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Spotlight: Salman Shahid

Salman Shahid is an actor who has worked for both television and stage, and is known for his efforts to keep the theatre tradition in the country alive. He started his acting career while he was still in college, and was one of the founding members of the dramatics club of the Government College Lahore.

It is not surprising that Salman got involved with acting as it was in his genes. His mother, Khursheed Shahid, was a well-known actress, and his father Salim Shahid produced programmes for the BBC in England. The actor became known for his brilliant performances in comic roles. His mother, on the contrary, was known for her memorable tragic roles.

Among his comic roles, the most famous ones are in the plays Tal Matol, Teen Bata Teen and Ho Bahoo. Few might know that the actor has penned a TV play as well, titled Bano Ko Pehchano. The movie Khamosh Pani starred a few Pakistani actors including Salman, along with their Indian counterparts.

Talking about music, the actor says that his taste in music has followed a path different from the usual. “I used to like classical music in my childhood, probably because that was what I would often listen to as it was often played around me,” he says. But as he grew up, he started liking pop and jazz more. Among the classical singers, he confesses liking Chotey Ghulam Ali and Roshan Ara Begum. While among the pop and jazz singers, he likes Frank Sinatra, Rod Steward, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Bee Gees.

However, he doesn’t like Shakira much. Atif Aslam, Fuzon and Sajjad Ali are some of his favourites among the new generation of singers and groups. One wonders if his list of favourite singers includes any Indian singers. He says it does. “The two singers that I would like to mention are Mohammad Rafi and Talat Mehmood,” he says after a little pause.

According to Salman, fusion in music is not something new. It has been a process well in practice for many decades in the Subcontinental music. “It had been a deliberate effort on part of the musicians to fuse Western music with the Eastern one,” he says while trying to explain it to me. “If you see Nusrat Fateh Ali he tried to introduce a new genre of music by blending the earlier two forms of music” he gives an example.

When asked to define music, he describes it to be “The earliest form of art to have existed and survived the test of time by continuously altering its form.” He adds after a short pause, “The most interesting fact about it is that is has a language of its own.”

To him, even if there are no words to accompany the rhythm, he would still enjoy the music to the fullest. He opines that literature is restricted by the knowledge of language, however, music knows no boundaries as such. He also believes that a melody can spark emotions in a person which a book might fail to create.

Surprising as it might appear to many, the fact is that Shahid’s favourite genre of music is pop. “Not only it is very digestible but also at times one finds that the lyrics carry some sense,” he opines.

He points out that ghazals, for instance, are rarely written in contemporary language and are usually in archaic ones, thus they can be difficult to understand by everyone. What he further likes about pop music is that it comments on everyday life subjects, be it romance or politics.

The actor is somewhat choosy when it comes to movies. He approves of films that are basically romantic comedies, based on social issues or mystery ones. Among the mystery movies he clarifies that he has enjoyed not many apart from Alfred Hitchcock’s flicks.

He doesn’t like horror movies as they fail to horrify him at all. He can watch some of the commercial movies such as the Rocky series, however, he doesn’t approve of the movie Rainbow by Sylvester Stallone.

The actor prefers to watch movies at home on his DVD player. The only movie that he ventured out to see in cinema was Taj Mahal, a few days ago. The actor amusingly reveals that he thought it best to leave the theatre after the first 10 minutes for the fear of being disappointed by the rest of the movie. Shahid reveals that he has a personal collection of his favourite movies on DVD.

The actor comments that some of the actors from Hollywood that are not rated as good are doing a better job than some of the well-known Indian and Pakistani actors.

One of the movies that he liked very much is Tunes of Glory starring Alec Guinness – his favourite actor. Dustin Hoffman and Russell Crowe are some of the other actors that Shahid approves of. Apart from that, Charlie Chaplin is one of his most adored performers and Gregory Peck is not far behind too.

Among the actresses he names Cathleen Hepburn, Helen Hunt, Jodie Foster and Winona Ryder as the ones he likes. Talking about the Indian thespians, he mentions Balraj Sihani and Naseeruddin Shah as two actors he regards highly.

He names Firdous Jamal and Roohi Bano to be the performers who have excelled in their art. Italian director Federico Fellini, a critically acclaimed director, is praised by Salman for his movie Roma.

The interesting fact that Shahid reveals about himself is that he can tell if the movie is worth watching by looking at the posters and movie stills displayed on cinema walls. Though not always correct, he is accurate nine out of ten times.

He is mostly presented with books as gifts and, therefore, doesn’t need to buy many. He enjoys reading poetry, plays and fiction. Salman names Dostoevsky and Luigi Pirandello as his favourite playwrights. He recalls Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello to be the play that he enjoyed reading thoroughly. He describes T.S. Elliot as the poet whose compilations enchant him more than that of any other poet.

The reason he gives for not having any particular taste for Urdu poetry is that he cannot grasp it the way he can understand English poetry. Apart from Elliot, the actor has also fondness for Wallace Stevens’ poetry.

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