Pakistan's new TV crush gets candid about having a famous father, moving from Canada to Pakistan and his love for films
Dr Asfandyar is the latest drama character to catch fire on social media.
Google the hashtag #Asfiya at your own risk, you may just drown in a flood of memes, fan fiction and video mash-ups featuring the gruff Dr Asfi and gentle Dr. Zubiya from Hum TV’s drama serial, Yakeen Ka Safar.
Popular actress Sajal Aly accounts for one half of the “Asfiya” equation and the other half is held up by talented newcomer Ahad Raza Mir.
Ahad has deep roots in the Pakistani entertainment industry: His grandfather Raza Mir was a well-established director and producer while his father is the famous actor and producer, Asif Raza Mir.
Pedigree aside, Ahad has managed to win over audiences within just two roles; The tragically friend-zoned Salaar from Sammi to the brooding Dr Asfandyar who seems to be Pakistan’s new Twitter crush.
Images caught up with the busy young actor to see how he is handling all the attention.
Images: You've lived in Canada for a substantial portion of your life and have worked in theater there, even winning an award for your acting prowess. Was there a sense of culture shock when you started work in Pakistan?
Ahad Raza Mir: I don’t think I experienced much of a culture shock when I came back to Pakistan, it was just a bit of an adjustment because I’d been gone for so long.
Pakistan is home and I love it so coming back here didn't evoke anything but joy. The adjustment was just in the way people work here and interact with one another.
Images: Every industry has its own quirks. What did you notice about the Pakistani tradition of acting? Was it very different? If so, how?
Ahad: It doesn’t matter that I’ve got an education from abroad because audiences everywhere are the same. Culturally, we might be different but mostly audiences react the same way.
I feel the acting in Pakistan has become a lot more contemporary. I used to hear a lot about it being overly dramatic but it’s slowly changed over time. I think the only difference is the scale on which you are acting: whether it's film or TV, an actor just adjusts appropriately.
Images: A lot of actors have to work hard to get noticed by producers and directors but you seemed to have been much sought after from the beginning. You were supposed to be the lead in the film Shayed a few years ago. What made you step back?
Ahad: The first reason was that I was kind of in the middle of school at the time. It was a big opportunity and I did have a bit of pressure to leave school at the time and do the film. I didn’t do it because I felt it was more important to finish my education.
I personally believe I was not ready at the time. I was very young, maybe 19-20 years old at the time so I still needed to finish school and maybe get to know myself a little bit more.
I can’t really give you an answer as to why I am, as you word it, “sought after“; I guess I'm really lucky right now. A big part of this has to be Momina Duraid from MD Productions because she followed my career from the time I was very young. She knew I was in Canada studying, acting, directing and play-writing. She kept tabs on me and she is a big reason for my move and decision to come here.
She has put a lot of trust in me and given me the opportunities that I have gotten so far. So I have a lot of respect for her and am very grateful to her.
Images: You are currently shooting for the HUM TV film, Parwaz Hai Junoon. Can you tell us a little about your role and why you decided to do it? Was it a huge jump from drama to film?
Ahad: My role in PHJ is quite simple, it’s the role of a cadet, very hard-headed and a pretty aggressive character but he’s a lot of fun too. Film is what I have always wanted to do from a very young age; it’s actually been the ultimate goal so it’s been quite an emotional endeavour for me.
It's a huge jump to come from drama to films. I feel that doing television was kind of a drill to get me ready for the film. I had to adjust myself too. I had done to date over 50 productions but never actually proper TV or film so it was a BIG Jump. It’s been a great experience and a huge learning curve.
Images: How do you choose a role?
Ahad: This is a fun one because I can say I don’t really choose. I don’t think too much about it because I find that if I connect to the role right away, I can just feel it. When someone explains the story or the character to me, I am not overly concerned about whether it’s a lead role, I'm more concerned about the impact that the character and the story are going to have on the audience.
At the end of the day what’s most important to me is telling a good story because I think that is the whole point of what we (actors) do. A lot of my decision to choose a role depends on how I can relate to the character. I ask myself: Can I do justice to what I have been told, can I do justice to the words and the text?
Images: After Sammi, your current project is Yakeen Ka Safar and Parwaz Hai Junoon, both of which are written by Farhat Ishtiaq. Her heroes are always very special. How easy or difficult was it to make your role authentic?
