Why do actors choose to become producers? In a nascent industry where good scripts are few and far between, why not?

Fawad, Urwa and Mikaal are going behind the camera. But why?

Why do actors choose to become producers? In a nascent industry where good scripts are few and far between, why not?

Updated Mar 02, 2020 11:47am


A film actor in Pakistan treads a risky path.

With local cinema on an uphill struggle, good scripts are few and far between. Only a handful of movies are released every year and even these are constantly in danger of going extinct. Many are too haphazard to be accepted by an audience that is increasingly fickle, having gotten jaded after watching a slew of substandard productions.

Even relatively good movies find it difficult to break even given the limited cinema screens available to them. Adding to this, the inevitable clash when every movie aims for an Eid release tends to limit profits. In these dire circumstances, filmmakers tend to veer towards a few ‘favourite’ actors, refusing to take a risk with many others.

What does a film actor do in such hard, hard times?

For one, he or she pursues a career simultaneously in the much more thriving TV industry. That’s an intelligent move. Many actors also decide to create opportunities for themselves by going behind the camera as producers, directors, scriptwriters – and sometimes, all three.

Jack of all trades?

This is hardly anything new. Cinema industries the world over feature successful actors who also moonlight behind-the-scenes; among them, George Clooney to Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Drew Barrymore, Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma.

Pakistani film’s nascent landscape is dotted with its own coterie of multitaskers going behind the scenes as well as starring in their own movies: Humayun Saeed, Sheheryar Munawar, Ali Zafar, Hareem Farooq and Adnan Sarwar, among them.

Many others continue to join the fray. Urwa Hocane, for one, will be releasing her first movie as a producer, Tich Button, this Eid-ul-Fitr. Actor Mikaal Zulfiqar is co-producing upcoming movie Money Back Guarantee which will be actor Faisal Qureshi’s directorial debut.

Also, Fawad Khan is said to have taken a ‘special interest’ in the script and financing of upcoming movie Neelofar, which will feature him opposite Mahira Khan.

The audience can't wait to see these two reunite.
The audience can't wait to see these two reunite.

“Even when I am acting in a movie, I never want to take over the spotlight completely. The movie in its entirety should be successful which means that every character needs to be well-developed and get the required screen time. In Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2, I felt that Fahad Mustafa’s character needed more scenes than mine and I followed this through."

Knowing Fawad’s penchant for perfectionism and the fact that Humsafar fans all over the world are still enamored by his pairing with Mahira, the movie will be one to watch out for. Neelofar’s shooting has just begun and it is likely to release next year, although no release date has been announced as of yet.


Sheheryar Munawar points out an advantage of producing and acting simultaneously: “It definitely reduces the headache of managing the dates of my leading hero. Mainstream heroes are also quite expensive. But in my own movie, I will inevitably be available all the time and not be charging a heavy salary.”


Similarly, actor Ahmed Ali Butt is all set to begin working on a new movie that he has scripted himself and will also be directing. “If I need to make a gamble, I’d rather gamble on myself,” he points out.

“There are times when, as an actor, your scope gets limited because you are dependent on other people’s stories and visions. I have done this before as well. I started my career with the TV series Jutt and Bond but nobody was casting me after that and so I produced the TV show Rubberband. It’s a natural evolution for an actor to want to create opportunities for himself by investing into his own career.”

Actor-producer Sheheryar Munawar’s most well-received movies are those that he has produced and acted in himself: 2015’s Ho Mann Jahaan and last year’s Parey Hut Love. In contract, the other two mainstream ventures that he acted in, Saat Din Mohabbat In and Project Ghazi, proved to be commercial and critical failures.

“I want to keep working with other filmmakers but at the same time, sometimes it’s difficult for an actor to wait for a good script to come his way. Rather than wait for a producer to pick up that script, I take on the responsibility myself. It’s not an easy job. I am in front of the camera at one point as an actor, completely submissive to the director."

It's not easy donning multiple hats, reveals Sheheryar.
It's not easy donning multiple hats, reveals Sheheryar.

"Then, as soon as the scene ends, I am behind the scenes, looking at the technicalities and figuring things out with the director, sometimes even having to put my foot down. And just because I cast myself in the main lead doesn’t mean that things are easy for me. Movies need sponsors and they require convincing. They will only come on board if they think that the movie and its cast, including myself, are viable.”

Sheheryar points out an advantage of producing and acting simultaneously: “It definitely reduces the headache of managing the dates of my leading hero. Mainstream heroes are also quite expensive. But in my own movie, I will inevitably be available all the time and not be charging a heavy salary.”

