Embark on a captivating journey with Fawad Khan. Witness his unforgettable performances in the movie “Nayab” and the acclaimed web series “Churails” on ZEE5. From helming stage classics like “Godot” to crafting compelling narratives in “Chup,” delve into his profound love for Urdu literature as he mesmerizes audiences worldwide. Join us for an intimate conversation as Fawad shares his remarkable journey firsthand!

What aspects of Pakistani culture or society do you find most inspiring or intriguing to portray on stage as well as on screen?

Every story in the world revolves around one culture or another. Culture can encompass both goodness and negativity, so inspiration can come from anywhere, from the depths of human spirituality. What you choose to portray depends entirely on your perspective.

How do you navigate the balance between staying true to your artistic vision and meeting the commercial demands of the industry?

As I continued teaching, it remained my primary source of income, occasionally supplemented by work in theatre. Over the past 7-8 years, I haven’t explored opportunities in television. I found fulfillment in the theatre roles I secured. However, television roles often didn’t meet my expectations. While some were satisfactory, others conflicted with my teaching schedule. Television operates on a trimester system, spanning six months with 12-hour shooting every other day, which I couldn’t commit to due to my teaching responsibilities.

In contrast, theatre allowed for better coordination with my classes, featuring longer preproduction periods compared to television’s shorter commitments.

Regarding films, success is unpredictable. There’s no fixed formula, and various genres have seen unexpected hits, such as “Maula Jatt” or “Ittefaq.” These successes don’t always adhere to traditional filmmaking rules. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed “Maula Jatt”; it was immensely entertaining and worth the investment. Yet, other well-made films failed to capture audience interest. For instance, during the screening of “Gunjal,” my wife, I, and one more person were watching the film the entire cinema was empty.

In India, film releases often draw significant crowds. It’s disheartening that despite the quality of some films, like “Gunjal,” there’s a lack of interest. Previously, Indian movies attracted large audiences in Pakistan, alongside local films. However, there’s been a decline in footfall recently.

Fawad Khan

Are there any specific directors, actors, or mentors who have greatly influenced your craft, and if so, how?

At NAPA, I learned a lot from the expertise of Khalid Sahib and Zain Ahmed, particularly in the practical aspects of theatre and Acting through the Stanislavsky method. Years later, a play directed by Gregory Thomson helped solidify my understanding. One scene even required me to perform a daring jump!

Naseerudin Shah Sahib’s workshop during a NAPA festival opened a world of exploration; even two days aren’t enough to become a master. Observing others like him, with immense depth, is invaluable. Ali Junejo, despite not attending drama school, is an amazing artist. He possesses acting depth, writing talent, and even a musical side. I met him during a play directed by Sunil, whose relentless pursuit of excellence inspires me to push further.

In writing, dramatists have been a major source of inspiration, particularly Intezar Sahib. He challenged the Western-influenced storytelling approach and advocated for a return to traditional styles like fables and love stories, as exemplified by Chekhov’s work. Zain Ahmed deserves the most credit for encouraging my writing. He saw potential in a half-hour synopsis I presented during a quiet period and even approved an earlier play I wrote.

In your opinion, what role do theatre and film play in shaping societal attitudes and fostering dialogue about important issues in Pakistan?

Gatherings fuel discussion, sparking both positive and negative impacts. Artistic expression, like someone playing the sitar, fosters a sense of community by drawing people together. Similarly, social or political discourse can have a profound effect on the audience.

Intezar Hussain Sahib captures the power of storytelling in his reference to Scheherazade in “Alif Laila”. Facing execution, she spins tales that not only save her life but also captivate the king. This highlights the enduring strength of stories, even in times of hardship. However, mastering this art requires dedication, not a single night’s effort.

What advice would you give to aspiring actors in Pakistan who are looking to pursue a career in theatre and film?

Drama schools offer a valuable launchpad for aspiring actors. They provide not only training but also crucial networking opportunities. For those who can’t attend a drama academy, assisting in productions is a great alternative, allowing them to learn by observing and working alongside professionals.

However, the world of theatre and film is demanding. Unlike the instant gratification some expect, it requires dedication and perseverance. Those who arrive solely seeking fame often get overwhelmed by reality and quickly leave.

So, how do we bridge this gap and cultivate the necessary passion?

The answer lies in fostering a collaborative environment and teaching aspiring actors to handle the challenges. As Zia Sahib aptly said, “If there’s no passion, don’t come.”

NAPA exemplifies this beautifully. Many students arrive motivated, and witnessing their hard work and subsequent growth is truly inspiring. Seeing peers transform and dedicate themselves for years instead of months is a testament to the transformative power of passion.

How does your experience as an actor inform your approach to writing, and vice versa? How do these dual roles influence each other in your creative process?

