Meet Yasir Hussain: unlike others of his generation, he wants to do more than just act — he wants to write as well.
Be it film, television or theatre, Yasir is making his mark and is considered as one of the better comedic actors at present. Like the great Moin Akhtar, he is good at hosting ceremonies, performing skits and playing any character at the drop of the hat.
“What started out as a means to become rich later became a way to avoid bad scripts,” said Yasir, explaining his love for writing.
“When I started acting in Islamabad, actors were paid Rs 500 and writers were paid Rs 1,000 by the NGOs who backed the project. In order to generate a stable income, I started to write. Later when I was offered to act in TV plays; I couldn’t stand some of the scripts and decided to use my writing skills to avoid working in substandard stuff.”
Yasir, however, doesn’t like to be called Moin Akhtar’s successor although he has co-hosted events like Lux Style Awards and the opening ceremony of the Pakistan Super League recently. “Moin sahib was one of the greatest performers Pakistan has ever produced. If I can perform even a little bit like him, I would consider that an achievement," he reveals. "I still have a long way to go to be known just as an actor, being called the greatest comedian’s successor will shift my attention from doing quality work.”
Writer first, actor second?
The journey to success hasn’t been an easy one for him. From changing his base to Karachi (from Islamabad) to struggling as a VJ on a local music channel, he has been there and done that.
“I want to be known as an actor who can write,” he said, “I love acting but feel that writing scripts is fun and challenging at the same time and that’s why I charge more for writing!”
The talented artist elaborates on his work in film. “In Ho Mann Jahaan, portions of my script were retained,” he said, “Lahore Se Aagey and Band To Ab Bajay Ga are my upcoming projects as an actor/writer and writer respectively. While I play the lead as Moti in the former, I will not be acting in the latter. Band To Ab Bajay Ga features Fahad Mustafa (who is also producing the film) and will be directed by Anjum Shehzad, people who I feel are as enthusiastic as I am about the project.”
Talking of Moti — the character that made him a household name — how was it conceived?
“I try to create characters from people around me and Moti is based on a friend of mine named Ishaq,” he related, “I have known him from childhood and although he asked me not to reveal his name (because his wife won’t be happy about it), I have announced it. He still stutters in real life although he believes that now he is cured.”
In last year’s film Karachi Se Lahore, Moti and his friend Sam helped Zaheem stop a wedding and find a girl in the process. In its upcoming sequel Lahore Se Aagey, Moti moves on to find a girl (played by Saba Qamar) for himself.
Yasir rates the experience of working with one of the most talented actress of the current era as fun and entertaining. “Saba is a wonderful actor,” he related, “When I was writing the script, I wanted her to be part of the project. Thankfully, she agreed to play a musician in what can be termed as her first lead role in a film."
"As for the film, it is going to be the first sequel of any film in Pakistan and I am proud of being part of it. And trust me; there will be no brand endorsement in the movie this time [smiles].”
Not only does Behroze Sabzwari return to the big screen in Lahore Sey Aagey, it also marks the film debut of veteran television actress Rubina Ashraf, theatre actors Abdullah Farhatullah and Umar Sultan and newcomer Mubashir Malik.
“I am thankful to Wajahat Rauf [the director] for seeking my advice in casting and we have tried to be different and surprising at the same time,” said Yasir, “Abdullah is a gora sahib, Umar gets to display his skills as Amitabh Bachchan whereas Mubashir will shock everyone as a John Abraham lookalike. Interesting, isn’t it?”
Give the man an award already
For an actor who loves to write, performing skits comes naturally to Yasir. Last year, in the Lux Style Awards ceremony as well as this year in the unveiling of the nominations event, Yasir had the audience in stitches. He made fun of nearly every important person who was in attendance and even offended a few in the process.
“By doing skits, I judge people and believe me, I have made more friends than foes with my antics!” Yasir clarifies.
