He went from working for the UN to full-time actor and it's finally paying off
He went from working for the UN to full-time actor and it's finally paying off


It’s been six months since Ali Rehman Khan moved from Islamabad to Karachi and he hasn’t had a day off since then.

“Initially, when I got here I was doing a lot of industry events, going to social gatherings… that kind of stuff. Being the new guy in town, it was exciting to meet people and get to know what the industry is about,” he tells me.

Now, even Sundays are blocked off for fashion shoots, film dubbing or store openings.

In just over two years Ali Rehman has gone from a sometime actor to a full-time actor, model and brand ambassador.

In fact, this summer is already shaping up to be the Summer of Ali Rehman Khan — on both big and small screens. Right now he’s starring in the hit drama serial Khaas alongside Sanam Baloch. And this Eid he’ll be appearing in his fifth film, Heer Maan Ja.

Ali doesn't usually watch himself on-screen but Khaas is an exception

With so many balls in the air, I ask him how he manages to juggle everything all at once. He tells me he’s had to put off a lot of things he’d normally do for pleasure like reading.

For the longest time he’s been wanting to read Mohammed Hanif’s 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes'. Right now the book is languishing on his bedside table. He then tells me about his routine. Unlike most celebs I’ve interviewed, he seems to adhere to a pretty set, strict schedule.

“I start my day early at the gym before heading to work. I’ll usually get home around midnight from shooting and before bed I’ll watch some TV,” he tells me.

Ali Rehman has done such an outstanding job as Ammar in Khaas that there are times where I’ve been left oddly convinced that Ammar isn’t actually a total jerk but merely a harmless, aloof “typical” man.

Nowadays he’s binge-watching Game of Thrones. He tells me that somehow he’s managed to stay away from spoilers online. I ask him if he watches his own drama serials. Not typically, he replies -- even though lately he’s trying to watch himself on-screen more so that he can learn from it.

“Johnny Depp doesn’t like to attend his own premieres,” he points out. “Every actor cringes when having to watching themselves on-screen.”

But, Ali Rehman is really proud of his drama serial, Khaas, which is currently on air.

Although his character, Ammar, is basically a posterboy for the type of man not to marry, Sanam Baloch’s character, Saba, does just that. What happens next is a surprisingly unique and fleshed out plotline ripe with the red flags of emotional and psychological abuse showcased through strong character development which, thanks to outstanding acting, all unfolds in a most meticulous and insidious manner.

Ali and Sanam Baloch in a promo shot for Khaas
Ali and Sanam Baloch in a promo shot for Khaas

Ali Rehman, specifically, has done such an outstanding job as Ammar that there are times where I’ve been left oddly convinced that Ammar isn’t actually a total jerk but merely a harmless, aloof “typical” man.

Ali Rehman tells me that this subtlety in character development was very much intentional on his part.

“I’m really happy that what we tried to portray in such a subtle way is actually coming across to people. Overall, there’s a lot of subtlety in the drama because the show is about a character who is a narcissist and a chauvinist but not in an obvious way,” he tells me.

“I wanted Ammar to be as natural as possible and that’s actually translating on-screen because people are coming up to me and telling me what they notice about the character.”

We then get to talking about whether Ammar is gaslighting his wife, Saba. I tell him I think so. But Ali Rehman doesn’t agree.

“Ammar is a very real and true type of male we see in our society. He doesn’t mean to gaslight his wife. He genuinely feels what he does and says is okay. And, because he has a family who loves and defends him constantly, he continues to think he’s God’s gift to women.

He’s the type of guy that believes shiny gifts are the right approach to a relationship. He doesn’t realise he’s [inflicting] actual psychological trauma,” Ali Rehman explains.

Heer Maan Ja sees him reunite with Hareem Farooq, in a way you've never seen the duo before

We then turn to his role in the soon to be released rom-com, Heer Maan Ja. This will be his fourth time sharing the screen with Hareem Farooq and if the trailer — which has him dancing, joking and living life in full action are any indication, Ali Rehman will be playing a very different sort of man than the one we are currently seeing him portray in Khaas.

“My character, Kabir, is an architect,” Ali Rehman shares with me. “He’s at the top of his game, really successful. But despite being hardworking, he’s not a very lucky guy. And then Heer comes in his life and chaos ensues.”

Is she part of his bad luck, I probe.

“Let’s see,” he laughs, adding, “But he’s a nice guy at heart. He wants to do right by people.”

By now, I’m realizing that when it comes to a journalistic Q&A there’s very little I could say that would actually surprise Ali Rehman. Like a seasoned politician (albeit, an incredibly polite and charming one), he is both calm and quick at anticipating and answering each one of my questions.

I wonder if all this screen time is having an affect on his downtime. After all, in just a few years he’s gone from living in Vienna where he worked for the UN to present day as one of the most recognisable faces in Pakistan.

So, he’s not all that shocked when I ask him about his equation with Hareem Farooq. Specifically, I tell him I want to know why he hasn’t been reluctant to repeatedly share the screen with the same female lead.

“Yeah, this is my fourth project with Hareem,” he admits. “But it’s the first time we will actually be romancing each other in a proper romantic setting.”

Khan calls Hareem his rock
Khan calls Hareem his rock

Fair enough.

He continues: “Hareem is a great friend — one who I’ve known for a long time. We are super comfortable so there’s that chemistry. Hareem has been there as my rock. Like writers, I get actor’s block at times and I can easily talk to her about that type of stuff and she’s very reassuring. Everyone needs a friend and she’s always been that friend.”

Plus, he points out, he’s already doing several other projects with other leading ladies. Along with Sanam Baloch in Khaas, right now he’s shooting an unnamed ARY drama serial alongside Ushna Shah.

I wonder if all this screen time is having an affect on his downtime. After all, in just a few years he’s gone from living in Vienna where he worked for the UN to present day as one of the most recognizable faces in Pakistan.

In an almost unaware and humble way, he mostly shrugs off my suggestion that life must be really different now. Because Pakistan doesn’t have a relentless paparazzi culture, he tells me he’s still able to live his life the way he did before, coming and going publicly as he pleases.

But with so much hype and anticipation over the release of Heer Maan Ja, I have to physically stop myself from warning him: “famous last words, buddy.”

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