Acting and directing have both significantly enriched my writing. Through acting, I learned the importance of dramatic analysis. As an actor, you understand that a character’s goal is often a matter of life and death – that’s where the drama lies. It’s about identifying what works and what doesn’t in terms of dialogue and delivery. Asad Mohammad Khan’s masterful use of language flow exemplifies this brilliantly.

Directing, on the other hand, instilled in me the importance of considering performance space. A play written for an open-air theatre, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily translate well to a basement setting. Imagine trying to stage Herald’s Chekhov adaptation outdoors – it wouldn’t have the same impact. In contrast, Shakespeare’s plays often thrive in open-air environments.

Can you share a moment when your experiences as an actor inspired a particular storyline or character in your writing?

My work sometimes draws inspiration from existing plays. For instance, there’s a specific situation in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” that I’ve reimagined in my play “Chup”. Interestingly, the original situation itself originated in Henrik Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck.” This highlights how stories can be retold in new ways with fresh interpretations and execution.

What unique perspectives and insights do you believe actors bring to the craft of screen and on stage, and how does this enrich the storytelling process?

An actor’s job is to bring the character to life, not romanticize the role. Just like a skilled pizza delivery person ensures the pie arrives hot and fresh, an actor’s focus should be on flawlessly executing their part. This dedication applies to all performances, be it film, stage, or any other medium. In a production, numerous talented individuals contribute – writers, directors, costume designers – and the actor’s job is to seamlessly integrate their performance with these elements.

From where did you get your formal academic education and what is the name of the institution you completed your theatre education degree, what were the subjects you majored in theatre?

After completing my education at Saint Jude’s and Government Degree College in Gulshan, I pursued my bachelor’s degree from Karachi University. My artistic journey took a significant turn at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), where I honed my skills in directing and acting. I majored in direction from NAPA. During my time at NAPA, I immersed myself in various aspects of theater, gaining invaluable experience and knowledge that continues to shape my career today.

Could you share a bit about your relationship with your siblings, and whether any of them share your passion for the arts or have played a role in shaping your career?

Our diverse passions—my sister’s love for traditional poetry and my brother and I sharing satisfaction with film—reflected our unique personalities and fostered a bond built on appreciating each other’s viewpoints. While neither of them pursued careers in acting or writing, I found the freedom to explore my own artistic path as an actor.

Fawad Khan

Family often plays a significant role in one’s life and career. How has your family supported your pursuits in the entertainment industry, and what is the name of the honorable personality who inspired you to become a storyteller?

My artistic journey wasn’t a linear path. While my father, who harbored his own media aspirations, readily supported my application to NAPA with a simple, “Let him do it,” my mother was initially hesitant. After NAPA, the freedom of an artist’s mind sometimes clashed with concerns at home, though overall, there was a general sense of acceptance.

My passion for storytelling, however, bloomed much earlier. In eighth grade, Shakespeare’s “Tales from Shakespeare” captivated me, even though I didn’t understand English well. Thanks to my cousin’s translations into Urdu, the stories came alive. This period also introduced me to Ghalib’s poetry, thanks to my grandfather’s treasured collection gifted by my grandmother.

Living in Karachi, a vibrant cultural hub must offer unique experiences for someone involved in the creative arts. How does the city influence your work and creative perspective?

Our surroundings deeply influence who we are. This principle extends to crafting characters. While I don’t focus on minute details like exact arrival times, the key elements of the character’s environment are essential.

Take “Twelve Angry Men” for example. Each juror’s backstory, from the time spent deliberating to the stifling heat in the room, contributes to their behavior. Understanding their daily lives outside the courtroom, including their occupations and potential chronic conditions, helps explain their irritability and fatigue.

In essence, research becomes crucial for building a complete character. By understanding their routine, personality traits, and physical limitations, we can create well-rounded individuals who react authentically to their environment.

As an actor how do you prepare yourself mentally for each role u take on especially one with deep emotional content?

In the realm of scriptwriting, embodying characters is a fundamental skill that breathes life into the narrative. It’s about stepping into the shoes of your characters, understanding their thoughts, motivations, and emotions, and expressing them authentically through their dialogue and actions.

Understanding the Character’s Perspective, The first step in embodying a character is to thoroughly grasp their perspective. This involves comprehending their background, beliefs, values, and experiences that shape their worldview. It’s about understanding what drives them, what they fear, and what they aspire to achieve.

A powerful technique to embody a character is to adopt their persona. This involves speaking, acting, and thinking as if you were the character. It’s about immersing yourself in their mindset, feeling their emotions, and experiencing the world through their eyes.

Embodying characters can be a challenging yet rewarding process. It demands a willingness to step outside your comfort zone and explore unfamiliar emotional territories. However, the rewards are immense, as it allow you to create characters that resonate with audiences, leaving a lasting impact on their minds and hearts.

