Fahad Mustafa: Mr. Straightforward!

Fahad Mustafa is currently one of the biggest stars in the country. People love his game show and his films are becoming super hits one after another. Fahad gave an interview to Images and the actor didn’t hold back on anything. Look what he had to say about anything or everything; from stardom to bollywood he just poured out his heart.

Of course, you do tend to make some very unique wardrobe choices – some would even call them eccentric. You have often credited a brand called Cherry for your clothing. Who is Cherry exactly?

Fahad Mustafa : Cherry is a tailoring brand that I have been going to my whole life. I am probably one of the few TV personalities who believes in paying for my wardrobe and I do so happily because I enjoy devising my wardrobe with Cherry. They just understand what I want. I don’t believe in throwing about names of designer labels just to prove to the world that I am a star. What’s the difference between Cherry and our so-called designers? They all have tailors sitting in their workshops and if they all create well-finished clothes then there’s really no difference.

So you plan out your wardrobe and styling yourself?

Fahad Mustafa: Yes. If I look good, the credit goes to me and if I am a walking disaster it’s my own fault. I was hosting a live show for 30 days and blunders are bound to occur. I still think that I was less of a disaster than certain others.

You did indulge in a lot of layers and your clothes were very fitted…

Fahad Mustafa: It’s a chilled studio so the layers are not a problem. Also, I am thin – if I want to wear fitted clothes, why shouldn’t I?

Your game show may be a huge hit but some of the ‘games’ that you played were extensively criticised. Was it necessary to demean people by rewarding the ones who weighed the most?

Fahad Mustafa: The people who were playing the games didn’t mind so why should the rest of the world? It’s a game show and everything is in good fun. I am probably the only male host who interacts very easily with women in the audience. They hug me, shake hands with me, even high-five me. They trust me, I respect them and we all have a great time together. You should see the excitement on the set during a show – it’s like an India-Pakistan match!

But perhaps you could have used your status as a popular host to elevate your show to certain intellectual standards? Scriptwriter Anwar Maqsood commented that this year’s Ramazan transmissions made him wish that there would be a power shutdown right around show-time!

Fahad Mustafa: It’s easy to criticise. I’d rather entertain than deliver solemn lectures. If Anwar Maqsood is so perturbed by diminishing standards why doesn’t he train others to be like him? I prefer to give messages while laughing along with people rather than by sermonising.

In your show, you often make jibes regarding Aamir Liaquat Hussain, your main competitor in the game-show arena. Why do you indulge in such open rivalry?

Fahad Mustafa: I love Aamir bhai and whatever he does in his show, I still watch it. When I used to host a morning show for the Hum Network three years ago, Aamir bhai would come as a guest to my show on receiving a single call from me. I am a bit hesitant when it comes to discussing religious topics and so I would ask him to chalk out a list of questions for me. I would ask them as is and he would reply. I comment about him frequently on my game show but it is all in good humor and Aamir bhai knows this.

Moving on to cinema, your Na Maloom Afraad 2 releases soon and you’re also going to be starring in the sequel to Jawani Phir Nahi Ani. Both movies are expected to be hits but don’t you tire of playing the same kind of roles over and over again, of the street-smart, poverty-stricken boy-next-door?

Fahad Mustafa: I am like that – why shouldn’t I enjoy playing such roles? They have worked for me so far and besides, I also acted in Mah-e-Meer which was completely different.

It was also a movie that failed at the box office. What prompted you to be part of Mah-e-Meer?

Fahad Mustafa: I think every actor dreams of being part of a movie like Mah-e-Meer. I am Sindhi-speaking and yet I managed to play Meer to an audience that consisted of intellectuals who dissect everything to bits and pleased them to a large extent. It got me critical acclaim and as an actor, that means a lot to me. Of course, I would never produce a movie like Mah-e-Meer and if I ever do, I would keep it restricted to festivals because it certainly didn’t have any mass appeal. The Mah-e-Meer premiere was the only time I reached an event two hours late. I kept circling the cinema wondering if I should go or not.

You seem to have a very good equation with director Nabeel Qureshi who has cast you three times in a row – for Na Maloom Afraad,Actor-In-Law and now, Na Maloom Afraad 2. Why do you think he opts for you and not other young actors?

Fahad Mustafa: Nabeel will cast me in his fourth movie too. It’s because he has seen that if he works hard, I will work just as hard with him. We have done some very expensive shoots together and we have also sat together on roadsides and had discussions.

I don’t believe that I am a great actor but I am very hard-working. I enjoy my work. I also don’t see any point in putting on airs and graces just to prove to my co-workers that I am a huge star. Attitude problems, I believe, are the main reason why many of our actors aren’t able to succeed.

