Faisal Rehman (film and television celebrity) the man who started acting at the age of 14 and made his debut in Nazrul-Islam’s play in the year 1980 along with the famous Shabnam as the leading lady, and the lady who leads him on in the play —- and subsequently this led him into the career he adopted in real life.
He was their studying at St. Anthony’s High School, Lahore. “I didn’t know that this was going to become my bread and butter. I actually wanted to be a diplomat, perhaps have joined the Foreign Service, I believe life would have been simpler then,” says Faisal. At the same time he does not regret the path he had has chosen, “This is what I did and since I don’t know anything else, I can’t say what would have been better for me,” said Faisal candidly.
However, after his first play he did not want to continue acting, “I hated the pressure, the timelessness of it; as if I was coming from a home where my mother was more or less like a walking, talking clock. I don’t like taking things seriously as I feel once you do this; you forget to find enjoyment in what you do.
For me I have to enjoy what I do, I don’t like working under pressure.” Nevertheless, fate had something else in store for him, “I had to continue because of my family’s financial constraints. I got twenty thousand for the first serial and after that I started charging the same as Shabnam and all the other actors.” Seeing how fate led him towards his destiny, he has a very interesting take on it, “Fate and destiny, everybody loves to believe in, as it’s convenient. Life would be too dull and boring without all these mysterious forces,” he commented.
I couldn’t help asking where his good looks come from. Again the dimple appeared, transforming him into a twenty year old boy, and he said, “Well, I’m a blue-blooded, Persian speaking Afghan.” He hails from the famous Mohammadzai clan of Kabul, who ruled that country for over a decade.
His ancestors migrated to Pakistan in 1905. “I’m so glad we shifted as when the British invaded Kabul, they killed all the members of the ruling family,” he told me. His uncle and his father went to India to try their hand at acting. “My father couldn’t make it as his voice was too husky and unsuitable for films. However, my uncle succeeded in becoming a renowned actor. His name was Rehman, who appeared in films like Sahab Biwi Aur Ghulam, Nargis and Khaghaz Kay Phool,” said Faisal.
A very surprising revelation is that after twelve years into his acting career, Faisal packed his bags one fine day and took off for Canada. “I just got bored and was feeling that life was becoming stagnant. That was one decision of my life that I feel was the turning point.
Five years in that country taught me a lot,” he told me. “It was a blast, my work was partying and having fun! This was a very refreshing trip as when I came back, I had new ideas and my thinking was creative.” In addition to learning French in Canada, this hunk is fluent in Persian, English, Punjabi and Urdu.
However, once he got back he returned to acting, “I realised that there was nothing else I could do, and like all Paki men I’m lazy. Acting always came naturally to me.” The reason why he decided to come back to Pakistan was because after a while he missed his mother, his land and his city.
His view about his work and profession is extremely interesting; “I have never till this day taken my work seriously. Where we go wrong is when we start taking our lives and our work too seriously. One has to learn to let go; as they say, when you make mistakes you learn, once you let go of the pressure you grow and excel in your work.”
Similarly he feels human beings have started taking themselves far too seriously, “They have forgotten to laugh at themselves, everything for them has become too serious, they need to take a chill-pill,” mocked Faisal and continued, “Nothing really great is ever going to happen to any one of us, but this is my life and I have to love and make the most of the little moments I have. So, people here need to just relax. What if they say or do something wrong, it’s not the end of the world and who cares what people think. They are bound to be judgemental anyways.”
Furthermore he feels that people should not be judged for their personal preferences, “One is good or bad because of what he does in the world, and his personal life cannot turn him into a good or an evil person. If people still want to be judgemental, let them!” laughed Faisal. I could not help wondering how he managed to look so young, and as if reading my mind he added candidly with a smile, “A lot of people ask me why I look so young and I always tell them; break away from the monotony in your life.
Do and experience new things. Stay happy and do things that give you pleasure, go to the gym.” Plus, he proudly admitted that he loved his bachelor life, “I would advise everyone to remain single, you can get up and do anything, shift to another country, go anywhere without having to worry about kids and wives.”
The one thing that he doesn’t like is the pseudo-intellectual people, or ‘so-do-intellectuals’, as he calls them. “They pretend they know all, but they know nothing! With their zero-numbered glasses and talking about politics and pretending they know it all! On the other hand these liberals, try to impose their views on people! They all need to realise that the spice of life is not becoming and thinking alike, it’s the diversity; it’s the difference in perception and views.
