This Ramazan, Suno Chanda was the binge-worthy drama of the season and lead actor Farhan Saeed has seen his fan following grow.
The family comedy serial sees Farhan as Arsal, a laid back, traditional Punjabi lad who has no interest in bettering himself. He was forced into a nikkah with his cousin Ajiya (Iqra Aziz) by his dying grandfather and the reluctantly wed couple fight like cats and dogs until Cupid finally strikes.
We ask Farhan about this latest hit, his growth as an actor and whether we can expect a Suno Chanda sequel.
Images: Your latest serial, the incredibly popular Suno Chanda, veers from emotional to amusing to absolutely hilarious and a lot of it has to do with the your comic timing and fabulous dialogue delivery. Is this the first time you have tried your hand at comedy?
Farhan: It was about more than just comedy. The script was very wholesome and inclusive, it had a lot of elements that I think are missing in Pakistani TV and thankfully, it was the right decision to do this role.
I think people are generally bored of dramas with serious issues. They have wanted something lighter for a long time and that’s what Suno Chanda ended up being. Plus the whole joint family culture, and how relationships work in those dynamics, particularly during Ramazan and Eid, it is all very relatable.
Hence, all characters from the show were greatly appreciated. Arsal and Jiya can be any two cousins and their love-hate relationship is very common among cousins. And I think the writing really was more situational comedy than it was forced.
Images: Your previous serials were typical romantic melodramas like Mere Ajnabi and then there was the unusual story line of Teri Chah Main, followed by the social justice drama Udaari. Now you're in a loud rom-com like Suno Chanda — that’s quite a wide range for an actor. How do you feel you have grown as an actor and what has it taken to get you there?
Farhan: I think you must be a keen observer to grow as an actor and the other major aspect of growing as an actor is choosing the right scripts.
Udaari, for example, was a brilliant screenplay. Similarly, Suno Chanda was excellently put to paper. As far as loud is concerned, I’d say the character came rather naturally to me. Plus I had a brilliant co-actress. In fact all actors on set were really feeling their roles, we were like a family. And we were very involved in whatever was happening throughout the story of Suno Chanda.
And as far as 'getting here' is concerned, I guess at this point I know what scripts to choose, what is relatable to people and what roles people want to see me in.
Farhan Saeed feels that Arsal and Ajiya's love-hate relationship is very common among cousins in Pakistan
Images: Your Punjabi one-liners are now the stuff of legend, the intonation, that total sense of ladla self entitlement that Arsal wears like second skin is too real. How much of your own experience or personality did you invest in Arsal to give such a pitch-perfect performance?
Farhan: I think he’s just aware of the fact that he’s spoilt, that he’s an only child, that he’s an only son! He thinks he will get away with anything, while I am the youngest in my family so that was a complete flip for me to do.
But all the Punjabi one-liners, I have grown up with them. It comes very naturally, it's not even meant to be funny. I know Punjabi humour, that’s just how it goes! And I just applied everything I observed growing up.
And whatever character you get to play, you need to make it believable, and I think Arsal is a relatable character and it gives me a lot of confidence to realise that I came up with this portrayal.
You also need a brilliant director to listen to your ideas and make them work out perfectly, and Ahson Talish was a great support. Most of Arsal’s credit goes to him.
Images: What are your favourite scenes?
Farhan: My favourite scenes are obviously with Iqra Aziz. We shared great chemistry and we knew exactly what we were doing and how this cousins relationship worked. She was brilliant to work with, because she was just as passionate about her character as I was. And I think that is imperative for a couple to work on screen. Iqra made a lot of things easier for me.
Other than that I loved sharing scenes with Nadia Afghan who plays my mother. We did great together, most of our banter was impulsive, spontaneous and unscripted. The way they only speak to each other in Punjabi and no one else, says a lot about their relationship.
I was so impressed with our audience for picking that up, for picking up everything we wanted them to. Plus, Sami Khan, the kid who plays DJ. He’s a very talented actor and we are friends off screen too, so sharing scenes with him was fun too.
Essentially, I had a great time with each and every person in the cast, but these three would be my favourite.
Images: Ramazan shows are usually tough sells and often passed over as time fillers but Suno Chanda has created a lot of obsessive fans . Why did you choose such a risky proposition?
Farhan: Well, yes, Ramazan serials don't do as well as all the game shows. But the script! And the director, although I hadn’t worked with Ahson before but I had seen his work. I had a very strong gut feeling about the script.
If anything, Suno Chanda gave me great confidence in choosing the right script for myself. Saima Akram has done a great job writing it. The actors did brilliantly playing the characters. I bet more people want to do Ramzan specials now. I myself am looking for new scripts to do at this point.
