Catching up with Mikaal Zulfiqar

By Team FUCHSIA
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We start the interview by asking whether he has ever attributed his popularity to his looks, and not his acting skills. He smiles; he definitely did not expect this question. We wait eagerly for Mikaal Zulfiqar’s response, and are pleasantly surprised by his honesty. Mikaal has enthralled his audiences with a variety of roles throughout his career. From a negative role in Shehr-e-Zaat, to a guilty husband in Durr-e-Shahwar; from a doting husband in Mohabat Subh ka Sitara Hai to a rebellious son in Diyar-e-Dil, he has stolen the hearts of audiences from day one. His ticket to fame, however, was the hugely popular music video of Abrar-ul-Haq’s Saanu Tere Naal. There was simply no turning back after that. Join us as we talk to him about Indian movies and his role in Diyar-e-Dil.

FUCHSIA: Do you feel any pressure to prove your popularity is because of your acting, and not just your good looks?

MZ: I started as a model, and a very big stigma is that model-turned-actors cant act. I also gained weight in the middle a few times, and I think that, subconsciously, what I was trying to do was get rid of the good looks and that perfect persona, so that people will see my acting. I wanted to be known as an actor, not as just a good-looking face. I wanted to be known as a performer. I wanted to be able to execute those emotions. Sometimes when I act, I come on screen without make-up, or without bothering if I’m looking good or not.

FUCHSIA: Your role of an older man in Diyar-e-Dil; is it the right move at the peak of your career?

MZ: It is a young-to-old story. I play the character when he is younger, and the story evolves. I see what you are saying, but I have a lot of work going on currently and Im doing three or four different things at one time. It would be really hard to label me.

FUCHSIA: Why aren’t we seeing you in mainstream Bollywood cinema, when Pakistani actors seem to be in demand there these days?

MZ: I went to India in 2007 for the first time and did a movie called Shoot on Sight, with Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. I got on really well with Naseer and Om and everyone; the film came out and I got really good reviews. Things were going really well and I started getting some  good offers like the lead in Delhi-6, and a couple of other films. I signed on one of them, called Apartment, and then the 2008 attacks happened in Mumbai, and things went dead. Like, completely dead, for a year-and-a-half. That was a real eye-opener for me. No matter how much communication there is between people, at the government or army level, there is always tension. You never know when things will break down; you wont get visas, and things like that. So I think India is not a dependable market for a Pakistani actor. Also, take the example of Fawad and Ali, they are not working in Pakistan anymore because it becomes very tough. They have a bigger market, and also, there is not much that Pakistan can do. Keeping that in mind, after 2008, I was like “Hang-on, I mean, cant focus in India because this might happen again. And if it does, I am screwed. Because this is my job, I have a family, I have two young daughters.” Obviously, this is a job for me so I look at it very differently. So after that, Pakistan became my focus.

FUCHSIA: What was the reasoning behind choosing to star in the Indian movie, Baby, with its sensitive subject?

MZ: India, for me, is a once-a-year, a good project … that would be nice. And maybe you will call me old-fashioned, but India is a very bold market; they want their actors to kiss on-screen, there might be scenes of sexual nature, there is bad language, there is a lot of that stuff. I dont think our audience in Pakistan wants to see that. There is a fine line, thats my approach. Coming to Baby, it was not that risky; I didnt have any explicit scenes or language. It was an action film, and I wanted to do action.

FUCHSIA: You have daughters; do you agree that daughters have their fathers wrapped around their fingers?

MZ: Completely! The older one especially. So, yeah, I completely melt in their hands. And she loves me a lot. She saw this ad, where I was getting beaten-up; she got very, very upset, that “Why is my father getting beaten up?” And she went immediately to my wife, and started scolding her that “Why did you hit my Daddy?” We had to explain to her, “That is not Mummy; that is another Aunty.”, and then she came running to me that “Daddy, dont go back to that Aunty again.” It was hilarious; I felt really loved. She was worried for me. Later, we told her that it was just acting and I didnt really get injured. I think my kids were a big deal-changer for me; I always wanted a family, and I always wanted kids. Actually having them, brings a realization about what I am here for, on this planet. Do I just have to get up and work, or what is life? So I think having kids answered that for me; it gave me a purpose. Such a beautiful thing, and a very demanding thing; credit to  mothers.

FUCHSIA: You seem so passionate and conscious of the issues in Pakistan’s television industry; will we see you do something about it?

MZ: There is this organization called ACT: The Actors Union of Pakistan, which we have been, forever, trying to get together. I am part of the Lahore Council; I try and do as much as I can to get us all together. In terms of voicing our problems … whenever I come across a higher official, I make it a point to voice concerns. I can see why they dont care much us; in a way, Pakistan does have bigger problems to deal with. But I think it’s very important for them to realise that, you see where India is these days, and what the Indian media has done for the country? It has put India on the world map! This is what we can do for Pakistan, as actors. And this community. We can create a softer image of Pakistan; the government and army cannot do that. They should utilize us for that, and you know … thats what I try to do. I feel like a very proud ambassador of Pakistan. We are not all fundooz; far from it actually. We are very loving, and a peaceful, extremely hospitable country. We may always be surrounded by problems, but we are a good nation. Thats what I want people to see. So in my own capacity, I will continue doing that. I hope, someday, I will get a platform.

Our candid conversation with the genuine Mikaal Zulfiqar has given us assurance that with people like him in the industry, it can go a long way, and one day, it can truly portray the softer image of Pakistan that the government and army are unable to.

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About Team FUCHSIA

This article is the collaboration effort of several members of Team FUCHSIA.