Updated Apr 10, 2017 10:21am

I don’t understand why people love or hate me, says Sahir Lodhi

Photo: Arif Mahmood/White Star
Photo: Arif Mahmood/White Star

Sahir Lodhi is a phenomenon. He’s everywhere — on radio, television and film.

He has a cult-like following which comprises in equal parts earnest, adoring fans and those who mock him but can’t look away from his narcissistic shenanigans. Both groups have cause to celebrate these days. The object of their attentions has just released a film, Raasta, in which he is the star, the director, the producer, the writer and the song-writer.

Just a day after the premiere of his film, Sahir agrees to meet Icon despite his hectic schedule of movie-theatre appearances, presscons, radio shows and morning shows on TV. Dressed in a black shalwar-kameez that accentuates his insanely clear complexion and haunting eyes, he looks preoccupied and subdued, unlike the exuberant morning show host we usually see on TV.

Thrown off by his unexpected demeanour, I start off on the wrong foot. I ask him about what seems to be his obsession with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan [SRK].

“I don’t know why people ask me this irrelevant question. Mein thak gaya hoon is sawaal se. [I’m tired of this question]” His vehement denial is a double whammy – he’s dismissed the question and set the defensive tone for the entire interview.

“Maybe it is just that our people have no respect or regard for anyone,” he says. “I respect and admire SRK as an actor and a person. What if the situation were the other way round? If SRK was here, would he be disrespected the same way as I am? SRK sat across from me in an interview and said two people can look alike and sound alike but that doesn’t mean that they copy each other. The worst part is that, in 11 years, no one has seen me. They wanted to see someone else and they have always seen someone else. But, this is a problem with just a fraction of the people in Pakistan who have the permission to write. Ye sirf unn ka problem hai! [This is just their problem!]”

The look in his eyes grows intense. “I’m going to be blunt. People who live along the seaside, on ‘that’ side of the ‘bridge’ — the pseudo-literate people — have a chip on their shoulder.” He speaks softly, almost with modulated radio perfectness. “They have never appreciated me. Not that I am dying to be appreciated by them. Reading books in the English language and writing a few reviews doesn’t really make you ‘educated.’ Whatever they say about me, or SRK, my response is that these people suffer from an inferiority complex. They enjoy putting others down, disrespecting them, making fun of them. Hum wohi loag hain jo America se qarza lete hain aur unhi ke khilaaf naaray lagate hain, hum hypocrites hain. [We are the same people who take loans from the US and then raise slogans against them, we are hypocrites.] If I haven’t been able to convince them in 11 years, will I do it in an 11-minute interview?”

Also read: Sahir Lodhi has a point and you may be missing it

I have to admit I am a bit taken aback. He laughs just like SRK, his expressions and SRK’s outstretched-arms pose in Raasta, it’s all there, sometimes almost natural and at other times contrived. He’s even read out whole scripts of SRK films on his radio shows, pointedly doing the SRK lines himself. But he continues to deny he’s in any way obsessed.

"I’m going to be blunt. People who live along the seaside, on ‘that’ side of the ‘bridge’ — the pseudo-literate people — have a chip on their shoulder. They have never appreciated me. Reading books in the English language and writing a few reviews doesn’t really make you ‘educated.’ Whatever they say about me, or SRK, my response is that these people suffer from an inferiority complex. They enjoy putting others down, disrespecting them, making fun of them. If I haven’t been able to convince them in 11 years, will I do it in an 11-minute interview?”

“I have survived doing what I want to do despite all the criticism and accusations. Today, I am one of the most-known faces in Pakistan, one of the most talked-about people and ranked among the top stars of the country and it is certainly not without the will of God, so there must be a good reason to it. There is more credit to my talent than just copying SRK.”

Although he has a huge fan following — aside from his loyal radio listeners, he has almost 900,000 followers on Facebook — loads of people also love to make fun of him. Does he know that? “It is a sad situation but we must learn to support, respect and encourage our own people. Pagal logon ki baat ka mein bura nahin manta [I don’t mind the rantings of crazy people],” he declares. “They are not Sahir Lodhi, however much they may rave or rant. People don’t gather around them, people don’t want to take selfies with them. I’m not going to stop just because they want me to stop.”

Talking to him, one often feels what seems contrived might just also be real. Is he a drifter, dreamer and an idealist? “I live in moments,” he says philosophically. “Sometimes we spend our whole lives searching for a moment, sometimes we find our whole life in a moment. I am constantly in search of these moments,” he says, looking thoughtful and staring into space.

“I find peace in watching kids play. I am moved by two underprivileged individuals happily sharing the precious little food that they have got from somewhere, or when I see a family of five on a motorcycle and the mother is holding her baby as though the tiny being is her whole world.” I begin to wonder how much of this spiel is practised, but if it is, he is a very fine actor because he sounds entirely sincere. “My heart fills with pride and respect for the girl who leaves her home to support her family and who runs and catches a bus to reach her workplace. For others, maybe, it means nothing but for me this is the ethos of life.”

