Fawad Khan is a superstar, there is no doubt about it; a cross-border, true blue, hysteria-inducing one-of-a-kind phenomenon.
The female screams recently echoing through Karachi’s Nueplex cinema were testament to this. Fawad’s acting tryst with Dharma Productions, Kapoor & Sons, had just released and the actor had flown in from the premiere in India to host special screenings in Pakistan.
Predictably — for this is what always happens — an eager, jostling mob of fans crowded Fawad as soon as he walked onto the red carpet. They wanted to shake his hand and congratulate him for his performance or record a few snippets from him on their cell phones or of course, pose with him for umpteen selfies. Surprisingly, his admirers now include a fair smattering of males aside from the usual milieu of smitten ladies. The latter has long been swooning over the indelibly attractive combination that forms Fawad, the drop-dead gorgeous successful actor melded with the refined family man. The former have been won over by his considerable acting mettle.
Fawad seemed unperturbed by the cataclysmia surrounding him. Graciously, he proceeded to click selfies with record-breaking speed — he’s been doing it for so long that he’s now a natural at it. That’s bona fide 21st century superstar behavior as we know it.
Fawad’s also become more prolific during interviews, spending less time pondering and coming up with prompt, characteristically precise answers. This is something I observe out loud to him when I talk to him immediately following K&S’ Indian premiere.
“I have always been comfortable during interviews,” he is quick to correct me, “although perhaps my answers are more to the point now.”
Is he no longer afraid of being misquoted? “I don’t think I have ever been misquoted on a serious issue,” he says. “Sometimes, funny things do happen though. For instance, I was asked which movie’s remake would I like to act in and I replied Guide. I was misheard to have said Ghayal. Similarly, I was misinterpreted to have stated that I was offered a role in the movie ‘PK’ when I never was! But it isn’t a big deal.”
So begins my talk with Fawad Khan, the hero who has easily traversed the Indo-Pak divide and skyrocketed to stardom. He is veritable hot Bollywood property now, with a big banner Karan Johar hit to his credit — going by the initial box office innings — a Filmfare award last year for Best Male Debut and he is seen in the social pages hobnobbing with Bollywood’s ‘it’ crème de la crème. And yet, this ‘superstar’, relatively more eloquent Fawad still continues to be politically correct, ‘to the point’ and rarely but deliciously, not so much …
Dharma and co.
“I don’t think there is any so-called ‘Dharma Camp’,” Fawad ponders. “Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra, my co-stars in K&S, debuted with Karan Johar which is probably why people associate them with his production company. They have gone on to work with other film-makers too. Having said that, the team at Dharma consists of wonderful, very talented people and I would love to work with them again.”
The feeling may be mutual, for Fawad is often spotted hanging out with his friends at Dharma, the veritable who’s who that make up Bollywood’s coveted ‘inner circle’. How has he, an outsider, managed to fit in so easily into such a clustered, fiercely competitive industry? “Perhaps I am just a great guy who gets along with everyone,” he wisecracks. “I think the current generation of actors focuses more on improving their own craft rather than bringing down each other. There is no bitter competition at play. I genuinely have gotten along with everyone I have worked with so far.”
This includes his illustrious line-up of co-stars in K&S with whom he says he shares an ‘easy camaraderie’. The movie has placed Fawad amidst an impressive star cast and comes with all the gloss, hype and hoopla attached to the Karan Johar name.
At the same time, Fawad has made a brave choice with his role in the movie, dabbling with some very unconventional shades. Was he comfortable with his character’s ‘coming out’? “I enjoyed the challenges that came with the role,” he says. “Every movie is a reinvention of the same wheel but a good movie attempts to tell a story differently. I think this movie does this. In my role, also, I tried to add aspects that were new and would keep the audience intrigued.”
"For Albela Rahi, I have already had one online meeting with Alamgir and I plan to meet him again. The action-related requirements of Maula Jatt are going to pose a challenge but I will focus on them when filming draws closer."
Even prior to K&S, Fawad seemed to be on an ostensible mission to break out of the mold of the brooding romantic hero and prove his diversity. He has recently been seen as the befuddled Oochi in the ad campaign for a local food brand and soon, he is going to be shooting for Pakistani biopic Albela Rahi, enacting singer Alamgir. Later in the year, he will take on his first action film avatar with the upcoming Maula Jatt. How does he prepare himself for this line-up of myriad roles?
“It varies from character to character,” he explains. “With K&S, I just fell naturally into my role. The atmosphere on the set was very easygoing and I think that helped. I did need to work on my dancing though! For Albela Rahi, I have already had one online meeting with Alamgir and I plan to meet him again. The action-related requirements of Maula Jatt are going to pose a challenge but I will focus on them when filming draws closer. As for Oochi, I enacted him simply because I felt like delving into comedy.”
Notwithstanding the fashionably challenged Oochi, Fawad has also been looking better than ever. Within Pakistan, he’s always had a penchant for suits by Republic and across the border he’s been positively smoldering on the covers of Filmfare magazine, experimenting with statements like salmon-coloured pants and on-screen as K&S’ Rahul, he’s personified the serious but hot older son. “I have always enjoyed making different style statements,” he points out. “I am not afraid of trying out new looks and often, they work for me.”
We may just see him in an all-new rock star avatar in Karan Johar’s upcoming Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, where he is set to play a small but pivotal part as a Pakistani DJ. How is he going to be managing his commitments on either side of the border as he shuttles back and forth? “I have some very able representatives in India who are helping me manage my career. It is true that I may lose out on projects because of date issues but that cannot be helped. I am also considering some Bollywood scripts at the moment,” he adds.
"I never blow my own trumpet and let my work speak for itself but I do expect respect. If I am working in a project, I want to make sure that I am living comfortably while doing it. I don’t consider that an ego issue."
He seems to be on a roll in India but Fawad does have his critics at home. Every now and then, rumours tend to surface about his bloated ego and how he is fond is throwing his weight around. “There’s not much that can be done about rumours! I never blow my own trumpet and let my work speak for itself but I do expect respect. If I am working in a project, I want to make sure that I am living comfortably while doing it. Even in India, my co-workers are aware that I have a diabetic condition and they take care of it accordingly. I expect the same when I am working in my own country. I don’t consider that an ego issue. In any profession, as well as acting, you put in your best and work your way up the ladder. As you progress, certain benefits are accorded to you.” That’s a typically honest Fawad Khan answer for you.
Moving on to his admirers, does he ever get unnerved by the flattery surrounding him, newfound friends who throw parties for him simply because of his current success? “I love hosting parties and attending them,” he says. “It is cool to play the host and make sure that everyone is having a good time. Charhtay sooraj ke sub pujari hotay hain but I don’t waste my time being paranoid about it. I would rather just enjoy myself and make hay while the sun shines!”
He’s certainly doing that. The sun’s shining glaringly, dazzlingly bright for Fawad Khan right now.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, March 27th, 2016