I had some preconceived notions about Feroze Khan before I met him.
I imagined him to have plenty of starry airs given how fast his career has spiraled to success. I thought that he would be a firecracker like his sister Humaima Malick, that he would be fond of making dramatic statements, boyish and, given the character he is currently playing on TV, roll into our interview on a swanky motorbike.
To the contrary, Feroze turned out to be a philosopher in the making, very humble and quite serious for a 28-year-old — hardly the devil-may-care boy and more the introspective man.
He wore an unassuming T-shirt and jeans, a cap firmly lodged on his head and, unlike so many of his contemporaries, he arrived right on time. And he came in a car, just like all regular mortals. But this doesn’t mean that Feroze Khan isn’t a star — he just doesn’t feel the need to prove to the world that he is one. He doesn’t need to dress the part or put on an attitude because eyes naturally swivel in his direction wherever he goes. Fans gravitate towards him when he’s out, he continues to top TV ratings with his successive dramas, his acting has been winning him rave reviews and, according to him, he consistently gets offered projects where he has the chance to do what he loves — act.
“I’m in this profession because I love to act,” he professes. “I’m lucky that I’m appreciated for the work that I do and I hope to keep doing more, doing better. Having said this, I have never aspired to be a star. It’s said that for every rise there is a fall but if you never accept that you have risen, how will you ever fall?”
This, I discover, is classic Feroze Khan rhetoric. He mulls over his words and frequently delves towards the spiritual. If a project didn’t come his way, it doesn’t make him feel insecure because ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ and if his co-stars turn out to be particularly difficult, he just takes it in his stride and ‘prays for them’. He is so utterly philosophical that he is even able to explain away the fact that he wakes up late in the noon: “I believe that whatever work is meant to come to me, it will come to me. I don’t need to wake up early to go in search of it’.
He switches gears just as easily to describe his extensive fitness regimen — currently, three hours in the gym daily! — or to predict that the next Shah Rukh Khan movie is going to be a big hit or to talk at length about his family: his mum, his dad, his wife, sisters and the many nephews and nieces who are “ruining themselves with their electronic gadgets.”
Every now and then, he pauses and glances warily at my cell phone, recording away our conversation. “How much of this are you going to write? I don’t want this interview to hurt anyone or sling mud at anyone. Please keep the off-the-record bits to yourself.”
And so I do. We still have an interesting conversation, even after eliminating the mudslinging …
His earlier projects spanned different channels and production houses but why has he now aligned himself so obviously with Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi’s production house, 7th Sky Entertainment, and with the Geo Entertainment Network? Doesn’t he feel that, as a young actor, he needs to build a more diverse portfolio?
“I’m not aligned with any one network,” he replies, “but I do have a very good understanding with 7th Sky Entertainment. We work well together. It’s just that chemistry gets built over time. I have great regard for Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi and for Anjum Shahzad, who directed my first movie Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai, as well as my dramas Khaani and the currently airing Romeo Weds Heer. I’m open to working with others but why wouldn’t I continue to also work with people that I’m comfortable with, especially when we’re creating some very good projects?”
I point out that he has also had a tendency to be paired with one leading lady over and over again. Earlier, he had worked in three projects with actress Sajal Aly and now he is consistently being cast opposite Sana Javed. Isn’t he afraid that audiences will get bored of seeing the same two actors together over and over again? “My next drama is opposite Yumna Zaidi but, having said that, I don’t think audiences are getting bored yet of seeing Sana and me together on screen. According to the ratings, they like us together quite a lot!”
He shows me a few posts that have gone up that day on Instagram: his drama Romeo Weds Heer is apparently hauling in top ratings even though it is currently rolling out its initial episodes. “These ratings, the numbers, they are undeniable,” he says.
Given that he’s been going strong on TV, does he hope to win awards for his roles in the near future? “That would be great but, honestly, there is no bigger award than the love of fans and successive high TRPs [ratings]. The Oscars made Leonardo DiCaprio wait for years in the audience until he won an award for The Revenant so I don’t really value any awards that keep applauding the same person over and over again every year. Where’s the credibility in that?”
With his TV dramas doing so well, will he be moving towards film any time soon? “I’m just about to begin working on a new movie that I can’t talk about,” he reveals, “and yes, I do also want to work in films. There was a time when I had thought that I would only work in films because I was so dazzled by them but now I have realised that our dramas have extensive global reach.”