“Look at HSY, I made fun of him on stage and he invited me on his show and gave me his clothes for free. In fact, he told me that whenever I was invited on an awards show, he would provide me with designer clothes — sadly I haven’t been invited anywhere since!”
The writer/actor was nominated in four categories at the ARY Film Awards this year but he went back empty handed. In the Hum TV Awards, he wasn’t even on the guest list for unknown reasons.
“I think I am not good enough for an award,” he said, “That’s why, besides being nominated and not winning, I didn’t host anything even after my performance in the LSA in 2015. Maybe others were better than me. If I am to become part of the ‘awards culture,’ I will have to improve.
"This year I am nominated in the Lux Style Awards as the Best Supporting Actor and even if I don’t win, I will not mind. Who knows, I might end up winning an Oscar someday!”
Bye bye theatre, hello fame and fortune?
Doing well in television and film prevents him from focusing on his roots — theatre. Since his ascent in film, Yasir Hussain has been rarely seen on stage — apart from a short appearance in the initial run of Anwar Maqsood’s Siachen. “I love theatre but one has to move on if one wants to succeed,” he said.
“I am indebted to Anwar Maqsood and Dawar Mehmood for believing in me and letting me play Akbar (Aangan Terrha), Mirza Nafees Barelvi (Haaf Playt), multiple characters of Pathan, Sindhi, Bengali and Charsi in Sawa 14 August and Pawnay 14 August as well as the Bihari in Siachen.”
“There comes a time when a person plans for the future and films seem to be the logical option for me since it is in a revival mode,” he added, “I don’t mean to say that theatre is over for me. Whenever I will get the time and a good script, you will most definitely see me perform on stage.”
Yasir believes that after proving himself as an actor and a comedian, he would like to go to the ‘dark side.’
“I would love to play a villain someday, but right now I am busy doing comedy. It’s the need of the hour,” said Yasir, “Even the highest grossing film in Pakistan, Jawani Phir Nahi Aani, was an all-out comedy venture with hardly any space for action. I don’t think I am made for cry-fest television dramas but yes, someday I might play the bad guy — after all, every good looking guy is trying to change sides these days.”
Whoever ventures into showbiz wants to become rich and famous but Yasir believes that fame comes at a price. “I don’t want fame at the moment because I love to travel and research — being famous will be an obstacle for me,” he said.
Yasir believes that there will come a time where actors from abroad will come to Pakistan to work in local films. “I want foreign actors to work in Pakistan just as we go to Bollywood,” he said, “Actors like Om Puri and Alyy Khan (who is now settled in Karachi) must have seen some potential in the local industry otherwise why would they come here for work.”
Speaking about his other projects he said, “I am being featured in Yasra Rizvi’s Senti Aur Mental as one of the title characters. I am a fan of her work and she is more likely to hit than miss. Then there is a Pakistani film that will be shot in India where I am playing one of the five UK-returned friends around whom the story revolves. Finally, I am also acting in Anjum Shahzad’s next action-love story which will begin filming early next year,” he elaborated.
That’s not where his aspirations end, “I want to work with Fawad Khan someday since he has made Pakistani actors proud with his performance in Bollywood. I am also open to an invitation to host award shows [winks]. And like every Pakistani, my family also wants to watch me in a TV drama every day — films haven’t clicked with them yet.”
What they say:
Saba Qamar: “Yasir Hussain is easily the best co-actor I have worked with. He's full of fun and is passionate about his work. Moreover, as an actor/writer, he is quite focused and one can without a doubt term him a complete package and a powerhouse of entertainment.
"He is not only a good human being but quite talented as well — I learned a lot from him during the filming of Lahore Se Aagey. Unfortunately, I never saw him perform on stage but I am sure he must have been very good.”
Wajahat Rauf (Director, Lahore Se Aagey): “Yasir and I have great work chemistry and that is reflected on the screen. I have to say that other than being one of the most talented actors and writers in our country, he is also a great person. And that is why we call him part of our immediate family.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 19th, 2016