Focalpoint: Natural born actor
It may have taken him a few years to establish himself as the lead in TV plays, but Ahsan Khan has flourished into one of the most bankable actors around. The heartthrob with boyish looks and youthful charms was recently voted as Viewer’s Choice for Best Actor at the recent PTV Awards. “Winning the award (for Tera Pyar Nahin Bhoolay) was a big achievement considering I was pitted against the likes of veterans Javed Sheikh, Noman Ejaz and Babar Ali. Rafiq Warraich congratulated me for winning a PTV award at a young age,” he says.
From a film actor with happy feet, he has transformed into a polished performer, a trusted TV host, an actor par excellence and a natural choice for big-budget commercials. Be it the role of Adil in Vasl, Dawood/David in Parsa, Saleem in Dastaan or the negative character in Paani Jaisa Pyar, Ahsan excels in all. Add to these his dancing skills and you have an entertainer wanting to do so much more, “Most of the plays I have done have been part of Hum TV, who have done a great job in reviving the drama industry. As for the characters I have played, I had the margin to show my skills which is why I am somewhat satisfied with my innings on television so far.”
According to reliable sources, his play, Mere Qaatil Mere Dildar, was the second biggest hit after Humsafar whereas his performance in Mere Charagarh, Chat and Matay-i-Jaan (in which he had a guest appearance) were hailed as “outstanding”. Ahsan can currently be seen in Bilquees Kaur, Meri Ladli, Ainy Ki Aayegi Barat, Eimaan, Dil Se Dil Tak, and Babul. “I don’t want to be typecast, and that’s why I am open to challenging roles. Despite working for all TV channels in the country, I’m still learning. One of the projects is Yousuf Salli’s Heer Ranjha in which I play Ranjha and Shafqat Cheema plays Qaido. It’s a big-budget musical for TV and during the shooting I was bowled over by the awesome locations where the period play has been shot,” says Ahsan.
Does he ever regret leaving Lollywood for the small screen? “I switched to television when I lost all hope of film revival,” recalls the actor who ventured into films in the earlier part of the last decade. “That proved to be the right step for me because my career was going nowhere when I was associated with Lollywood. Despite working with the best directors in the trade, I failed to achieve the goals I had set for myself, and that’s where the switch to TV came in and helped me figure things out.”
Do TV dramas have what it takes to help his career grow in the right direction? “I believe so. We have managed to successfully battle out the influence of Indian soaps which seemed to have our drama industry in a tight grip. Now we are returning to intelligent plays and I’m going with the flow,” he says.
Any plans to return to the big screen? “I am currently involved in a couple of projects since it’s been a long time I last saw myself on the big screen. I have agreed to Faisal Bukhari’s Sultanat and Shehzad Rafique’s Ishq Khuda. Both are high-budget films, the best we can get in Lollywood. In Sultanat, I am paired alongside TV actress Mona Lisa and model ZQ while Ishq Khuda will be a musical film. In it, I will lip-sync to as many as eight songs by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan while the film will also serve as a comeback vehicle for Shazia Manzoor. Meera and Moroccan actress Wiam Ammar Dahmani play my love interests and I hope that it will be able to bring people back to cinemas. I just don’t want to repeat the mistake of going back to films and tarnishing my reputation with roles that don’t suit me at all.”
With talk of Lollywood, Bollywood is never far behind. Before I could frame the query, Ahsan came out with this novel suggestion, “I think we should not criticise the screening of Bollywood films in our cinemas because they do produce better work than us. If we want to compete, or give them a tough time, we should put aside the Gujjar connection and produce quality films, such as Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye and Bol. Otherwise, we should let both Iranian and French cinema battle it out with Bollywood. Why can’t we have their films — which are at par with Bollywood and at times even better — shown on our screens with subtitles/dubbing? It has been done in the past and it would give us a chance to revamp our industry as well.”
So is that his no to Bollywood? “Not really. Recently Deepti Naval invited me to India and narrated the story of her upcoming project. I signed it as I want to broaden my horizon as an actor. I have worked with Indian choreographer Saroj Khan in Ghar Kab Aao Gay, and she was impressed. I am still in touch with her as well as some other people in the Indian TV industry who want to cast me. If all goes well, I will do justice to the role(s) I’m offered.”
And then there is the Hollywood offer! “During a recent visit to the US, I met with a couple of Hollywood producers who were looking for actors from Pakistan for an upcoming political thriller. I even gave the audition, so let’s hope it turns out well. They also have a Pakistani actress on board and trust me, you will get to know about her in due time.”
Besides films and television, Ahsan opened up a clothing line outlet in Lahore recently. “I may not be an entrepreneur but with the help of my wife and some friends, I can become a success. My outlet bears my name and has casual wear for both men and women.”
Ahsan can also be seen hosting a religious quiz show for children once a year. What’s that all about? “I am proud of being a Muslim and whenever I get a chance, I like to do something to help people know about Islam. I hosted the quiz show Haye al as-Salat last year for a local TV channel and it was liked by all. God willing, I will be hosting it again this year during Ramazan.”
So how does it feel to be a celebrity when others his age are still struggling to find good roles? “It’s great when people recognise me and appreciate my work. Many fans didn’t accept me in a negative character in Paani Jaisa Pyar, but that’s the beauty of it, right?”
Ahsan wants to emulate veteran actor Nadeem Baig by playing a long, graceful innings. As for his favourite film actresses, he names Shabnam and Babra Sharif, and Vidya Balan from Bollywood. He considers Salman Shahid and Naseeruddin Shah as the best character actors on both sides of the Wagha border and feels that in the current lot, Ranbir Kapoor is doing best in Bollywood. When asked about his recent attempt to tackle the catwalk, Ahsan said, “Oh, that wasn’t planned but something that just happened. I had a great time at the ramp as they let me be myself. On screen, I play various characters, have to juggle mannerisms and dialogue delivery, while on the ramp it was Ahsan Khan who walked.”
Married to a woman he loves, together they now have two adorable kids. Ahsan says that becoming a husband and dad has changed his entire perspective towards acting, “In the beginning, I used to say yes to whatever roles were offered to me, but now I am selective. I’m glad to have reached that point in my career where I can accept or reject offers. I have worked with the best there is, and hope to continue doing so. My aim now is to do characters that are not run-of-the-mill and certainly out of the ordinary.”