The first time I saw Rez was in an Indian production called â€œHarry Puttarâ€ a madcap comedy of an Indian moving to the U.K while his father carries out his secret mission. He played a smallish part of â€œAmulâ€ but instantly struck home with his natural ease and flair for the craft of acting. Since then his graph has steadily been going up in international film circles. Both in joint productions with Indian actors such as Soha Ali khan in â€œLife goes onâ€ and in UK based cinema such as his last film â€œBaselineâ€ a story about the Uk club scene released this year. He is Pakistani by origin and wishes to represent the country of his heritage in the most positive manner possible. This scribe recently caught up with him and had the chance to ask him the following questions.
1) As an actor of Pakistani origin tell us how it feels to feature in mainstream international movies like you have?
Honestly itâ€™s a real privilege. I feel lucky to be able to pursue an art that I love and that it involves me giving something of myself and sharing that experience with audiences worldwide. As an actor, origin shouldnâ€™t come into peopleâ€™s minds – Iâ€™m an actor and my job is to adhere to the requirements of the character, be truthful to the script and together with the director, fulfill their vision. However, it does please me to be able to do my little bit on the international stage. Itâ€™s important the rest of the world see that people of Pakistani origin can deliver with the best of them!
2) Your journey in cinema from 2002 to 2008 as per your video credits is quite a diverse mixture of roles, which one did you like the best and why?
Itâ€™s an actorâ€™s dream to be able to play different character types and Iâ€™ve been fortunate to work in diverse genres â€“ from drama through to comedy, romance and action. Iâ€™d say itâ€™s difficult to choose which role Iâ€™ve liked best because I feel thatâ€™s up to audiences to decide because as any actor will tell you, one invests a lot of oneself into each and every part. An actor has to wholly identify with the role we are given, no matter what our own personal feelings or thoughts might be. Iâ€™ve loved the challenge of every part Iâ€™ve played. (I hope this keeps all the directors Iâ€™ve worked with happy! If I were to choose any one particular part, theyâ€™d probably be onto me saying â€œWasnâ€™t the role I gave you your favorite?!â€ I wouldnâ€™t want to upset any of them as they can be sensitive souls!)
9/11 certainly changed the entire globe, and the entertainment industry is no exception.Â In the western mainstream, itâ€™s opened doors and closed them at the same time.Â Iâ€™ve had a plethora of offers to play â€œterroristsâ€, which at first was an interesting proposition, to get into the mind of such a character and try to understand what makes them tick. There are certainly more of these types of roles out there since 9/11 for actors of Asian/Middle Eastern origin. However, the flip side is that there is less diversity in the types of roles available to people of those particular origins, and this ends up reinforcing negative stereotypes of Muslims that have become so prevalent since the â€˜war on terrorâ€™ began.Â Not to mention that those terrorist parts tend to be poorly written and researched and usually quite one-dimensional. But Iâ€™m an optimist who believes that as we go forward and new people come into power and replace old regimes, perceptions will change and that will hopefully be reflected in the arts as well.
4) Have you travelled to the country of your ancestors Pakistan and what did you draw from your visit here?
Iâ€™ve been to Pakistan only a few times â€“ a busy life here in the UK makes it difficult to visit as much as Iâ€™d like. I have very fond memories of visiting family there. I had an amazing time when I traveled from Pakistan to China with a cousin of mine. We traveled by road and I saw much of the country. It made me realize what a beautiful country Pakistan is, how loving and welcoming its people are. I wish more of the west were able to know and see that side of Pakistan. Also last year I came to Pakistan to shoot LOCKED UP ABROAD. I had a wonderful time. The Pakistani crew and actors I worked with were just so welcoming and made my time there extremely memorable. I was lucky to work with wonderful actors like Tafseer ul-Haq and Murad Malik who became genuine friends. The crew from Eveready in Karachi were hard working, yet made time for laughs. I have been lucky to go all over the world to work but certainly Pakistan is up there with my best experiences.
5) What sort of process does an actor have to go through to make it into mainstream cinema? How long did it take you to land your first role as the mystic masseur in 2002 and what were some of the trials and tribulations you faced?
No doubt, being an actor is a tough path. Ask any of them and theyâ€™ll tell you the same. It takes dedication, hard work and a slice of luck. You have to be mentally tough too. I canâ€™t think of any other profession where one goes for as many job interviews and hence deal with as many rejections. You have to dust yourself off and go in for the next one! You need self belief and a support system around you when things donâ€™t go to plan. Iâ€™m very lucky to have that in place.
6) Have you indulged in any other form of performing arts like theatre? If so do you feel that celluloid takes away from a person whereas theatre adds to the acting?
I trained as an actor in the UK and most of that training is theatre-based. Iâ€™ve done quite a bit of stage work and do enjoy it. Itâ€™s an enthralling experience to perform in front of a live audience. You get an immediate response from the crowd, and you know if they are with you. On stage you donâ€™t get second chances. Once the audience is in the auditorium you are â€œonâ€ and if things go wrong, you just have to carry on. You have to be brave because thereâ€™s no stopping, going back or having a director shout â€œCut. Letâ€™s do that again!â€ You just have to keep going. It also toughens you mentally and physically as there is no break in between scenes, you are on until the play finishes. Itâ€™s where I learned my craft. I owe a lot to stage. Itâ€™s also where I was spotted by Merchant Ivory which led to me being cast in the MYSTIC MASSEUR. If it hadnâ€™t been for theatre I wouldnâ€™t have done that movie and got to go to Trinidad.
7) Have you watched any Pakistani movies for instance the last big hit “khuda ke liye” if you have what did you think of it and cinema in Pakistan in general? Would you be interested in a role in Pakistan?
Actually, I have seen KHUDA KE LIYE and really enjoyed it. I thought Shoaib Mansoor did a great job and made an intelligent, thought-provoking movie that resonated with whatâ€™s going on in the world. I also really liked Sabiha Sumarâ€™s KAMOSH PANI, and Iâ€™m a big fan of Mehreen Jabbarâ€™s work too. I would happily work with such talented people given the chance. Recently I had the opportunity to work with Akifa Mian â€“ a really talented upcoming Pakistani director who is going to be a huge success (watch this space â€“ I said it first!) I sometimes feel Pakistan gets a bit overlooked on the world stage and I think thatâ€™s a real shame because it has amazing talent that needs to be showcased.
8- Why do you think the media here in Pakistan has never shone a light on stars like you who are representing us abroad in such a big way?
I live and work mainly in the UK and have not had the opportunity to work much at all in Pakistan. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to do that soon.
9) What message would you like to give for your fans and the youth of Pakistan?
If you have self-belief, are determined and willing to put in the hard work you can achieve anything you want. Donâ€™t give up on your dreams and have a positive mental attitude. Itâ€™s the key to your success. Break a leg!
As publised in “The Friday Times” on 11th Dec 2009