behind and can do whatever Salman Khan and Aamir Khan (in Bollywood) and Chris Hemsworth (in Hollywood) can do. The conditions in which I had to film the song were difficult as I had to lessen my water and salt intake to stay fit. And yes, my back was literally on fire because of the heat but since it was an important song, I couldn’t complain.
Even my co-star in the song Kubra Khan had to endure the tough conditions during the shoot and she was shivering due to fever when she did those steps which is commendable. I hope that the audience falls in love with it, just like we did while performing on it.
What are your expectations from Superstar?
Superstar is a very simple film that revolves around the journey of two people. Azaan Sami Khan has done a good job, capturing emotions from all around him and incorporating them into the script. Momina bhabi supported us all the way while Ehtesham bhai was always there to help us out as the Captain of the Ship.
Whatever happens in the film, we have experienced it sometimes in our life and that’s the beauty of Superstar. Go watch it this Eid ul Azha and be ready to believe in love, again!