He’s been opting for diverse TV roles, for instance flitting from playing the villain in Khaani to the garrulous boy-next-door in Romeo Weds Heer. Is this a conscious choice? “Of course, I want to keep doing different things and to be challenged as an actor. The fear of not being able to enact a difficult character motivates me. I work harder. It can get tough, though. I’m very sensitive and often, when I’m fully engrossed in a character, I take him home with me, living his feelings, his emotions, for days.”
An actor’s life
I ask him if it gets hard for his family when he becomes detached from them and utterly involved in a character. “I don’t really have the option of getting detached,” he says. “I have a responsibility towards my family to be there for them. I have to go home and spend time with my parents. I also just got married recently. There’s a lot that I have to take care of and it’s helped me become more mature, a better person.”
Has his wife been able to adjust easily to being an actor’s wife? “It helps that she knew what she was signing up for,” says Feroze. “I have also been completely honest with her; about my past, who I am, who I want to be. She knows how my world works and she understands.
“However, I may be working in this business but my family isn’t. It makes me very angry when a public platform refers to my family in any way, even if it is as part of a joke.” He is, of course, referring to the recent Hum Style Awards where a random comment about him and his wife riled him. “I don’t usually take to Twitter to express my views but I was very angry. A certain protocol and respect needs to be given to family.”
His tweets inevitably qualified as ‘news’ on the multiple entertainment blogs currently cluttering the internet. “The blogs often have a lot to say about me and I have stopped keeping track,” he shrugs. “Also, very few of them get the news right. A lot of times my words are sensationalised and end up meaning something else entirely. They’ll put my name in the headline just in order to get more hits or pick excerpts from my interviews and twist them in false ways.”
He has had one such experience recently, when he was asked about his past liaison with actress Sajal Aly and, while he replied that they were simply ’friends’, his words were reinterpreted to imply that they were much more. “Fortunately, my family knows that all this is just part of the career that I have chosen. Social media is like this. There are no ethics to it.”
And yet, while many of his friends may have occasionally faced a backlash on the net, Feroze has so far been fortunate. “Yes, but I can’t say that I like social media just because I haven’t had a bad experience from it. It could be my turn next. How do I know that I’ll always land on the green side?
“The only upside to being connected on the internet is that I can interact with my fans. They have given me so much love and the least that I can do is reply to their comments and post pictures every now and then.”
Earlier this year, he also gave his fans the chance to have an insider’s look at his wedding when he included bloggers in the guest list. The dholkis, dances and wedding receptions were all floated out on to Instagram in great detail. If he is so averse to social media, what made him decide to open his wedding up for online viewership?
“It wasn’t my decision,” he grins sheepishly. “I hadn’t initially invited any bloggers and, on the day of the valima, the last day of the wedding festivities, I was actually gritting my teeth when I met everybody. I was so tired of it all. But the fact is, I have two sisters, Humaima and Dua Malick, and they are both famous. They had gotten dressed up for their brother’s wedding and wanted to enjoy every day and, somehow, the social media fraternity was suddenly on the guest list.”
Speaking of his sisters, I ask him how it has been for him, growing up with a star in the house, Humaima Malick? “It meant that I never really got star-struck once I had grown up. She would take me everywhere with her because she knew that I enjoyed it. I’m also a great talker and I would end up befriending everyone and handling an uncomfortable situation if there were any. I admire Humaima a lot. She’s a brilliant actress — and Maula Jutt is going to make that very clear to the world.
“It’s so funny, the worst rumour that I have ever heard about myself is that I’m Humaima’s boyfriend,” he laughs. “This is how ridiculous media and the internet can get.
“It’s why I don’t usually give interviews. I pray a lot, try to keep my family happy, work hard and am blessed with the love of my fans. That’s enough for me. I don’t need to explain myself to people who may just sensationalise whatever I have to say. I don’t have a filter that censors me from saying something else. I’m very forthright with my opinions and this can lead to false stories about me.”
This is when he glances at my cell phone and asks, “Will you be writing everything that I’ve said?”
For the record, I haven’t. There’s a lot more to Feroze Khan, the young boy who has matured into a man, who has a lot to say but doesn’t like to say it just so he can trend on the net the following day. He seems almost to belong in a book somewhere when he tells me, “I just really want to be good, good at my work, good to everybody around me, good at my faith.”
This interview, then, is just a glimpse of him till the day he decides to go ‘on the record’ with a lot more.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, December 23rd, 2018