I am confident that Jaanisaar will be remembered as a good film
Popular Pakistani actor Imran Abbas, whose first Hindi film was horror flick Creature 3D, returns to the big screen with Muzaffar Ali’s Jaanisaar. In an exclusive chat, the handsome actor reveals his role and experience working in the period drama.
What was the brief given to you by the director regarding your character in Jaanisaar?
The film is set in 1877, Lucknow. I play the role of a Prince, who is an Indian but was raised in England, under Queen Victoria’s reign. He returns to India-Pakistan but isn’t thrilled to be a part of his native culture or people. He disdains everything Indian, because he thinks he is partly British. Then, he falls in love with the courtesan Noor, who reveals some startling truths that changes him. The character goes through a 180 degree transformation and becomes a freedom fighter for India. The character is articulate and loves poetry, music and Indian culture. It is a dream role for a veteran actor and I am lucky to have got it.
What kind of external or internal preparation did you have to do to play the character of Ameer?
Muzaffar (Ali) saab is so good at familiarising you with the character that you don’t really need to prepare, so there wasn’t any literal preparation. Basically, he prepared us through conversations and time spent with him. He beautifully communicated the character, its misery and ethos. He is so well-read and has such in-depth knowledge about Indian history that we are not aware of. There are many untold stories from Indian history. What we read has been modified versions. There are many missing decades from the history, no one knows what happened after 1877. Jaanisaar in a way is a tribute to unsung heroes who played a major part in the struggle to Indian freedom. Of course we have taken artistic liberty in the film but the script is rooted in reality.
Would you describe yourself as a method or a spontaneous actor?
I feel I am a director’s actor because I have played all sorts of characters. So I think my acting prowess largely depends on the director. The specialty about Muzaffar Ali saab is that he doesn’t make you feel that he is a big director who has worked with acting stalwarts like Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, etc. He becomes a friend and lets his magic work. He is one of the finest people I have met in my entire career.
Who do you look up to in terms of acting from the film industry?
I love Naseeruddin Shah saab. I also love Amitabh Bachchan for being what he is now. I enjoyed watching his earlier films too. But what inspires me is that despite all the highs and lows and such a long tenure his energy and passion towards his work is the same as it was earlier. Even today he reaches for his workout at 4 am. I wish I could know the source of his passion so young actors like me could also be passionate like him. He is busy 24/7. He is either endorsing or acting or hosting shows. I hosted Big Star Entertainment Awards and had a chance to meet him on stage. Unfortunately I don’t stay in India for too long. I come here, shoot and return to Pakistan. And I don’t like socialising.
Does the lukewarm reception to your first Hindi film, Creature 3D, worry you about Jaanisaar?
Creature 3D was not well accepted by audience. But it was an experimental film and one should give due credit to Vikram Bhatt who plunged into an unknown terrain for Bollywood. It was a VFX heavy 3D film. At least, he tried to do something new. It doesn’t discourage me. I am glad I got to do something untried. There is guarantee of box-office collections when it comes to movies of the three Khans (Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan). I don’t know what will be the box-office collections of Jaanisaar but I know the film will be remembered as a good film.
Back in Pakistan you are a big star and well-known but Hindi film industry is a new place, so how did it feel starting over again?
Every person, whether he/she is a star child or an outsider, has to struggle in Bollywood. And now the competition is cutthroat. The game is about survival of the fittest. Even in Pakistan each time I do a film I feel like I am starting the career again, earlier it wasn’t so competitive.
Are you in touch with your contemporaries here and back home?
I am an introvert. I hardly speak to my co-workers / colleagues after work.