Sahir Lodhi obliges fans' requests for selfies during the promotional activities of his film Raasta — Photos courtesy Raasta's Facebook page
Sahir Lodhi obliges fans' requests for selfies during the promotional activities of his film Raasta — Photos courtesy Raasta's Facebook page

I ask him why he thinks his fans like him. “The common man relates to me,” pat comes the reply. “I’m a commoner on TV and on the street. I’m an ordinary person, this is who I am. I have no attitude, no airs, no hang-ups. I have never refused an autograph or a selfie. I love being with and doing projects with ordinary people. A friend of mine, Shehryar, has cerebral palsy and he lies in bed mostly listening to the radio or watching TV. But he finds hope in me, so I always manage to find time for him. I run a clinic every day for 150 people and bear the monthly expenses out of my own pocket.”

Sahir claims that every day after his morning show, a small crowd waits for him outside the studio. “Some people find peace with me, some need help. They call me on the radio with all kinds of issues and I know that I have to handle them responsibly. But I always have time for them. I only sleep for two hours a day. I relax with my work. When I see them, I tell myself I am not a star, I am a postman, and I have to deliver. I help them in any way that I can. You should always have time for people who rely on you.”

But my earlier question has obviously agitated his mind because he comes back to the issue of those who mock him. “Just like I can’t figure why some people love me so much, I also don’t understand why some people hate me. Meri samajh mein nahin aata, mein ne kya kiya hai inn ke saath. [I don’t understand what I have done to them.] I don’t go to parties, don’t socialise or hang out with them, don’t smoke or drink, I don’t have scandals, girlfriends or extra-marital affairs. What have I done to instigate so much hate? I don’t claim to be the most handsome or the most talented person on TV, I have never been arrogant. Maybe just looking at me, they get irritated. The best thing is, inko inn ke ghar mein koi nahin janta [nobody knows them]! They are unhappy people. That has to come out somewhere so they take it out on a person whom 80 percent of the country likes. What they don’t like is the fact that a common man is trying to challenge them. But they can’t stop me. I will work till I die. I will only stop if God wants me to stop or if I want to stop. To stop me you have to be me or God, and you are neither!”

And does that scenario affect Raasta, his debut film, I ask. “The media has mixed reviews. The public loves the film. The cinemas where the general public goes to are full,” he says. “People who don’t like me don’t like my film either. Ab kya karoon, film to ban gayee aur mujhe bohat acha laga [What can I do, the film is made and I liked it a lot],” he says slyly. “If Raasta is destined to be a hit, it will be a hit, or be a flop if that’s its fate. I am overwhelmed by all the attention that I have received in my career so far. It is not my right, it is a gift. Am I really worthy of it? Ek aam admi ke liye to yeh bohat duur ki batein hain. [For a common man, these are big things.] I’ll try again and make another film for sure.”

“What they don’t like is the fact that a common man is trying to challenge them. But they can’t stop me. I will work till I die. I will only stop if God wants me to stop or if I want to stop. To stop me you have to be me or God, and you are neither!”

But he has obviously read some of the reviews or read some of the social media reactions about his debut venture and this is playing on his mind. “The state and the situation in which I got the film, I had to see it through to the end. I was not supposed to be the director. How I completed the film from that point onwards, nobody will appreciate my struggle. Bohat se logon ne loota aur chalay gaye. [A lot of people fooled me and left.] I will not mention names of those who messed up. I had two options, either to go on making the film or stop.

“They say I hogged all the scenes. That is not true. Everybody had scenes and acted well. They say if they don’t see me, they hear my voice. Have they thought that I might be covering a technical flaw by doing that? There are so many little things that have to be taken care of in a film. If they have decided to find issues then they will. It is just like relationships, saath rehne ke sau bhanay, chhorne ka aik [A hundred reasons to stay together, a single reason not to]!”

Up until now, he has been speaking softly but suddenly his tone becomes much louder, as though he is reprimanding someone. “Has the media thought of giving me a pat on my back or saying a kind word? Outside the cinema, people are hugging me, repeating dialogues from the film, singing the songs and showering me with hugs and appreciation. They said ‘you have made a film, good or bad, but you have not put up a TV play on the big screen.’ There is no double-meaning dialogue, no cheap comedy and no obscenity. It had dialogue, a script and if you want to revive Pakistani cinema, you need to make films. Aap drama bechte hain cinema ko aur kehte hain ke film banayi hai? [You sell television drama and say you have made a film?] You made the same drama for TV all your life and then put it up on cinema and people spend 500 rupees to see it. Then the film critic dresses up, goes to the premiere and the next day writes that it’s a fabulous film.” His voice rises even more. “Jhootay! Jhoot boltay hain aap! [Liar! You are telling lies!]”

