In Lollywood history, once in a decade comes an actor who has the potential to become a superstar and Shamyl seems to fit this mantle most admirably. He is tall, fair and alarmingly handsome; the sort of person at whom one looks twice. But all these pluses don’t turn him into a snob or the type of star who throws tantrums. He is an energetic, enthusiastic, passionate and friendly man, who started his career from a hit movie Larki Punjaban and has proved his mettle in a very short span of time.
Shamyl Khan, born in Islamabad, was brought up in a well-known and educated family. Having a Turkish mother and a father who claims Central Asian descent, his personality seems to be a confluence of both. Talking about his family Shamyl says, “Our ancestors came from Central Asia and later they settled in Kashmir. After partition, my father migrated to Pakistan and he retired here as a federal secretary. We are four brothers and three sisters.
Two of my sisters are lawyers, while the third one is a doctor. One of my brothers is working in an oil company while another one is associated with BBC.” Before venturing into the field of showbiz, he had been working in the Schlumbergei Oil Company four years, but fate had other plans in store for him. Describing how his showbiz career started he says, “I came to Lahore with my family to celebrate the Basant festival and there by chance I met Syed Noor, who proved to be a godfather for me as he discovered the hidden talent in me. I was a very shy person and had never thought that I would become a star. Syed Noor signed me in five films. When I talked to my father about this, he encouraged me a lot. Mr. Tim, the manager of the oil company in which I was working encouraged me and supported me.
Albeit, I signed five movies with Syed Noor but things didn’t start at once. My father advised me to assist Syed Noor so that I could have some experience and learn something. I assisted Syed Noor for two years and behind the camera, I observed all the gauzy quirks and fripperies of the filmy world and learnt a lot about it, which helped me a lot before stepping into this field.” This has turned out to be an invaluable experience for Shamyl as he now realises what it means to look through the director’s eyes, understanding what directors expect from artists. “After two years, the moment I dreamt of came about: Syed Noor gave me the lead role in the film Larki Punjaban. It was a big moment in my life. It was a very great challenge for me to be offered the leading role in a big movie with the well-known stars but Syed Noor and the whole team facilitated and helped me a great deal. It was really a great experience for such a timid person like me,” he says.
He further adds, “Larki Punjaban became a nationwide success and helped the local industry get rid of the Gujjar and Badmash flicks that had been polluting the screen for sometime.” Larki Punjaban sans any doubt was a milestone in Shamyl Khan’s film career and Shamyl’s performance was most laudable for a first appearance. “I’m fortunate enough that I made my debut with something really great. Also it was a very important film for our industry, which is standing on the edge.”
For Shamyl, Syed Noor is like a role model, the one he draws his inspirations from. “Noor sahib has always chosen intense, talky ideas and projects, which suits his intellectual stance and that is what makes him prominent among his contemporaries. He is the only director in our film industry who is not afraid of experimenting new ideas and taking risks,” Shamyl describes.
Shamyl has so far worked in five movies that include Hasena, Hum Aik Hai, Sohna Yar Punjabi, Jism and Murder. Talking about Hum Aik Hai, he says, “It was a different movie as it addressed the important issue of sectarianism which is hindering our progress. I am satisfied with my work as so far I have worked in good films with a different plot.”
Shamyl hasn’t confined himself to the film industry and has acted in many plays as well. Talking about the play Sahiban Sheeshay Ka, he says, “I enjoyed working in that play. It was an important play for my career. It was also the first play of Iman Ali. I learned a lot while working with actors like Abid Ali.” He further adds, “My experience on television has helped me a lot in my acting career. Since we don’t have institutions that can groom aspiring actors, practical experience in the field is the only possible way we can polish and hone our skills.”
He has also been lucky with his foray into television as he clinched a role in the late Mohsin Ali and Haseena Moin’s serial Eik Naiy Mor Per. Talking about his upcoming projects he says, “I am doing a telefilm Kio Hota Hai Pyar. It is directed by Shahid Zahoor (he calls him the Syed Noor of Television). I am also acting in a comic movie Jhomar, directed by Syed Noor. My upcoming play would be Kharedar.” Shamyl thinks the best work he has done so far is the Ishq music video, which was directed by Shoaib Mansoor and featured Baba Bullay Shah’s mystical Sufi poetry. “That was a spiritual experience for me. It was something extraordinary and I’m really thankful to Shoaib Mansoor for considering me suitable for the project,” he maintains.
Explaining what kind of role he loves to play, he says, “I always give preference to roles that offer some substance. A good role to me is not just a meaty one, but also one that can create an impact, even if it’s just that of a character of short duration. I guess at this stage of my career people want me to show how versatile my acting ability is. So, I’m concentrating on choosing roles that are different than that of my previous work.”
When asked his opinion about Indian movies recently launched in Pakistan, he says “The outcome of these movies is before people. Now the generation does not want to watch such movies. They want new faces with new ideas, which is lacking in these films therefore they were unable to generate good business. I personally believe that Indian movies shouldn’t be released in Pakistani’s cinemas. As the two countries have different moral and cultural values. I admire the decision of President Pervaiz Musharraf for not allowing the release of Indian movies, because they would have a bad affect on our youth. And this must be stopped in any case whatsoever.”
Talking about the present condition of the film industry, he mentioned with a little disappointment, “The basic thing is that we lack educated people not only in the industry but also in our country. Education is the thing which can bring a big change in all fields. We have financers but we need good producer and educated directors.” He also pointed out the dilapidated condition of our cinema houses, saying, “Just look at the number of cinema houses we have presently in the country. If we compare them to India, they have double the number of theatres in every city.” He further stated, “Here people start doing anything at any time even if they have the required experience in that particular field or not. They just want to be jack of all trades but master of none.” He suggested, “We could revive our industry if artists refused to work in movies they felt didn’t offer anything sensible. Then the situation would be different. In a small industry like ours where only four or five leading artists feature prominently, if these actors turn down substandard movies, then that will definitely make an impact. The same policy should be adopted by leading directors.”
When he was asked whether he would work in Indian movies, he replied, “I am not interested in working in Indian movies and the Indians don’t need us. They have a big industry and there are many Indians on the list who want to work in their own movies. I don’t understand why we are so crazy about working in Indian movies. Just look at the artists who have gone to India, they have been humiliated as they were not given any lead role. I would work in Indian movies only if I felt that the role suited my caliber.”
Shamyl shares an interesting event that occurred with him and laughingly recalls a scene in which he had to curl a snake around his neck like a garland, “I still remember how disgusting it was. Initially, the snake fainted but when after a few moments I noticed a little movement in it. I got terrified and instantly tried to get rid of it. I unconsciously threw it towards the unit and the next thing was a hustle bustle on the whole set.” He also told us about a scene in which he got injured while saving the co-star Saima in a road scene.
Talking about his affairs he says, “I had an affair with a girl in Islamabad. She was the daughter of my father’s friend. That affair continued for four years. But when I joined showbiz, the girl deserted me. I thought that if she did not support me at the crucial moment of my career, how will she support me in bad times? So I also left her.”
“I am a very deep person and a good observer of things. I love solitude and seclusion. I have only one aim in life, i.e. I want to become a good human being. I believe this is the basic purpose for which we have been sent in this world,” Shamyl said sharing his vision of life with us.