Ali Kazmi – the Dreamer Who Didn’t Just Dream (Part 2)

By Rabia Mughni And Farah Haq
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“They may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one!”

John Lennon

Call FUCHSIA cliché and sentimental if you must, but we are willing to take on those labels this time. 

In our last feature, we delved into Ali Kazmi’s journey as an actor, starting from scratch after moving from Pakistan to Canada. When we did our interview, there was a lot more to be struck by than just the actor, though. Hearing how this story actually began left us in a dreamy-eyed state that romance like Romeo-Juliet and Laila-Mujnoo exists even today. (And we couldn’t keep this away from you, beloved readers.)

When Alizeh Khorasanee moved from Pakistan to Canada to study, little did she know that a young man by the name of Ali Kazmi was about to give life to Kahlil Gibran’s words that “Love known not its own depth until the hour of separation.” Ali knew Alizeh since he was a child. The separation from her made him realise how deeply he loved her, a love that compelled him to marry her and move to Canada to be with her. 

In today’s feature, we get Ali Kazmi’s take on life, love and growing up as the son of legendary names Rahat and Sahira Kazmi.

You did long-distance for a while – any advice for young couples in long-distance relationships?

My advice – don’t do it! Also, don’t grow up, it’s a trap! (laughs) Like most things, long distance relationships have advantages and disadvantages. They’re tough, but you do appreciate each other much more and you know for sure whether this is real or not; and whether you want to stay in it or not. I’m a hopeless old-school romantic so, to me, if you really feel like he/she is the one, then you know the future will be bright together. Also, you learn to communicate very well, as you tell each other all about your lives every day. The major disadvantage is you don’t see each other (everyday) but for the long run, I think if you love someone, then don’t lose them because of distance. Be patient, and the physical distance between people never needs to correspond to the real distance between them.

It all sounds lovely … and, so, Ali Kazmi definitely did not expect our next question, but had a gracious smile in his answer nonetheless.

The lovely couple.

Any bruised ego after the euphoria of love wore off? Your wife was far more settled in Canada than you. 

It all comes back to upbringing and environment. Thanks to my upbringing, a bruised ego is not part of my personality at all. I grew up in a very equal kind of household. My mom was also a strong figure, so was my father, and yet it was a very beautiful balance they maintained. That is something I have taken with me as a family man and a father. My wife is a brainiac and is great at what she does. Earning since I was 18 years old, here I was, married and had nothing to give to my wife. Luckily, she was very understanding. I went to film school and she was very patient. I am sure we had the occasional fight about “when will it begin?” but that was just frustration for a bit. I have to give her full credit because she did not pressurize me at all and gave me time.

How do you manage a family life when you are travelling so much? 

To be honest, every family faces some kind of stress; but in my case, the magic is that my wife and I, our understanding is quite loving. When you have known each other for so long, there really aren’t any secrets, she knows my next move before I do. She gives me great advice. We have a good system in terms of that when I am free, I have the whole month off. I am up with my son in the morning at 7am every day, trying to give it my best. These days, my mother-in-law is with us, so that is a huge help. Did I mention that the last few times I’ve travelled, our son Rafay has come with me, alone? 

It’s the 21st century, and now families have both parents working. My wife is an accountant so she has a (more regular) solid 9 to 5 job than me, so, half the time, I look after the house. Keeping a home tight and scheduled is a tough job in itself. I’ll tell you, my father did the same – he woke us up, dropped us to school, made our lunches; and my grandfather was the same. In my family, my wife and mother-in-law are great cooks, while my mother and grandmother, they never cooked. We’ve had cooks, but it was my father and grandfather who enjoyed cooking. 

Ali Kazmi at a shoot abroad.

You must have had an easy time getting roles all your life, given your parental lineage. 

Sure, it becomes easier to get in.

We are impressed by your honesty.

(laughs) Let me complete … but, to be successful and to survive that kind of pressure, coming out of your parents’ shadow is probably the toughest thing that a regular actor does not have to go through.

Do your parents give you pressure?

Luckily they never let me feel any pressure. They said, “Just be the best that you can be and do the best in whatever you do.” So I have always tried to do different things from what they did.

A memorable photograph of young Ali Kazmi with his parents, Rahat Kazmi and Sahira Kazmi. Sahira is holding his elder sister Nida Kazmi (left). Young Ali Kazmi and his sister, Nida Kazmi, can be seen with their mother, Sahira Kazmi and their grandparents (right).

At the back of your mind, did you need to prove yourself as Rahat Kazmi’s son to all back home? Is that what kept you in Pakistani cinema?

The most honest answer I can give is that, yeah, everybody, at the back of their minds, wants to make their parents proud. And as long as I live, that will always be the case. It has nothing to do with the going back (to Pakistani cinema) part. I think it had to do a lot with the true identity I gained when I moved to Canada; here, I was no one. I was a man with no name, with nothing. I came for love, started from scratch and built myself up from zero. I think that really gave me faith in the profession and in myself. So, no, I don’t think I had any reason to prove myself back home anymore.

