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Spotlight: Babrek Shah

Babrek Shah is the proverbial boy next door warm, friendly, minus any hang-ups or starry tantrums. Despite being veteran Pukhtun film actor Tariq Shah’s son, he suffers from no delusions about his life and career and believes in being practical. He also has an inherent ability to take things in stride.

Performing in two mega-budget films Ajab Gul’s Kyun Tum Se Itna Pyar Hai and Reema’s Koi Tujh Sa Kahan in a row at a time when there are hardly any new films being released is something big for a newcomer like Babrek. And in order to find out how he has managed this, Images got hold of him for a detailed chat.

“Being a star’s son definitely gives you an edge over others,” says Babrek whose foray has not been a difficult one due to Tariq Shah’s strong foothold in the entertainment industry.

On the other hand, he claims that in the performing arts it’s one’s work that helps carve a niche and not the bankable names of parents. “But only in the sense that you don’t have to sit around twiddling your thumbs while waiting for a chance. In order to survive in the industry, it’s the quality of work that counts.

If you don’t have talent then no matter how many big names back you, you are nowhere at the end of the day. Those who want to make it big should be able to do justice to the honour of the names backing them.”

‘Being a star’s son definitely gives you an edge over others. But only in the sense that you don’t have to sit around twiddling our thumbs while waiting for a chance. In order to survive in the industry, it’s the quality of work that counts,’ says Babrek

Babrek says that for his debut film he had to go through the grind before eventually making it to the cast of Ajab Gul’s Kyun Tum Se Itna Pyar Hai. “From screen tests of fight to dance sequences, I was literally tested for everything.

But despite having good terms with my father, Ajab Gul didn’t spare me and it was only after he was fully satisfied that I can carry the role well that he finally signed me on. Two days later, I was offered Reema’s Koi Tujh Sa Kahan as well. Needless to say I was thrilled,” he says.

Considering that Tariq Shah has worked in Pashto films almost all his life, Babrek was naturally asked why he didn’t choose a Pashto film to stage his debut. “I agree it would have been a much safer platform to initiate my career from because of less competition.

I have no problems with Pashto films, and as a child star I have worked in a number of films which became hits. But regional cinema has its own limitations and it cannot be compared with its national counterpart.

For my debut I thought it would be better to take the initiative from Urdu cinema which has a lot more acceptance and larger viewership. Also, when one starts work from regional cinema he/she is branded as a regional artiste. I was offered Punjabi films, too, but I waited for an Urdu film to stage a safe landing.”

Babrek has entered the film industry at a time when it is passing through its worst phase. Hardly any productions of merit are coming to the floors and nobody is even bothered to take the risk when there is no hope of even breaking financially even.

He feels that the technical areas of film-making are the most neglected and also the main reason behind the downfall. “They need to be addressed without further delay. The influx of satellite channels has made our audience quite sharp in that anything less than their expectations is not acceptable to them.

Quite frequently, I have noticed people sitting in the cinema halls point out loopholes and flaws in the story, editing or other areas, and laugh at them. It’s because our film-makers have remained ignorant of the increasing demand of the industry.

The equipment we have was discarded by our neighbouring film-makers eons ago. How can we even think of producing anything of reasonable quality in the absence of basic infrastructure,” he asks.

In both of his films, Babrek has got a chance to work with senior film artistes. How did he feel working with veterans such as Nadeem, Talat Hussain, Reema and Moammar Rana? “A newcomer has nothing to loose and everything to gain.

The opportunity of working with them was something really, really big for me. We don’t have any institutions to learn from and so our seniors are the only possible source for guidance. I had a great time and the experience has made me more focused and determined.”

Babrek also has high hopes for his role in Sangeeta’s upcoming venture, Tarap. “Sangeeta is really giving the film a major chunk of her time and attention. She is working with every newcomer and as a result, many directors who only used to work with a routine cast have now signed Ali Tabish, Shamyl Khan and me.”

After two films, Babrek says he is not on a signing spree. To be acclaimed as a good performer is his first precedence. “I don’t want to sign everything coming my way. I want to be known as an artiste who can make the audience return to the cinemas.

I aim to perform well and offer versatility. Right now I’m getting good roles with great scripts that’s what matters to me the most. I don’t want to be wasted in inane roles.”

He feels that it’s very difficult to cultivate an image and once established, retain it. “Unfortunately, nobody has tried to establish the concept of stardom but I want to practically contribute in defining it. I’ve not signed any more movies so far.

Talat Hussain advised me that if one develops expertise in one’s field then money comes automatically and there’s no need to run after it. I agree with him. I think little sacrifices sometimes promise bigger rewards and one should not be overtly anxious.”

Presently, Babrek is busy recording for television and has a number of projects. Recently he completed a soap for a private channel in which he co-stars with the bubbly Nadia Khan.

Then there is the serial with director Shahid Noor to be shot in Australia. Producer Mohammad Nafees has also signed him on for a serial.

So isn’t working for the small screen a threat for his big-screen image? “In the past cinema was considered to be something really big but today television has an impact of its own.
If anything has invaded the privacy of our bedrooms then it is none other than television.”

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