He calms down a bit, suddenly aware he’s shouting. “If anyone of them had made this film — if they were capable of making it in the first place — the critics would be raving about it and it would be a milestone and set a new standard for the Pakistan’s film industry. And I am not talking about Javed Sheikh and Syed Noor, they know what a film is. I have learnt from them.”

Sahir says he doesn’t see a way out of this attitude against him. “When I die, they will write articles about me and discover the ‘thinker’ in me! Ye murda-parast loag hain [These people worship the dead]. They will not do things that will enhance a person’s life, they will wait for him to die before they can praise him. They will run to [my sister] Shaista [Lodhi] and ask her ‘Aap bataayein aap ka bhai kaisa tha?’ [Tell us what your brother was like.] That is who we are as a nation.”

Photo: Arif Mahmood/White Star
Photo: Arif Mahmood/White Star

There is obviously a lot of pent-up bitterness in Sahir, which leaks out despite all his insistence that he is above it all. And there is vulnerability too. “Dekhiye, no matter how strong I am, I’m bound to get hurt at some point. There are instances when I need some kind words, someone to hold me and say everything is going to be okay.”

“When I die, they will write articles about me and discover the ‘thinker’ in me! They will not do things that will enhance a person’s life, they will wait for him to die before they can praise him.”

I try to move the conversation towards more pleasant topics such as his family and those that inspire him. He tells me his baby daughter Zara is the most special person in my life and that Waheed Murad and the boxer Muhammad Ali are his inspirations. But everything inevitably circles back to himself. “Mohammed Ali Clay continues to play the greatest role in my life every single day,” he says. “He was a fighter, a survivor and a winner and his life holds lessons for us all. People didn’t believe in him and he worked against all odds and his faith in himself was remarkable. When I am down, I draw my courage and inspiration from him. I tell myself that duniya ki saari nafratein mil ke Khuda ki mohabbat ka jawab nahin hosakteen [all the hate in the world on one side is still no match for God’s love]. I think I’m all right with this belief,” he says in his typical drawl.

I wonder if all the mockery may have broken him. But he tells me of three new film projects he’s working on and the hospital he’s having constructed, whose ground-breaking is expected soon.

“No challenge is bigger than my spirit!” he exults. “People like to discuss hate more than love. I guess I have more friends than enemies, that is why I am here today,” he says with a smile, that reminds me very much of SRK’s. I decide not to point it out.


Originally published in Dawn, ICON, April 9th, 2017

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Comments (29) Closed



aK Apr 10, 2017 10:04am

In the grand mix of things for Pakistani cinema, like any other cinema in the world, there will be good, average/ordinary and disastrous movies. People appreciate first two types, however movies produced with the sole purpose of self-promotion usually ends up in third category and individuals producing such movies should be ready for such harsh criticism. Most of the recent successful Pakistani movies revolves around stories of middle and lower middle class families’ e.g. “Namaloom Afraad”, “Actor in Law” and “Wrong Number” etc. were enjoyed by people living on both side of “Bridge”, so Mr. Lodhi please do not use this “Other side of the bridge” card. Quality speaks for itself, so if you produce quality, people will folk in to watch your work. Silent your critics with quality and hard work, not by using “cards” like politicians

ayza Apr 10, 2017 10:06am

A true unveiling of the real Sahir Lodhi whom many Pakistanis adore for his compassion, his generous nature and most of all for his good works such as the free health clinic service for the poor.

On his talk shows, we see a side of Sahir that is kind, decent and heartwarming. As for his movies, e wish him all the success in the world so he may continue to give back to those in society who are downtrodden or in despair.

JS Apr 10, 2017 10:19am

If only Sahir would not be full of himself or SRK, he would feel light and good. And we will love and respect him more.

Stay well and blessed!

Zak Apr 10, 2017 10:22am

You disrespect pakistan and its people. You just don't have it.

Syed Fahad Anwar Apr 10, 2017 10:29am

Why we have such people in pakistan.... so bad

sallu Apr 10, 2017 10:44am

Dude, because you are NOT an original person. You have no personality. It is like you're living someone else's life. Your movie songs are copies of Shahrukh Khan song's, same style. Nobody likes wannabes !! Be original !!! Have your own personality !!

sallu Apr 10, 2017 10:46am

I disagree with the article, he does NOT have 'Cult type following' !!
He has no following to be honest.

Sajjad Apr 10, 2017 11:06am

He can be a good actor. All he lacks is talent.

Sana Apr 10, 2017 11:19am

Still to find a person on either sides of the bridge who loves him.