So do you think you have achieved your dream of making your parents proud?

The kind of pride my parents felt when I made a name for myself here in Canada and America, I think that was really something for them. After Beeba Boys, my father called me up (usually my mother calls) after the premier happened, and said that something very strange happened to him. He teaches in National Academy of Performing Arts, and was coming out when this group of girls and guys come up to him and say “You are Ali Kazmi’s father right?” He said that it was very strange. And the next day he went to SZABIST and the same thing happened there. He said that he had never faced that before, and didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, but was proud of me. That really brought a tear to my eye. It was a rite of passage. It was a huge deal for me, I have always idolised him, he was my hero intellectually, physically and mentally; my mom too has been my hero.

What I thank my parents most for is the mentality that me and my sister have. My parents taught us a lot without really teaching us. Kindness to animals, kindness to others, equality of the sexes and in general; and balance – it all has to be taught by living it, and this is one beautiful thing that my parents did. At home, my wife is a great cook while I am not; but I wash the dishes and do all the electrical and handyman work around the house. So you need to do your part and that is something that you learn intrinsically. I think being an artist helps you to be more sensitive to human needs and understand them. 

Ali Kazmi with Ali Zafar, Sahira Kazmi (his mother), Sajjad Ali, and Muhammad Ali Shehki on the set of Ali Zafar’s music video, Urainge.

Who is the better artiste – your mother, or your father?

Both very different schools of acting by the way, let me tell you this. My dad is more theatre-based and my mom was more television-based. They are both so different. Number one, they are man a woman, so already, that’s so different; two different species. My dad believes in taking time in the dialogue delivery. He believes in Anthony Hopkins and that kind of thing. My mom, even at that time, she had a more of a contemporary style, more natural flow. That aspect of hers is better than my fathers, but his dialogue delivery and projection is better than my mom’s. My father’s passion truly lay in his performance. He is obsessed with theatre and so performance and body language kind of thing. My mother, I think, most people don’t really remember her as an actress, to be honest. Her passion and her real gift is in her direction. The things she has put together were really way ahead of their time and I think that’s where her magic is.

Why the need to maintain yourself in Pakistani cinema, with your international success?

I think it has a lot to do with the true identity I gained when I moved to Canada; here, I was no one. I was a man with no name, nothing. I came for love, started from scratch and built myself up from zero. I think that really gave me faith in the profession and in myself. I have lived all my life in Pakistan. The place where you have lived, grown up, learned and the place where I found my love for acting as well, it has given me so much. I love Canada, and I am a Canadian citizen as well; I call myself a ‘PaCanadian’. Because Pakistan gave me everything that it could, I always wanted to give back with a new set of experiences. Plus, it was a dream of mine, since I saw my dad’s first movie, that Pakistani cinema make a comeback. Finally, it started happening, thanks to some brave people that started doing films again. After the resurgence of Pakistani cinema, I was like, there’s no way that am I going to be left out!

Growing up around aunts and uncles like Tina Sani, Arshad Mehmood, Nayyara Noor, Bushra Ansari, Sakina Ahmed, Saba Pervaiz, the Peerzadas, Nadeem, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar had a huge impact on Ali.

They soak into you. The evenings we had with them, the music we listened to, the films we watched and the knowledge that we gained. When I went to film school in Canada, I already knew so much because of the wisdom I had gained at home. It was almost like growing up in a warm, fuzzy film school. The environment of positivity and wisdom. The biggest part about acting is observation and studying the masters and the previous generations of art. So, thanks to my parents (and their friends), that happened automatically.

And there you have it – Ali Kazmi, not just the actor, but the sensitive artiste brought up in an artistic environment to be sensitive to love and kindness. His genuine, comprehensive and keen interaction with us was further testimony to his grounded and sincere personality. His intelligence was laced with a humility, which had us all FUCHSIA-floored. 

And you, our beloved readers know, FUCHSIA doesn’t get floored easily.

Transcribed By Anum Anwar

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About Rabia Mughni And Farah Haq

Rabia founded FUCHSIA in 2013 with the help of a passionate, determined and aspiring team. She holds a Master in Business Administration with a Marketing Major from IBA, Pakistan. At FUCHSIA, Rabia oversees the Marketing and Public Relations work. She is also part of the Editing Team in conceptualising articles and monthly issues. Farah is one of the pioneers of Team FUCHSIA and feels deep pride for her work with the magazine. Her role at FUCHSIA involves the overall coordination of the Fashion segment, and she is also FUCHSIA’s official photographer. Her fashion consultancy and expertise allows her to put together a relevant, informative and interesting Fashion segment monthly, with the support of Team FUCHSIA. She also co-ordinates the logistics of events for FUCHSIA.