For designer HSY, acting is putting himself at zero and starting from scratch
Designer Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, better known as HSY, knows what starting from scratch and building your own empire looks like, so when he says he's not afraid to explore other niches and conquer them, we believe him. A man of many talents, the new actor takes a deep dive into whatever strikes his fancy and goes above and beyond to hit the mark. He traced his acting journey, from discussing how he prepares for a role not only where mannerisms are concerned but also changing his physicality to separate the designer from the actor. He also told Images how the funniest moment on sets of Ishrat Made in China helped him get over his fear of snakes.
Action-comedy Ishrat Made in China released on March 3 shows HSY playing Mangshi. The designer not only stepped into the character's shoes but the sleek villain's skin as well.
A man of many talents
HSY doesn't consider his acting debut a switch from designer to actor because, contrary to the general public's perception of him, he's not just an esteemed designer but a man of many talents. Being "a very expressive person", the Pehli Si Muhabbat actor is a "single-parent product" who worked many jobs like flipping burgers, working at a library and working on a construction site to acquire financial independence at the age of 14 or 15.
He started his brand HSY from scratch, so he knows what growing from nothing feels like, which is how he explains his fearlessness when it came to stepping into the film and drama industries. "I set up my business HSY with my own saved money of Rs2,500, so I know zero feels like and I’m not fearful of zero. I have zero fear of zero. And for me acting is putting myself at zero, at a new place so I don’t fear it [because] I desire to add more experiences into my life," he told Images.
The actor believes achievements and awards are for personal keepsakes and not of significance where people are concerned. "The only thing they will remember is how you made them feel the first time you met them, if it was a positive or a negative [experience]. That is our ikhlaaq [manners] — that, I always try to work on. The rest of it is for me, so when I get asked why did you switch from this to that, I will not remember myself as a designer or an actor, I will remember myself as a life enthusiast who lived."
HSY doesn't believe in limiting himself to one profession or ability — he's a versatile man who likes to switch it up and pursue whatever excites him. "I’m a director, I’m a show director, I own my own creative ad agency, I’m one of the oldest and well-known names of our fashion industry, I’m a philanthropist, I’m a motivational speaker — I can be all of those things and more. Now I’ve done television and I’m on movies — none of it makes me into any different person than I was five years ago or when I was five years old, inherently I’m the same guy.
"It’s what I add into the mix for myself, in my brain, in my tijori [treasure chest] of experiences that is important to me. And I like to fill my life with happy experiences [and] achievements, not financially or for the sake of awards — those are nice — but achievements that make me feel like I’ve lived a full life."
On sets of Ishrat Made in China
The designer was very much involved in the styling of his own character and designed and manufactured his costumes himself. "The movie is very colourful, it’s a lot of print, [as for] my character, he’s slick, he’s black and gold and his prints are very texture on texture. He’s a man who wants to be noticed when he walks in. He’s not meek so I designed the clothes for him [accordingly] and I really enjoyed making them," he said,
Owing it to his dedication to his work, the designer revealed that he started preparing for his role six months prior to shooting. He also did his own stunts. "Hanging by wires, riding chariots, jumping from chariots while running, kung fu fighting — I did all of it. Mohib had a trainer brought in from abroad and we did stunt training for a long time," he elaborated. He added that the 19 to 20-minute fight sequence took them 90 days to shoot.
Ishrat Made in China through HSY's lens
HSY loved the film. He describes it as "a two, two and a half hour ride into a fantasy world away from saas bahu [mother-in-law, daughter-in-law] madness, away from woke subjects that seem to permeate everything that we do" to get an escape, the likes of which we see very rarely. He explains that an average person needs something that isn't readily available on TV, so "he goes back home with something that he will keep for a small amount of time until he moves on. And that’s what this film does. And yes, when I walked in, I got exactly what I went for; pure, hardcore, fun and light hearted entertainment with a killer villain."
The actor is super proud of the film and would not change anything about it — especially his outfits. "My favourite outfit in the film — I have many — was the one in my song, the one I was dancing in, I love that. It was a very cool outfit, I actually wore it for five days and I still didn’t want to take it off after five days. I was still very happy with it."
The funniest moment on set was him confronting one of his deepest fears. "I’m really scared of snakes and in a song they made me hold a 14-foot snake," he said, that too sandwiched between Mahira Khan's film shooting one one side and another shooting on the other. "And throughout my only fear was someone will come see how scared I am of snakes. I was just constantly thinking I’ll be so embarrassed but luckily, I wasn’t. The movie turned out great, the saanp [snake] also turned out great and also, my fear of snakes actually went away so that was a good win."
HSY revealed that he started working out six months before to trim himself down for the role. Along with that, he started shifting his mannerisms to practice his character's behaviour and morph into him. "I became more agile because he was more agile, I started becoming faster on my feet because he was faster on his feet, I started dressing his way, I started using less words and more facial expressions just because he didn’t speak that much."
The shifting workout regimes
"I’m a big guy, for this I had to become a lean guy, for Akram [the character he plays in Pehli Si Muhabbat] I had to become a fat guy and now for my new role that I’m about to do I’ve to become a muscular guy so I’m back at working out. I change my body around all the time," he explained.
HSY believes "physicality is as important in your acting ability as your voice," which he feels generally lacks in the industry where only the style of the actors sees change but not their bodies. "There’s no fun in that, there’s no make believe. This is the world of make believe — it’s not star power, it’s the character power, the character must be bigger than your own star power. They have to forget who you are."
When asked if he was given the characters' physical descriptions for him to emulate, he said, "I like getting into my character. No one asked me to [do this], I did it myself. I gained 25 to 30 pounds for Akram, I started wearing shalwar kameez, I started speaking like him four months before I even started shooting."
Taking a peek into the designer's playlist, we asked him what he's currently jamming to at the gym and we guess we're not the only ones hitting replay on Hasan Raheem. "Oh my God, 'Peechay Hutt'! I love it, it’s my new workout song," he responded.
On his coworkers
HSY struggled to pick a favourite amongst his coworkers. "I’ve worked with really incredible people so far — from Maya [Ali] and Rabia Butt to Saba Faisal and Shabbir Jan and Uzma [Hassan] and Sheheryar [Munawar]. I don’t know if anyone is my favourite because they’re all so incredible but I must name two people who I feel were very instrumental in helping me learn; Saba Faisal provided me so much love and support from the get-go that I can't even articulate it. Shabbir Jan sahab really taught me a lot too, I loved worked with him and I got to learn a lot from him."
Adding that everyone else he's worked with has been amazing, he dedicated a special mention to Mohib Mirza, the director of Ishrat Made in China, calling him "incredible" and saying he taught him a lot.
When asked about future dream collaborations he said, "Who would I like to work with? Everyone."
What's in store for the future?
HSY disclosed that he's about to embark on another acting project. "I’m about to sign a tele-film as a lead, a very big film. It’s a big project. I can’t reveal anything else, it’s me and a really big superstar as the leads."
He also expressed the desire to direct his own film one day, whenever his busy schedule allows it. "Unfortunately I’m just one guy and there’s only 24 hours in a day," he started ending with a resolute "but I will."