Jinn Apr 10, 2017 11:24am

He is doing his best given the poor resources at hand. Bravo

Saif Khan Apr 10, 2017 11:25am

@sallu seems like you just read the first line of this article and nothing else. This is actually a very well written piece about the 'real' Sahir Lodhi who is better than what we see on morning shows.

Sk Apr 10, 2017 12:31pm

Who can blame them if they cannot make up their mind... They are simply not sure what you are, or trying to become....!?

NAJUM Apr 10, 2017 12:33pm

His cult-like following wasn't large enough to save his film from going bust.

Shahid Apr 10, 2017 12:42pm

Please criticize you because you copy SRK for so long now and at times you do so silly and cheap things otherwise you are fine guy. Your radio show is good

M Rafique Apr 10, 2017 01:02pm

Writer did a real hard work to promote the runner up show biz person, irrespective of the concerned person's performance

Tariq Mohiuddin Apr 10, 2017 01:33pm

Mr. Sallu sum up him nicely here and I am 100% agree with him.

"Dude, because you are NOT an original person. You have no personality. It is like you're living someone else's life. Your movie songs are copies of Shahrukh Khan song's, same style. Nobody likes wannabes !! Be original !!! Have your own personality"

Kamal Ahmed Apr 10, 2017 01:59pm

Better start some charitable works for poor, deprived and needy people. Don't waste precious time please

Haroon Apr 10, 2017 02:12pm

Finally - a well written article in Pakistani press.

Fahmeed Apr 10, 2017 02:38pm

@sallu Spot on!

Sheikh Yasser Jamil Apr 10, 2017 05:22pm

The biggest problem in Pakistan is the educated class. It's astounding how biased all the reviews and opinions are towards his movie. Granted the movie might actually be of a low standard (I haven't watched it, just for the sake of argument) however this is not the way to go about it. It is ridiculous to read every single Pakistani news website talking so negatively towards him. The level of journalism is so low in Pakistan that it is a shame to even call them movie critics. As a reviewer you review the movie with a bit of objectivity and subjectivity. Unfortunately this was not the case. Even this article has a very negative tone as if the person who wrote this wanted to belittle him in a subtle manner. You can judge by his tone that he is obviously on the media bandwagon. Again your personal opinion of the actor should be set aside as your reviews lose credibility. Review movies on merit not on personal preferences.

Sheikh Yasser Jamil Apr 10, 2017 05:27pm

@aK There is a difference between criticism and belittling a actor. The reviewers were focused on insulting him rather than talking about the actual move. And from what I have read Sahir Lodhi was not the only actor in the movie. What evidence do yo have which supports the accusation you are making that he used this movie to self-promote? Why would a person like him self-promote when he is already so famous in Pakistan? Makes no sense?!

P.S Not a fan of him nor do I watch his Tv shows or anything he does just so that you know I am not defending him because I am a fanboy which discredits my argument just like the critics reviewing his movie.

abdul Apr 11, 2017 03:40am

Because you imitate someone who himself is so artificial.

optimistic pk Apr 11, 2017 10:52am

If Raasta would have been made two decades ago it could not have been called a first line Lollywood movie by any means. Typical "Gandasa" type movie it is.

Sweetwahala Apr 11, 2017 10:56am

I appreciate you. Those who don't like you is because you don't play puppet. They may also be intimidated by your intelligence since that can't challenge that either. (beauty too)

optimistic pk Apr 11, 2017 11:02am

@AK - A DAY AGO ... I cent percent agree with you. The movie should be a team work. if one person is doing every job from songwriting to director to a hero to producer to screenplay writing to story writing (surprising not a singer), it's really "Hilarious" . I will say to Mr. S. Lodhi that this is the age of professionalism and divergence. please respect the global trend of teamwork and professionalism. Good luck for your next project provided you don't unify all the tasks in you yourself. and at least let someone other than you cast in a movie first before you cast yourself in the next movie. Good Luck

MRaz Apr 11, 2017 02:15pm

This guy is suffering from Histronic Personality Disorder.

S. A.M. Apr 12, 2017 05:49pm

Please learn to take actual criticism positively. you taken our dislike many notches ahead. no we don't hate you because you're just not that important. it's just that we dislike you and don't want to see you.

Amit J Apr 15, 2017 03:58am

I am shocked to read that this CONSTIPATED version of SRK has 900K followers...Nobody in India knows this guy at all, but don't why he's trying to act as if he's the biggest star of the decade.

Dude, first of all be original, don't try to copy SRK. People love original, they discard "fake maal" and stop pampering your ego. In my opinion Fawad Khan & Ali Zafar have huge following in India & Pakistan but nobody knows this guy. I only came across this article ONLY to see who is this fake copy of SRK. Anyways good luck for you future in Pakistani films but try to be ORIGINAL.

AR Mallick Apr 15, 2017 11:46am

Dear Mr. Sahir, Plz choose another profession but screen. Thanks