With the mushrooming of TV channels, one hardly finds anything that deviates from the normal, run-of-the-mill dramas and shows, leave alone comedy plays and sitcoms. In such a scenario, only a handful of actors have been able to make their presence felt, such as Adeel Hashmi, Ahmed Butt and Faisal Qureshy. Salman Saquib (Mani), who started his career with interviewing people on the streets, share the fame with actors mentioned above, and like them he is involved in a variety of things ranging from writing scripts to acting in sitcoms.
The fact that his father is an artiste as well, never really inspired him to become an actor in his early days. In fact, he indulged more in sports. “I was the captain of my college hockey team,” he says in his usual style. Mani wanted to become a sportsman, but it was his sheer luck that he opted out of it. He also agrees that he would never have been able to become a famous sportsman. “You can only excel in the work that you have an inborn talent of, and acting was in my blood,” he says with a laughter.
Answering the question how did he end up in the glamour world if was never fond of it, he explains that he began with writing scripts for the programme Boom Boom Bastic, with his friend Mujtaba (whom he calls Muji), which was aired on PTV. After some time when he became the programme designer of the show, one of the guys who had to conduct the On the Street segment was missing. So they asked Mani if he could do it instead and he said yes. That’s how his career took off. After that he did a sitcom Sub Set Hai, which was very well received by the audiences. What appealed to the public about it was that it talked about the youth, it’s trends and diction, and that made it easier for them to relate to it. “I did it because I always thought that acting was not a big deal at all,” he explains.
Mani believes he is very honest and blunt and says that his favourite pastime is chatting with girls on the telephone, and confesses himself to be a complete telephone freak. Apart from the telephone, his other hobby is to watch sports programmes. “However, work comes first in my priority list,” he says, trying to clear his position.
Mani loves watching movies. “ I would watch any movie as long as it is ‘good’. There is no criteria attached to it. It doesn’t have to be critically acclaimed.” However, the movies which do not cater to his taste are those based on psychopaths as well as some British art movies. Sholey, Forrest Gump, Green Nile and Ocean Eleven are movies that stand among his favourites.
If asked to name only one of his most loved movies, he names Forrest Gump. The story as well as the performance of its lead actor, Tom Hanks, captivated him. Only two of the Pakistani movies have left their mark on him — Aaina and Bandish, and that is probably because he used to listen to their songs being played on radio.
Though Mani has been to cinema houses quite often, he has never seen a Pakistani film on the silver screen. He is very critical about Pakistani cinema houses.
When asked if he has any plans to act in a movie, he replies in the affirmative. Neither any Pakistani director has offered him to do a film yet, nor does Mani find Pakistani films good enough to work in. Therefore, Mani is these days thinking about working in a Bollywood movie. Talking about the actors whom he admires, he names Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell. There have been two Pakistani actors that he considers the best — Munawar Zarief and Nanna. Responding to the question regarding his favourite actresses, after a bit of reluctance he recalls the names of Kajol, Rani Mukherji and Cameron Diaz.
To Mani music is something that takes him to the dream world. Daydreaming is something he is very fond of. Billy Joel, U2 and Paul Simon are the western singers that he loves listening to. Michael Jackson is what he describes as a phenomenon. “Michael Jackson is such a personality that even in Pakistan if he appears before the common man, he would recognize him, whereas if a lead singer of any other mainstream western group stands amidst a big crowd, no one will recognize him,” he says.
Among the Indian singers Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi are his favourites, while Sonu Nigam is the sole singer from the new generation that he likes.
Coming to the Pakistani music scene, he believes Najam Shiraz is the best, as he sings live as good as while recording a song. What he admires about Noori is their lyrics. Nayyara Noor and Tina Sani he admits to be the top Pakistani female singers.
Books are not his cup of tea at all. He, in fact, hasn’t read any since he was 18 or 19 years old. Interestingly, the last book that he read was that of Inspector Jamshed series, written by Ishtiaq Ahmed. Books, Mani thinks, bring sophistication and knowledge to one’s life, but he cannot compel himself to read any, for it demands patience. “I have bought many books but I have given them to my friend Muji, as he loves to read books. I once tried to read a book, but I couldn’t read more than half of them, and I got fed up with them,” he reveals.
With respect to the idea that acquiring knowledge is important in life, he says, “I have a certain criteria about my life and ambitions. The same is with books and education. I have to relate with the masses and my style and persona is of the kind that the common man can easily relate to it. “I can watch movies based on movies but can’t read them.”