Zahid Ahmed. The eloquent Jinnah from Anwar Maqsood’s ’14 August’ theatre performances, the hilarious Butt Sahib from ‘Half Plate’, the versatile Hamza from ‘Mehram’, the psychotic Rameez from ‘Alvida’ and the Shavez from ‘Sangat’ ,who simply blew us away!
Zahid Ahmed has gone from theatre to television, and in a very short time, reached the level of an A-list star; one of the strongest actors in the Pakistani television industry today.
FUCHSIA: Your portrayal of Jinnah in Anwar Maqsood’s ‘Pawnay 14 August’ and ‘Sawa 14 August’ brought you international fame. Why was your appearance on television such a late career move?
Zahid: I don’t think it was late. It happened when it was supposed to happen. Actually, I’m glad it happened now, when I am a little more experienced and mature.
FUCHSIA: As a relatively new entry to the television industry, you were cast in out-of-the-ordinary, negative roles … especially in ‘Alvida’ and now ‘Sangat’. A bit daring for a newcomer, wasn’t it?
Zahid: (With a raised eyebrow and a sly smile) Isn’t that the reason people noticed me? It was a daring move, and that is exactly what it was supposed to be. And it is not that I chose these roles because it has anything to do with the person I am (visibly holding back his laughter) … but if you look at the usual scripts of dramas, the character of the hero is just there to be manipulated, or confused, or get plastic surgery! The villainous characters are the ones who tend to have the strongest lines, and the juiciest scenes … which makes the mark.
FUCHSIA: ‘Alvida’ or ‘Sangat’?
Zahid: Tough one! (long pause and more laughter) I enjoyed ‘Sangat’ more, and I prefer Shavez! Although ‘Alvida’ was fantastic, and Rameez blew everyone away, Shavez is so much harder to play! Rameez had a lot of gimmicks, and being my second TV project, I played to a lot of my strengths. That shifting between kinda-mean to funny, that’s who I am, right? I could do that character many times over with my eyes closed! Shavez, with all the guilt that starts from the very first episode, and has to go on … was a real tough job, and anything which challenges an artiste is always close to their heart.
FUCHSIA: What is your dream project, or goal, as an actor?
Zahid: There is no such project; and I hope nothing of the sort comes along, because that is an actor’s nightmare! Once you feel you have done a dream project, anything after that feels empty. The goal … is to keep transforming. I plan on making and breaking the image with every role; and challenge myself to the fullest.
FUCHSIA: We have reason to believe you are working on something very different for 2016 …
Zahid: Yes! It is a 300-year-old story with many old and new actors; and being a mega-serial, it will have about 45 episodes. It’s my first serial outside HUM TV.
I enjoyed 'Sangat' more, and I prefer Shavez! Although 'Alvida' was fantastic, and Rameez blew everyone away, Shavez is so much harder to play!
FUCHSIA: What do you hate about the industry?
Zahid: The nature of the scripts every channel starts writing, which become a fad that changes every year. Although ‘Sangat’, is a brilliant script, there were six or seven dramas from different channels all on the same subject. So … the content has got to change. Basically, the media needs to stop assuming that the audience wants to be shocked or disgusted by the same subject.
FUCHSIA: Speaking of HUM TV, why do we only see you on that channel?
Zahid: There is a misconception in the audience and in the market that I only work with HUM TV. Probably because I have done 5 serials back-to-back with them … but I am moving away from that, and all my new plays are with other channels. I am also working on a private production, not only as an actor, but as another vital part of the team.
FUCHSIA: Lollywood … Bollywood … anything in the pipeline?
Zahid: I do plan on working in a film, though, at the moment, there are none in the pipeline. It is a very exciting time for the Pakistani film industry, and there is nothing stopping me from acting in one. As for Bollywood, it depends on how significant the character is. I will never say yes just for the sake of a debut in a Bollywood film. Ninety percent of my decision would be based on whether it is a lead role or not; ten percent, I would give consideration to a support role like Rameez, or which has a lot of screen presence. That’s what I would settle for in Bollywood, whether it is next year… or thirty years from now. I am in no rush.
FUCHSIA: Which director, and which co-star, would you like to do a film with?
Zahid: Shehzad Kashmiri, who directed ‘Alvida’. If you take a look at that drama, a lot of it looks like a movie despite being made on the same budget as any other drama. It was fantastic! Co-star … I had a ball working with Mikaal Zulfiqar. He is the most chilled out person on this planet, and a lot of fun to work with.
Zahid Ahmed as Jinnah in Anawar Maqsood's play " Sawa 14 August".
FUCHSIA: Any pearls of wisdom for aspiring actors?
Zahid: Do it! Give it a shot! There is no better feeling than being paid for what you love to do. As you can see from my past year, if you are good, you can make it big in this industry with hard work alone, and without any contacts.
FUCHSIA: Tell us about some fun, interesting incidents.
Zahid: Interesting … in the last episode of ‘Alvida’, there is a scene where I go nuts, and a sofa falls on my foot. Well, that sofa did actually fall on my foot, which you can’t see in the frame … and crushed it! We went ahead with the shot, and in the entire remaining sequence where I’m chasing the heroine in the kitchen and threatening her, my foot was actually hurting like hell!
I was in Dubai last year for an award ceremony. I walked into my room, and it was filled with chocolates. And I mean filled! On the bed, on the sofas, on the tables, everywhere! Apparently a bell boy had placed them there and had run out of space. I’m yet to find out who that fan was. If you’re reading this, next time please send some chips as well!
FUCHSIA: You have gained immense popularity in a very short time. How does it feel?
Zahid: Honestly, I don’t think I am that famous. It feels nice to be recognised by people on-and-off, but I don’t think about fame at all, which is why my first instinct is that I am not famous.
FUCHSIA: To wrap up, tell us your biggest fear as an actor?
Zahid: I fear doing a single bad job. I do not take rejection well. I can do a bad drama, I can sign up for a bad movie but if anyone points out I did badly as an actor, that would be my biggest failure right there.
FB: Zahid Ahmed Official.