Catching up with the man of the moment, who’s on a whirlwind tour promoting the upcoming Kapoor & Sons in India.
It’s almost impossible to remember Asher Hussain, Zaroon Junaid and Bond G Kaboom, if you can recall that completely clumsy clunk of a comedian who danced around trees and wooed Jutti behind bougainvillea hedges in the backyard. It is almost impossible but also important to recollect characters of Fawad Khan’s past because they have all defined the man, the actor and the huge star that he’s evolved as today. Between them and Yuvraj Vikram Singh Rathore, his aristocratic film debut in Khoobsurat or the self-deprecating Oochi, in hilarious anecdotal commercials popular on television these days, everything rolls up to make way for the role we anticipate to see him in next: Rahul Kapoor. Naam toh suna ho ga?
With Kapoor & Sons a week away from release, promotional tours are at an all-time high and I caught up with Fawad, over a strategically timed call, as he made his way to the Shri Guru Gobind Singh College for Women in Chandigarh. The words ‘for Women’ equated to hordes of shrieking, screaming and hysterical girls. This had to be quick. I jumped straight to the point.
We thought you’d stay in the comfort zone of an aristocratic and aloof hero, since it had done so well for you in Khoobsurat. But you appear to have yanked yourself out of that comfort zone for your character in Kapoor & Sons. How difficult was that?
“It wasn’t difficult at all,” Fawad responded in a slow drawl that he adapts when he wants to make things very clear. “Kapoor & Sons demanded it. The character required me to come out of that aristocratic zone. I have been craving to do different stuff for a while. I wasn’t getting the opportunity to explore my range in TV and now I’m maybe in a better position to make my way around. As an actor mujhe thark puri karni hai,” I could hear him smile at his own words.
Fawad has been exploring his range in what appears to be retaliation to the way he was being pre-stereotyped after Khoobsurat; people felt he wouldn’t be able to remove the stick from his spine. But his character in K&S, if judged by all the promos, has put that presumption to rest. While he’s been very vocal about avoiding on-screen intimacy, was he nervous stepping into the character of an emotional, gay man. I asked, of course, hoping to get some kind of confirmation on the rumours.
“The movie isn’t about a gay character or a love story but these people who live in a community and their relationships and misunderstandings and how, over the years, they tend to grow apart and how they overcome that,” he responded, neither confirming or denying the rumours. “It’s purely about that. Everything else is speculation. But even if a role did require me to be a homosexual then what is the hullabaloo about?” he led on. “It’s not like my stance on intimacy. Does it offend my community? I would play anyone if the character demanded it. Zia Mohyuddin, many years ago, played a eunuch and he was asked how he could take such a big a risk with his career. His answer was that he is an actor and an actor will tell a story and see how he can deal with the character. Too many people want to appear as a buffed hero but I want to do roles that stick with me and help me in upping the game. The gay rumour has spiraled out of context though,” he laughed.
The other big thing his fans are taking away from K&S promos is his moves on the dance floor. It was very obvious in Khoobsurat, two years ago, that Fawad was uncomfortable dancing and that left all the footwork for Sonam Kapoor. But in ‘Let’s Nacho’ he is seen matching Alia and Siddharth’s footwork, step by step. I remember being entertained by Fawad’s son, who was dancing to ‘Malhari’ (Bajirao Mastani) all evening, on a loop, while we were watching the opening PSL match in Dubai. When I asked him who danced better, Ranvir Singh or Fawad Khan, he loyally replied “Baba”. So, was dancing actually a hidden talent that Fawad had now stumbled upon?
“I wish dancing came naturally to me,” he was quick to correct. “But I was born with two left everything. My limbs are dis-coordinated. I practiced two to three days (for ‘Let’s Nacho’) and then tried. But I would love to invest my time in dancing. I want to try everything and dancing is an important skill for an actor, just as important as horse riding or swimming. I am going to commit to the craft.”
What does come naturally to Fawad, however, is comedy and that is apparent in the character he has adapted as his alter ego, Oochi. Didn’t he feel the least bit nervous about shattering the chiseled and buffed hero-image that his fans had loved him as?
“I was exhausted of doing the same thing and I didn’t want to be pigeonholed,” he explained the genesis of Oochi, the brand ambassador (if you may) of Oye Hoye chips. “Oochi was my idea; I’ll take credit for that. We sat down on the scripts and thought there would be a character but we didn’t know what that character would look like. We were on set and randomly started putting things together. I’d like to think that I have a funny bone and this gave me a chance to prove it. Oochi is completely improvised. He’s also slightly challenged,” he laughed. “And Oochi is thoroughly irritated by this man (Fawad Khan), who has taken over his life. We recorded the concept and it kicked off.”
Fawad has kicked off in more ways that anyone could have anticipated when to stepped into the role of Bond G Kaboom (Jutt and Bond) fifteen years ago. EP followed and after that came his successful stint on television, where Humsafar propelled him to new heights of fame. We cannot discount the impact of Khuda Kay Liye on his career; it was, after all, his first film in which he held his own opposite veteran actors like Shaan and Iman Ali. Now, years later, there is no holding him back and he’s prepared to trail blaze his way through.
Why was he agreeing to do smaller, cameo appearances while his career is obviously in full throttle, I asked?
“Okay, so Ho Mann Jahaan was purely a cameo, done out of love and respect of a friend (Asim Raza),” he said, “but Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is not exactly a cameo, as papers are suggesting. My character is part of a back story but it is important to the script. Karan was very sweet and asked me if I was comfortable (doing a small part), which I was because there was quality associated with the role.”
We had to wrap things up as his car pulled into the girl’s college and a noisy murmur started drowning out our voices. I quickly asked him one concluding question: why did he and even Ali (Zafar) get the opportunity of a range of roles in Bollywood whereas our heroines had always been stereotyped in the same flimsy characters? What was the difference?
“They weren’t patient,” he was quick to reply. “It (career growth) could happen to anyone in Bollywood but it would depend on how patient you are. I waited out every urge…I just waited. The question is, are you waiting for mainstream availability or a role that will allow you to grow as an actor?”
(This interview was originally published in Instep, The News)