“I actually started my career as a producer, assisting director Asim Raza for three years before acting in HMJ. It made me realise that all actors should spend some time behind the camera. It keeps them grounded because it makes them realise the worth of being in front of the camera, the amount of effort that takes place behind the scenes in creating a movie. You also get to hone your craft because you see big actors perform. It’s very important."

Boss ladies

Hareem Farooq talks about how she wants to continue making movies “till the day I die!”

Hareem in a still from Parchi.
Hareem in a still from Parchi.

She explains, “I love films and I feel that they can truly help in building a positive image for my country. A good movie can be very impactful; it can initiate new thought-processes and educate people.”

“There’s also the added benefit that producing my own movie and choosing a script according to my liking, allows me to try out a diverse range of roles. All actors are constantly creating content in their heads and this is a way of creating more opportunities for yourself as well as for other new, talented people.”


“I also feel proud that this Eid, two of the movies being released are being helmed by female producers – Ammara Hikmat with The Legend of Maula Jutt and myself. Fizza Ali Meerza is also one of the finest producers in Pakistan. I feel that women can be instrumental in building the industry forwards and I hope that my own movie helps in some way,” shares Urwa.


Urwa, at the cusp of making her producing debut – in which she herself does not star – discusses how she has always felt passionately about cinema and how this is her way of helping build the industry.

“As an actor, I have worked with some of Pakistan’s finest filmmakers – Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza as well as Nadeem Baig – and I think, even when I was acting in front of the camera, I would always be interested in what was happening behind the scenes."

Urwa with Tich Button's cast and crew (Farhan Saeed's MIA!)
Urwa with Tich Button's cast and crew (Farhan Saeed's MIA!)

"It was a better learning process than getting any degree. I have tried to apply all that I have learnt to producing my own movie and it has been hard work, from the scripting to the many technicalities.”

She adds, “I also feel proud that this Eid, two of the movies being released are being helmed by female producers – Ammara Hikmat with The Legend of Maula Jutt and myself. Fizza Ali Meerza is also one of the finest producers in Pakistan. I feel that women can be instrumental in building the industry forwards and I hope that my own movie helps in some way.”

Producer first, actor second

Of course, the enduring, most successful example of a producer and actor in Pakistan is Humayun Saeed, who continues to make and break records and haul in major box office innings with each successive production starring himself and many others.

Meray Paas Tum Ho largely exists, thanks to Humayun Saeed.
Meray Paas Tum Ho largely exists, thanks to Humayun Saeed.

Borrowing an example from television, the recently culminated Meray Paas Tum Ho could have starred any number of actors had it been in the hands of another producer. But Humayun despite being older than other mainstream heroes – made it his own, producing it and then, taking on the titular role and delivering a performance that brought on the waterworks.

The script may have had glaring, misogynistic dialogues but regardless, it was a great platform for Humayun to prove, yet again, his mettle as one of the country’s finest actors.


“Even when I am acting in a movie, I never want to take over the spotlight completely. The movie in its entirety should be successful which means that every character needs to be well-developed and get the required screen time. In Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2, I felt that Fahad Mustafa’s character needed more scenes than mine and I followed this through," reveals Humayun.


“I was actually first a drama producer before becoming an actor,” says Humayun.

“I ended up acting in one of my productions and when it was successful, my acting career just started. It’s difficult to act as well as produce but if someone is able to do both then there’s nothing better. Also, production doesn’t merely involve investing money. You need to know the nuances of making a movie.”

This is perhaps what makes Humayun a successful producer – the ability to discern what works.

“Even when I am acting in a movie, I never want to take over the spotlight completely. The movie in its entirety should be successful which means that every character needs to be well-developed and get the required screen time. In Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2, I felt that Fahad Mustafa’s character needed more scenes than mine and I followed this through."

JPNA2 poster.
JPNA2 poster.

"After the movie’s release, Ahmed Ali Butt was nominated as Best Actor at the Lux Style Awards. I felt happy. It was well-deserved and was indicative of my movie’s success.”

Actor Mikaal Zulfiqar observes, “You have to really love the craft to produce a movie. It involves so much: choosing the cast, script, wardrobe, location. I think it makes a lot of sense for an actor to cast himself in his own project. As an actor, you know your strengths and weaknesses and as a producer, you can cater to them.”

The key is to cater to these strengths judiciously without diminishing the entire storyline. Not everyone is able to do this. A case in point is Shaan’s 2017 release Arth - The Destination where the camera perpetually ricocheted towards the actor-producer, allowing only mere glimpses of the rest of the cast.

Will the latest actors planning to go behind-the-scenes - Fawad Khan and Ahmed Ali Butt who are just starting out and Urwa Hocane and Mikaal Zulfiqar, with their films releasing soon - manage to achieve this?