Images: Let’s talk about Arsal. He isn’t exactly the noblest of heroes and neither is he the usual suspicious, completely unreliable husband that is the staple of our dramas. He is big tease, not in any hurry to get a job or any kind of higher education and spends a lot of time around the house. He seems to have a lot of very traditional, almost sexist attitudes and is good at ordering Ajiya about. Yet he comes across as a little naïve and quite open minded at times. Will he ever make Ajiya a cup of coffee? Or more seriously, why do people love him but might hate someone else with those same attitudes?
Farhan: It was a little complicated to play a character like Arsal who is easy to hate based on his ideas and choices. What he feels about women, about getting higher education, about his father’s wealth.
The thing that worked for him was that he was a family guy. How he spends time with them and how he shows his love towards them, I think we’re all missing that in our real lives. Sure, the guy doesn’t have a social filter. He speaks his mind and his heart. We know he had sexist tendencies, but his innocence still wins at times.
The bottom line is Arsal is a guy who is pure at heart, and he's still maturing. He wanted to change for Jiya, and he didn’t really want to stop her from pursuing higher education. He just wanted them both to come to a common ground. And I think that’s what the message of the drama was: that a nikkahnama doesn’t entitle men to put their foot down whenever they want to.
Images: Let's talk about your other work. What has been your favourite role so far and what has been your most difficult?
Farhan: I loved playing Arsh in Udaari. Udaari was a great cause. [Sexual] abuse is something we can never talk about enough, especially how the Kasur issue came up a year or so after the drama. I’d say we still need a lot of work to do in that area. The drama was very well written, and it was very socially charged. So I’d say that has to be my favorite, apart from Suno Chanda, of course.
Images: What made you choose a complicated or, as some would say, problematic character like Faisal in Teri Chah Main?
Farhan: To be honest, it was the director who made me do it. Adish Raza is a great friend and we wanted to work together, but I wasn’t even convinced with the character even on set of the show. I later heard it was a true story, but I’m sceptical.
Even though all kinds of things are happening and we can’t write anything off, and there are these dim characters from gray areas that are untapped but still important to play. But if given the opportunity I wouldn’t play the character again.
Images: What inspires you to choose a role?
Farhan: As I said earlier, it has to be the script. And a positive message. That is the idea with Suno Chanda as well. That a nikkah is not enough. Consent is not important, it's essential. You can’t make do without consent. So anything that’s giving out a positive message that is able to take society forward I think that would be a selling point for me to do it.
Images: What will be your next step? Whenever an onscreen pairing is lauded for that special chemistry (like Fawad and Mahira or Osman and Maya), fans always want more. Will we be seeing Suno Chanda season two as the writer Saima Akram Chaudhry has been hinting on Twitter?
Farhan: Nothing is confirmed, honestly. Sure, there is still a lot of curiosity and it feels great. But a lot of things need to be considered.
Ahson and I have discussed the possibility of a good enough script that can be worked with. So it is about the writing at this point. Often there is a masterpiece and people try to cash it in more and it all falls on its face.
So far, as it stands, Suno Chanda is really loved. So if there is a good enough script to fill the shoes of the first season, why not! And Saima Akram the writer is pretty excited, so that’s a good sign. The network loves the idea, so if it's written well enough, maybe.
Images: A lot of Suno Chanda fans are discovering you are the singer of some of their favorite songs. Does this surprise you?
Farhan: Not really. When I did Udaari I found out that the audiences and markets for both are completely different. But I think Suno Chanda filled that gap for me. Drama lovers and music lovers watched it all the same.
Images: Your wife Urwa is an accomplished actress herself with several movies to her credit. When will we see you two on the big screen?
Farhan: Let’s say soon. We’re working on something but it's in its early stages at this point. When we have something solid on our hands, we will definitely share it with people who appreciate and love us.
Images: Talking of movies, what do you think of the current state of the Pakistani film industry? What is working and more importantly, what isn’t working in your opinion?
Farhan: Movies wise, I’d say we’re going in the right direction but I personally feel we need to work a lot harder. We should do it for passion, not for money. I'm very hopeful for Pakistani cinema and believe that in 10 years it will be at a great point.
What we do lack is concentration on film scores. It’s a huge mistake. We need to understand that it's essential; all the substance that we like from Bollywood movies comes from their music. And ironically they choose Pakistani music in their films! But I do think we will work on that and get there, eventually.
Images: Apart from Suno Chanda, where can your fans catch you next?
Farhan: I’m actually coming up with a song next. It’s a collaboration with Rishi Rich. Mohit Suri is releasing it under Universal Music and Chris Ryan is producing it. He also produces music for Justin Beiber. I composed and sung it. We did the video in London, it was directed by Adnan Kazi. Kiran Malik stars in the video.
Someone recently asked me music or acting, and I said music and acting. Because in this day and age I feel it has to be both. Luckily I am able to do both and people show me great appreciation for both. Acting wise, I’m reading some scripts and hopefully will choose one soon.