He is charismatic, daring and versatile. Indeed, Zahid Ahmed is one of Pakistan’s finest artists in the entertainment industry today. His acting skills and onscreen aura are the talk of the town! I got in touch with the 33-year old actor and discussed his latest projects including his first international production with Netflix, past ventures and more in an exclusive interview.
What prompted you to become an actor?
Being the youngest among three brothers, I was the family entertainer since childhood. I always had a natural love for it. After having discovered Islamabad theatre, I took the first practical step.
How would you describe your early life and the beginning of your acting career?
My early life was a struggle in every sense but I was always free spirited and courageous. So I stumbled, made all the mistakes one could make, observed my duties of doing jobs related to my education and responsibilities of being a son, all while expressing myself in theatre which eventually led to acting in television.
You garnered acclaim for your role in this year’s drama titled ‘Daldal.’ How do you perceive your character on the show and why do you think it was so well received?
I’m very proud of playing Shuja. It was a new dimension for me to explore as an actor. Portraying his anger and frustration was equally frustrating for me. It was also necessary to develop the foundation of the story. I think a large segment of society can relate to ‘Daldal’, which is why people want to watch it. People have raved how close this drama is to reality and that makes me very happy.
How do you manage to play such versatile roles in dramas? What aspects do you consider for different characters?
I continue to challenge myself through character selection. That said, performance margin is the biggest aspect in choosing roles. I do not believe in playing to my strengths, as it does not help me evolve as an artist. Therefore, you will always find me playing polar opposites like Hadi from ‘Zara Yaad Kar’ to Rameez from ‘Alvida’.
What are your upcoming film and television projects?
I am very close to finalising my first film. I have signed two major plays for ARY, ‘Pukaar’ by Farooq Rind and ‘Daman Aur Chingari’ by Hashim Nadeem, the writer of ‘Khuda Aur Muhhabat’.
You will also star in the first ever Netflix production in Pakistan. What details would you like to share?
All I can say at this point is that yes, it is very much an attempt for a Netflix original. They have tough criteria for international productions to be titled as a Netflix original but we will be shooting the project between those guidelines. The casting is international and the hero and heroine will be from two different countries, that is for sure. The project is based on an international award-winning novel adapted for modern day Pakistan. It is a romance and action saga with heavy influences of religion, politics and a clash of two opposing cultures. The entire project is in English language with subtitles and I feel honoured to represent Pakistan in this massive venture.
As an actor what is your take on the recent sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey and the rise of the Harvey Weinstein Effect in the entertainment industries?
It is sickening for an individual to discover that a whole network was involved in this. I can’t even begin to comprehend and put my thoughts into words!
Patriotism aside, would you ever give Hollywood or Bollywood a shot at acting?
Absolutely! I would do everything in my career to grow as an artist.
What is the best advice you ever received? How does it help you personally and professionally?
I have learned more through experiences than advice and the biggest lesson I have learned is to have faith in Allah and never give up.
If you had not been an actor, what profession would you have opted for and why?
I would probably have been dreaming of becoming an actor.
If you could change one thing in this world, what would it be and why?
I would say judgmental people. The world will be an easier place to live in with a little less judgment and a little more faith.
Prior to acting, you worked in PTV World as well as an RJ. Reflecting back on those days, how have they helped you grow professionally?
Everything happens for the best. Those roles prepared me for this life in terms of negotiating and moving along the professional side of the business.
Is there any one with whom you haven’t worked with but would love to?
Daniel Day Lewis – but if he is unavailable I’d love to act alongside Aamir Khan.
What is your take on Pakistan’s entertainment industry and in what ways can it improve?
I believe these are very exciting times for the industry. Television is flourishing and the content is improving. Also, new talent is pouring in. The current wave of cinema, albeit at an infantile stage, is much better than the cinema we had in the past. We can only improve ourselves through experimentation.
What advice would give to a novice in this field?
You should treat your work with utmost respect. Learn your lines and learn from your seniors! Do not let social media overwhelm you. Always focus on improving your craft and take up the roles that scare you, challenge you and make you fearful of your public image – only then will you have a long-term career.
First Published by Daily Times, November 23rd 2017.