In most of his roles, he is immaculately dressed in dandy three-piece suits, one even in a baby-pink hue. Alternatively, he wears designer polo tees and well-cut jeans. So it is unusual to see him answer the door dressed in a casual aqua polo, sweatpants and flip-flops.
With nine years in the industry and some 37 television plays done, Junaid Khan — the lead vocalist of the band Call, songwriter and actor — has had no particular career highs nor lows; he’s just done consistent work. I am meeting up with him to find out what it is like being on a constant career plateau.
“Everybody is in a race, we are all competing, but I don’t take competition that seriously,” he tells me in response.
“Mujhe kissi se aagay nahin nikalna [I don’t want to get ahead of anyone]. I don’t want to be number one. I believe that I’m on a journey, and I want to explore myself on this journey. [I want to see] how much I can prove myself as a musician or as an actor. I don’t want to earn a lot of money, so acting is not a business for me.”
Junaid loves the performing arts, and had done theatre in university but his acting career only kicked off when director Jawad Bashir asked him to do a soap, Kabhi Naa Kabhi, for which he also composed and sang the title track.
“It was a Lahore production whereas the industry was in Karachi. But after that soap, I began getting offers from Karachi. In 2011, Momina Duraid finally offered me the lead in Mujhe Roothnay Naa Dena which opened the door for back-to-back offers from MD Productions. I did Mata-i-Jan Hai Tu with Mehreen Jabbar, followed by Yahan Pyar Nahin Hai, which had Saba Qamar who had just done the hit serial Maat and also Mawra Hocane making her debut.”
Actor Junaid Khan is in no hurry to reach the top or to partake in the rat-race to stardom. He would much rather make it on his own terms and at his own comfortable pace
Although it was early in his acting career, he still accepted a negative role in Mata-i-Jan Hai Tu.
“I thought that working for a big name such as Mehreen Jabbar would get me noticed. Also, the role had margin for acting even though it required being loud and involved body language. Later, in Yahan Pyar Nahin Hai, my role also had negative undertones. This is when brands were beginning to reject me as my image was becoming negative, so I took a break and resumed my career with positive roles.”
Junaid’s favourite role remains Jehangir in Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai (2015).
“Directed by film director Shehzad Rafiq, the story was about a young fellow who gets infatuated with a mature woman and it lasts till they both grow old, and then she dies. It was great working with filmstar Saima who is humble and down-to-earth despite the Lollywood stardom and the crazy fan-following Lollywood stars enjoy.”
In 2017’s Sun Yaara directed by Danish Nawaz, Junaid Khan made waves as his on-screen chemistry with co-star Hira Mani clicked and the romantic song he had sung for the soundtrack went viral.
“On the very first day of working with Danish, I could see that this guy knew his work. He knows exactly what the viewers want to see. I was totally at his disposal. As far as Hira is concerned, she has an amazing quality, because of which our chemistry sizzled on screen. In a romantic setting in the subcontinent, the male actor shows dominance while the female shows submission, and that is the point where viewers enjoy the chemistry or romance happening."
"Hira ke andar aik film ki heroine basti hai [There’s a film heroine within Hira]. When Danish saw that all the elements are there, he played them up, capturing even our footwork in one scene.”
How does Junaid choose his roles?
“I look at the script, the director, what my role is and should I be doing it at that point. I also look at the production house, because it is important that the director is provided with a comfortable environment to create his visuals in. Working with a star cast is not important for me. I prefer to work with people I enjoy being with because it gives me an opportunity to explore myself more. I have noticed though that, in our industry, if you want to be a star you have to work with stars and a star director. Audiences follow images. That is why actors work more on image-building than their craft.”
Junaid’s favourite role remains Jehangir in Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai (2015). “Directed by film director Shehzad Rafiq, the story was about a young fellow who gets infatuated with a mature woman and it lasts till they both grow old, and then she dies. It was great working with filmstar Saima who is humble and down-to-earth despite the Lollywood stardom and the crazy fan-following Lollywood stars enjoy.”
Junaid played Moonis in Khasara (2018) and Junaid in Hania (2019) which were two completely opposite characters.
“Moonis was a humble man who wore simple shalwar kameez and wanted to earn honest money and live a regular family life. But his wife’s greed creates all the intrigue in his life. On the other hand, Junaid in Hania was the antagonist. The role wasn’t written the way viewers saw it. Junaid was supposed to be an ordinary, plain-looking man who flips and becomes the antagonist. I have seen many people such as Junaid in real life."
"Although they flaunt their wives as display pieces, they don’t really want them as life partners. Qasim Ali Mureed, the director, and I improvised on the role of Junaid and made it a louder character. Since he was stinking rich because of all the illegal businesses he was supposed to be doing, he also sported a fashionable wardrobe.”
Currently, Mohabbat Na Kariyo, his second project with the Sun Yaara producers, Humayun Saeed and Shahzad Nasib, is on air. “It is a love triangle with Hira Mani and Zarnish Khan, directed by Ahmed Kamran. I’m curious as to what feedback comes my way for this as Zarnish played my sister in Sun Yaara.”
During the glory days of Call, he was the lead vocalist for the band and contributed to popular albums such as Jilawatan and Dhoom which pushed him into the spotlight. Cashing in on his popularity and the rising trend of singers turning to acting, Junaid too jumped on the bandwagon and took on Jawad Bashir’s Kabhi Naa Kabhi.
Music may have taken a back seat for him with acting being at the forefront but, whenever he gets time, Junaid does get together with his band to compose and perform. But it is mostly for corporate events, because he feels that performances are now audio-visual experiences that need big budgets.
Junaid is particularly grateful to two of his directors, Wajahat Husain and Danish Nawaz. “Their method is quite similar as they focus on each character, including the support roles.”
He is also working in his first film opposite Mansha Pasha. The film, directed by Jalal Roomi, is being shot currently. “It’s about a core social issue and my character goes from young to mature. It has romance, comedy and naach gaana [song and dance] which, so far, I have done only at mehndis,” he grins.
Junaid believes film director Nabeel Qureshi is at the top of his game. “
Technically, his films are sound, begin and end on schedule, every scene is storyboarded and the results are fantastic, too. I would love to work with him. I would also love to work with director Nadeem Baig because he is a master of emotion. Among actresses, I would love to work with Sajal Aly because I feel she is made for television and her work has so much depth.”
Other than doing a film about a singer, Junaid dreams of working in an action film, a genre that he feels is unexplored yet in Pakistan for technical and financial reasons.
“I would love to do the role of a wrestler as wrestlers in the real world are brilliant actors. Wrestling fascinates me as it is a show, completely staged and choreographed. It is a live action stage, or a next level form of theatre with emotion in it. They fall out of the ring, come back in, suffer pain and follow the script throughout without even the luxury of a cut that we get as actors.” I shudder to think how Junaid Khan’s fans would react to see his pretty face all messed up with cuts and bruises!
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, November 10th, 2019