And you say this from your experiences with other actors?

Fahad Mustafa: Yes. There have been so many times when I have visited my productions and the actors working there ask out loud, “Who is he?”

Why do they have to be so petty? I am well-known in my country and besides, I am the one who signs their cheques. Why do they have to feign these pretenses in order to emphasise that they are stars?

There are also so many actors who have huge egos on the basis of their social media followings. Certain makeup artists and salons encourage them to behave like divas and they get lost in a bubble that disconnects them completely from the audience that they have to cater to. They will say that they want to be ‘exclusive’. Why do they want to be exclusive? So that nobody hears them or sees them? Why do they feel so superior towards the masses? They are the ones that have to accept them as stars in order for them to be successful.

Perhaps by being exclusive, these celebrities want to be seen as larger-than-life stars? Shaan Shahid recently commented about you that while you have potential, you are losing your star-power by becoming too mass-centric…

Fahad Mustafa: I think Shaan Bhai’s theory gets negated immediately because despite being seen in a very mass-centric live show, my movies are still hits. TV can be run by network heads and their particular favorites may be preferred there but cinema’s the one medium where an actor becomes successful on the basis of his popularity with the masses.

Now that you have gained a huge fan-base in Pakistan, would you consider expanding it further by acting in Indian cinema?

Fahad Mustafa: I wouldn’t work in India unless I got offered a project that was truly interesting. It’s certainly not my ambition to become a Bollywood star. A long time ago, Humayun Saeed said something to me that I have always remembered: India can be a bonus but it can never be a perpetual career path for a Pakistani actor.

I recently worked with Indian director Pradeep Sarkar for a commercial and even though he was very amiable towards me, we eventually ended up discussing India and Pakistan. It’s just something that we can’t avoid and I refuse to believe that any local actor who goes to India to work doesn’t get to hear comments about Pakistan. They have to curb their personalities there and why should they have to?

Additionally, our actors tend to return from India with surreal expectations from the local industry. We don’t have the budgets for the vanity vans and fringe benefits that are now part of Bollywood. Actors need to understand this before they start throwing tantrums.

Look at Javed Sheikh. He is one of the finest actors in our country and he’s working in productions from all over the world and yet, he gives respect to whoever he works with. We need to understand that eventually, we have to pave our careers in Pakistan. Why work against each other when it could be easier to just work with each other?

For one of the country’s biggest stars, you’re surprisingly humble. How do you keep the success from going to your head?

Fahad Mustafa: There was a time when I rode a motorbike and I travelled in buses and I haven’t forgotten it.

Right now, I think I am just going through a lucky run in my career. All my life, I have made some very bad decisions. I was supposed to be a pharmacist and I dropped out in third year. And I believe that one day, this phase in my career will also end. My game show gets very high ratings in Ramazan but I never ask my bosses at the ARY Network what the numbers are. I just brace myself for the day when the ratings won’t be as high, when I’ll be fading out. This is what keeps me grounded.

Besides, what’s the charm in having a bloated ego? I enjoy my work and I want others to enjoy it with me. The staff in my production company includes young people who are talented and are willing to work hard to get somewhere. And I never dictate them like I am their boss. We just work together.

Did you branch out into production particularly because actors can fade out with age and then, they can develop their careers as producers?

Fahad Mustafa: I like producing. My father was a producer back in the STN days and so I understand the nitty-gritties. Of course, as an actor, there is always the fear that one day you will not get offered any work. In such a scenario, I’d rather create my own content. Credit for my success as a producer also largely goes to the ARY Network. They have always promoted my work fairly and equally with that of others.

Three years down the line, your equation with the ARY Network is still going strong. Have you considered branching out to other networks as well?

Fahad Mustafa: Currently, my productions are airing on ARY Network and Urdu1. Should the need arise, I will work with the others too but I am satisfied with the direction that I have taken with my career. For three years, my CEO at ARY, Jerjees Seja, and I have been working together and we still get along. We laugh together and worked together every day during Ramazan. That’s a rare equation.

Besides, I have learnt that it is better to work with the people who want to work with you rather than run after those who don’t really care. For three years, prior to coming on board with ARY, I hosted a morning show for the Hum Network and I think I got completely drained physically and mentally at the time. Perhaps they didn’t see the potential in me but I felt that I just couldn’t match up to their particular favourite group of actors.

When you work with someone who believes in you, your work improves, you look better, feel better. My career immediately mushroomed after joining ARY. It’s just better to work with people who are truly interested in working with you.

Source: Images