Ahad: It’s been interesting playing Farhat Ishtiaq’s characters. I think Dr. Asfandyar is quite an iconic character at least from what I’ve read and researched. I just love that, especially with this character, there is a big arc. You get to see this character at one point of his life and next, you see the changes and the hardships he has been through.
Besides being a beautiful love story, Yaqeen Ka Safar is about justice — justice between families, father and son, sister and brother; justice between professional and personal life
There are two approaches to acting: you can take a character and then start embodying this character, and the other one is you let the character embody you. I read the script and I tried to make it as relatable to myself as I can and from there I go ahead with the process so it’s not a matter of me struggling with the characters, it’s me struggling with what would I do in the situation. Then obviously we see the traits and quirks of these characters come in.
Images: Your father Asif Raza Mir is a celebrity icon and brilliant actor. Is it helpful to have someone like him guiding you or does it just increase the burden of expectations from you?
Ahad: I think having my father around to advise me is a big advantage. He has given his whole life to this industry so he is a big asset for me. It’s a big help being able go to him for advice on how to deal with people, production and how to approach performing. The other side of it is yes, expectations are high because of my grandfather and my father and the legacy that my family has. The Raza Mir tag will be there and I will be proud to bear it.
Yes, there's a stress factor with that but I think there it's the same with all the new people in the industry these days also. All newcomers have to work very hard, it’s very competitive and it’s tough whether they have people like my father or not .The new people coming in have to be multi-talented and they have to really groom themselves. That is something that I’m learning as well. They have to be able to dance, act and how to dress. To me, I am simply an actor and I have had to adapt to these things.
Images: Tell us about your favourite movies.
Ahad: I am a huge Quentin Tarantino fan; I love raw, gritty films. I am a big fan of long shots, of long takes , where you have to take scenes which are two, three-minutes long, which maybe too long for some viewers, because nowadays we want fast-paced information but I love sitting down and enjoying something like that.
You know the actors are fully there and the scenes are long and that’s my kind of thing. As far as Bollywood is concerned, I’m a huge fan of Ranbir Kapoor, I think he's a phenomenal actor and dancer.
I enjoy watching Bollywood films because of the scale that Indians work with. Everything is big. Everything is beautiful and bold. They have these elaborate films but at the same time, they have their indie film scene going on which is also nice to watch.
I love watching films. I try to watch a movie everyday. I try at least when I’m not working but recently I have enjoyed watching Pakistani films and I’m excited to see how the industry grows.
Images: Who would you like to work with? What would be an ideal project for you?
Ahad: I would love to work with director Ehtashamuddin, the director of Udaari. I have heard amazing things about him. He took one of my first auditions and I remember him directing me and guiding me through the scenes. He's a very specific director and a wonderful actor. He is somebody I would love to work with.
Nabeel Qureshi is someone I am dying to work with because I think his films are proper packages, they have fun, there is comedy, romance, there is everything in his films and I think there would be a lot to learn by being on his set. I would love to work with my father onscreen or behind the screen, but more on screen. It would be interesting to see what the chemistry would be like.
Images: Do you prefer comedy or more serious roles?
Ahad: Drama and comedy are completely different beasts. Sometimes I think comedy is much harder. It’s so specific, the timings and the punchlines, the energy involved is very different. I feel more comfortable with drama; there is time for me to go deeper into a character.
Comedy is a lot tougher to do but I have done a lot of comedy. The first play I ever wrote was a comedy and I hope I get to take on that challenge of being part of a comedy in Pakistan one day.
Images: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your father about acting or life in general?
Ahad: The biggest lesson I have learned from my father, whether it's acting or otherwise, is patience. I try to use it though I am not very good at it sometimes. My father has always tells me there is a time for everything.
Images: What would you like people to know about you?
Ahad: I would like them to know I’m an exceptionally good cook!
I also want people in the industry to know that I work very hard and I take what I do very seriously and I have a solid work ethic.
Images: What would you like people to take away from Yakeen Ka Safar?
Ahad: I'd like to say that besides being a beautiful love story, YKS is about justice.
Not just within a judicial or political setting but justice between families, justice between father and son, sister and brother, justice between professional life and personal life.
Images: What advice would you give Dr Asfi?
Ahad: Though Asfandyar is getting a lot of attention for the romance element in the story, there's a lot more to him that's soon to be seen. I would advise Asfi to listen to his heart.
Images: What's next in the pipeline for you?
Ahad: I’m taking on new roles very carefully. I've decided to do another drama that begins shooting in November. It will be on Hum TV but I can't say much else now,