But, all of them are too busy talking and have failed to listen. I term these liberals as fundamentalists, as they are also trying to force their ideas on people. We are all different and we should celebrate it rather than shun it!”
The one person in his career that taught him a lot was Babra Sharif. He stated that one person that he feels is a great actress today and whom he is extremely fond of is Nadia Jamil. “I love her for the person she is! She is who she is and for being an extremely genuine person, at the same time she is an excellent actress,” he commented Faisal.
He came across as an extremely positive and vivacious person. The reason for this he claimed is, “That I’m still a child at heart. My mind understands things and is prone towards futuristic ideologies, but there is a part of me that refuses to grow and is stubborn and angry, I have probably inherited this anger from my Afghan genes.
I can never be on guard when I’m talking, I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal if you say something wrong!” He feels people are constantly pretending. “I can’t bear to have a conversation with the people from the party crowd for more than five minutes; they are so pretentious and superficial! There is nothing wrong with partying, but sadly people have become more self-indulgent and have stopped working.
Fun is good and healthy, but you have to achieve something in life. It’s sad that in all these years not one actor has come up who could have taken my place. It’s good for me, but by now some new young talent should have come up and replace me. That’s how a country and their people progress,” he stated.
“I also like going into a vegetable state, where I’m just eating, sleeping and not thinking at all. This state of nothingness regenerates one’s soul and mind.” As we were deeply engrossed in our conversation, a chocolate mousse cake arrived with compliments from the management. “It would have been more exciting if some cute person had sent it,” laughed Faisal.
We dug into the cake and resumed our conversation. “Art is rubbish! The world has given it a limited meaning. Anything that you cage in boundaries will not evolve. Art has become a commodity like cigarettes, whereas it should have helped people to be more imaginative and feel free to explore anything and nothing in the world. I hate it when people say my work is art! It’s not that I hate art work. Art is freedom! The absolute freedom of expression and ideas.” opined Faisal.
The future of the Pakistani Cinema, he feels will only survive if they concentrate on Punjabi movies, as Punjab here and in India is huge and has a lot of business potential, that is if a policy is introduced that allows at least a few films to be shown in India and vice-versa.
However, he compared India and Pakistan with Hollywood and the British cinema respectively. “India is making a lot of commercial films and most of it is rubbish, very little good stuff is coming out of there. All our current commercial actors and directors’ should shift to India, then perhaps young, different directors will come up in Pakistan and then we can become like Britain producing less, but quality work.
I don’t know why we look up to these Indians; we are a better looking and more intelligent race. I hate it and its demeaning when people here make such a big fuss about Indians and they sit in their country and laugh at us for being such idiots.”
His future plans include a film which will be about India and Pakistan’s historical characters. “I want to make a comedy where I will be making fun of all these characters and show people how important it is to laugh at themselves,” says Faisal. Another project that he wants to start is that he wants to teach young people how to act, “I want them to give me six months of their life and just listen and observe what I teach them.
I will then cast the ones with actual talent and a drive and passion to learn in my plays. We have to learn there is a lot more than a face and womens’ body parts. That’s what everybody has just become obsessed with, and the Indian cinema has made their woman naked.” Most importantly he wants to write his own plays where he can depict human emotions as he sees them. “There are so many more stories in this land than the monotonous ones we keep showing on television,” he stated. Indeed all too true.
He loves reading and is not particularly fond of music. “I’m more of a pub person than a club person.” He quipped. Among his favourite writers are Qurat-ul-Ain Haider, Khushwant Singh, Manto and Sara Suleri. Among others are Ram Lal, Bridget Jones and DH Lawrence.
One message that Faisal felt he must give before we signed off is that South Asian women have the upper hand in this society. “They give the impression that they are the underdogs, but they are the ones who have the men where they want them.
They are smart, shrewd and use their sexuality to their benefit. I’m not denying the fact that there are stories of them being battered and mistreated, but men get mistreated also. Our women are smarter then the Western woman. Men know they cannot survive without them,” he opined.
I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Faisal as he was a breath of fresh air. He had definite viewpoints and was confident about voicing them. “I am the way I am and very comfortable within my skin,” grinned the legend as we headed out towards our cars.