All hail the new Prince!
As the pace picks up in Sarmad Khoosat’s historical extravaganza Mor Mahal, we catch up with the freshest royal in the palace of intrigue, Shehzada Taimoor better known as Umer Naru. You may recognize Naru from his roles in Durr e Shahwar as the sweetest Devar in the world or Mehtaab, the guy who Farah turns down in Pyaray Afzal.
Known for his theater work, Umer Naru is a quiet, reflective actor who is very selective about work. Yet, he's worked with some of the industry’s best directors including Haissam Hussain, Anjum Shehzad, Nadeem Baig and Sarmad Khoosat. Audiences are used to seeing him as the hapless good guy, there is just something about his handsome face that seems to inspire trust.
“Prince Taimoor is an idealist, who wears his heart on his sleeve,” says Naru. There are few idealists in Mor Mahal whose brilliant script is an artful mixture of political strategy and personal relationships, so it looks like the young prince is in for a steep learning curve.
We talk to Umer Naru to get to know him and his character better.
1) What was the most difficult part of playing Prince Taimoor?
Umer Naru: Shooting through the brain-melting summer, dressed in thick layers of clothing, whilst maintaining game face.
2) You went to England to perform in Taming of the Shrew at the Globe Theatre. Tell us the most surprising or exciting part about that.
Umer: In 2012 (that is, the year of the London Olympics), an international Shakespeare festival was held by the prestigious Globe Theatre where 37 countries took part to perform Shakespearean plays in their respective native languages.
The tour was aptly titled Globe to Globe. It is easily one of my most cherished experiences. It helped me gain a lot of confidence in the idea that a career path in the performing arts is a possibility.
If I have to narrow it down to the most exciting aspect of the tour, it would be the fact that I traveled to the UK in the company of a brilliant ensemble of actors and musicians to perform for a global audience, on a stage that is considered to be the most sacred of places as far as the history of drama and play writing is concerned. They call it the actor’s Mecca.
3) We've all been reintroduced to pure, classic Urdu in Mor Mahal. Was dialogue delivery a challenge for you? Did you learn a new word or two?
Umer: By the time we went into shooting, I was well prepared. And yes, I did learn quite a few new words along with their historical context. Words like saazindey, aseelein(female guards of the harem) and kornish...but mostly I picked up on the right pronunciations of words.
4) Your favorite book or books?
Umer: The Idiot. Dune. The Picture of Dorian Grey. 1984. The Old Man and the Sea. Sidharta.
5) Are you very socially or politically aware?
Umer: I claim observer status. I know nothing!
6) If you could ask for an explanation from a figure in the past, who and what would you ask?
Umer: I’d ask Mr. Jinnah why he didn’t write a constitution for our then nascent country to include the most crucial founding principles before Pakistan came into being. I’ll go on to explain how politicians, religious clerics and army chiefs have since exploited and plundered the nation as a result of a lack of clarity of vision.
And then I’ll ask him for his tailor’s number. He was always so impeccably dressed.
7) What is the hardest part of being an actor?
Umer: Sticking to your guns whilst staying employed.
8) Sri Devi or Madhuri Dixit - pick a side!
Umer: Sri Devi is an established great but I grew up watching Madhuri create on-screen magic over and over. Her class and energy on the dance floor has gone unmatched.
9) You're always picked to play the nice guy. Has being the cute one become a trap or do you revel in it?
Umer: It so happened that those scripts passed the bare minimum standard I had set for myself. I don't know if there is a trap and even if there is one I ain't falling for it.
10) What should we know about Prince Taimoor?
Umer: He is a good natured, naive young nawab who finds himself caught in unusual set of circumstances. His parents’ political disagreements and life choices have a direct impact on the course of his destiny.
11) Romance is perhaps the most difficult thing to create on screen. Do you agree?
Umer: It can be difficult if you lack the chemistry or if the atmosphere on the set is non - conducive. But I must give all the credit to Sarmad and the crew for creating the ambience.
12) You can take the boy out of Lahore but can you take Lahore out of the boy?
13) Is Heaven a beach and all the books you can read or a wilderness trek in Alaska spotting polar bears?
Umer: Wilderness trek in Alaska sounds adventurous but I have no secret wish to be devoured by a polar bear.
14) Iron Man or Captain America?
Umer: Maula Jutt! I jest.
15) The hardest part of a relationship
16) What do you think women want?
Umer: Probably the same things men want. Things like respect, freedom and the right to self determine.
17) If you were a movie villain who would you be?
Umer: The Butcher from Gangs of New York.
18) Is revenge a dish best eaten cold or should you strike while the iron is hot?
Umer: Definitely, best served cold. Though I may lack the patience for it.
19) Two piece suit or shalwar kameez? (Mehtab looked good in a suit.)
Umer: Three piece suits are even better.
20) What was the craziest/best part of playing Shehzada Taimoor?
Umer: Discovering my own strengths and limitations and pushing the boundary. I haven’t exposed myself like this on screen before. Sometimes, in emotionally charged or physically demanding scenes, the line between restraint and over emoting seemed thin.
All in all it has been a liberating experience.