Fawad Khan

A Journey of Growth as an Actor

Can you share any memorable experiences and challenges you faced while working on a particular project, both in film and theatre?

Theater is a constant learning experience, and my journey has been filled with both challenges and triumphs. One such challenge involved portraying characters significantly older than myself. Capturing their specific body language, mannerisms, and subtle nuances demanded dedicated practice. Initially, it felt daunting, but with perseverance, I steadily narrowed the gap between myself and the character.

Another significant learning experience came with Harold Pinter’s play “Betrayal.” The play’s non-linear structure, jumping between years like 1980, 1984, and 1985, demanded a deep understanding of the script and the character’s evolving journey. Here, portraying a book editor reading a story eerily similar to his own life pushed me further. The seamless blend of fact and fiction within the book, as if written by his son, created a constant internal struggle to discern reality from fabrication. This role, in Ariel Dorfman’s play “Death and the Maiden” directed by Sunil, proved to be a complex and rewarding exploration of identity and perception.

If these characters were written for a film?

While film acting offers advantages like time for reflection and flexible body language choices, stage acting presents unique challenges that hone an actor’s skill set. Portraying characters consistently across multiple performances requires a deep understanding of their motivations and a commitment to physical embodiment.

Harold Pinter’s work exemplifies this challenge. Grasping the non-linear structure and emotional subtleties of his plays demands an intense focus on script analysis and character development. While I’m constantly learning and growing in this area, the complexity of Pinter’s characters pushes me to new levels of artistry.

Could you describe a project where you wore all three hats and discuss the unique challenges and rewards of juggling these responsibilities simultaneously?

Every piece of knowledge you possess contributes to your acting arsenal, especially when you understand how to draw connections between them. The more you practice, the more you learn, and the richer your toolkit becomes. Reading plays, like Shakespearean works known for their large casts, provides invaluable insights. These plays showcase the unique dynamic of multiple characters interacting simultaneously.

In these situations, handling multiple roles presents a fascinating challenge. Unlike film, where scenes can be reshot, stage-acting demands complete focus on the present moment. You can’t direct while acting – your focus must be solely on inhabiting the character and responding authentically to your fellow actors. This intense awareness creates a parallel to a football player on the field. Just as a player knows their boundaries but focuses on the goal, an actor’s focus shifts towards their fellow actor and their impact on the scene.

However, the line blurs when acting and directing combine. Seeing the “bigger picture” while staying present in the role becomes a complex juggling act. Unlike directors who can observe their actors, self-observation becomes a difficult feat while performing. This multitasking can be truly challenging, highlighting the importance of dedicating your focus to the moment at hand.

How do you know if your writing is ready for publication?

While acting provides a steady income, writing holds a special place in my heart. I’m actively working on developing my writing skills, and I understand it requires discipline and time commitment.

Like any art form, writing takes practice and perseverance. I find rewriting drafts an essential part of the process, allowing me to refine my voice and strengthen my content.

Knowing when your writing is “good enough” can be a challenge. Sharing my work with trusted readers has been instrumental in gaining confidence. Their feedback helps me identify areas for improvement, while their positive reactions validate my efforts.

Ultimately, I find immense satisfaction in the act of writing itself. When I explore ideas and create something expressive, it’s personally rewarding. While external validation is always appreciated, the intrinsic enjoyment fuels my continued pursuit of growth as a writer.

When taking on the roles of writer, director, and actor in a single project, how do you effectively integrate the insights from each perspective while maintaining a cohesive vision?

Wearing the hats of writer, actor, and director for my recent short film was an exhilarating adventure. It pushed my limits, but the final product wouldn’t be the same without the incredible team that supported me.

I’m incredibly grateful to my team for their meticulous attention to detail and their ability to seamlessly translate my vision onto the screen. Their dedication and talent elevated the film in ways I couldn’t have achieved alone.

What does success mean to you?

For me, success is a beautiful balance between financial security and artistic freedom. Having a comfortable financial cushion allows me to focus on my art without constant worry. It means being able to choose projects based on passion rather than solely on financial need. This peace of mind frees me to explore my creativity and push artistic boundaries.

Appreciation for my work is incredibly motivating. While imposter syndrome might whisper doubts, external validation fuels my artistic journey. Recognition allows me to connect with others who resonate with my art, creating a sense of community and purpose.

However, I believe recognition should reflect the quality of the work. While some success may come from even “mediocre work,” true artistic fulfillment comes from striving for excellence and constantly pushing myself to improve.

Ultimately, success means having the freedom to create art that is meaningful to me. Financial security provides the foundation, and recognition fuels the fire, but it’s the ability to express myself authentically that brings me the deepest sense of satisfaction.