Jack of all trades, Ahmed Ali Akbar has checked off film, music, TV and theatre as well as tennis from his list of things to do. Usually seen sporting comical (Karachi Se Lahore) or romantic (Tajdeed-e-Wafa) roles, his upcoming film Laal Kabootar challenges the persona associated with him, showing him as a character which is new for the local audience.
In an exclusive conversation with Something Haute, Ahmed talked about people who inspired his character Adeel who is a cab driver in the film.
“My character in the film is introverted and feels that he is a misfit with the people around him. Although I couldn’t fully relate to him, I could sympathize with him because since childhood I’ve been silent and observant, which helped me become empathetic and facilitated my characters over the years. Due to circumstances, I’ve lived with people who did not come from a privileged background but they’re like my family today. If given the right opportunities, they could grow into so much more and I see that hunger to strive in my character. The stories of people I’ve known helped me connect with my character.”
Karachi has had its share of ups and downs and telling a story about a city like this comes with a huge responsibility. Was that a matter of concern for you?
“The city’s history is richer than what is shown in the film and it’s nothing compared to what the city has been through. But this story is more about individuals, where the city has been used as a backdrop. So, no, I wasn’t scared because we picked Karachi for its ability to bring people from different strata and cultures together. Karachi tells you where each character comes from; it is a character in itself,” he said.
The title of the film Laal Kabootar has intrigued netizens and critics but we asked the actor what it signifies for his role.
“My character in the film relates to both aspects of the title. ‘Laal’ symbolizes love but also violence and blood which is synonymous to my character. While ‘Kabootar’ represents freedom and escape which is what my character is striving for.”
Although the trailer received rave reviews, when asked what the audience will be thinking about on their way back home, after watching this film, he said, “They’ll be talking about how the film is not glamorous and totally breaks away from the formula (which I don’t believe in) about new actors and certainly the music which is fresh and nothing like we’ve heard before in our films. Taha Malik (singer) and Kamal Khan (director) are two valuable additions to our film industry and their approaches are unique. The director has pushed boundaries and shown bravery so they’ll definitely talk about him.”
Ahmed recalled his favourite scene from the film (with an actor from NAPA) which goes on for 7 minutes, uncut.
“It keeps escalating to a point where you’re at the edge of the seat. We did it in 18 takes; I bled during the scene, we were injured and our bruises had to be covered in order to maintain the continuity. It was agonizing yet very fulfilling,” he grinned.
Ahmed’s dedication to his work is truly remarkable. He lost 6kgs to look the part which is still not a common practice in our industry.
“I envisioned him as a malnourished guy but the director suggested that I should put on some muscle because there are people who work out and he wanted me to look good. I completely changed the way I talk and walk, in fact, I got piercing done which was new for me. I drove a yellow cab even though we couldn’t get a ride as people opt for other cab services now. We had the liberty to rewrite scenes after analyzing the power dynamics and thinking about how the character would react at this point. I call this entire process with Kamal ‘a discovery’.”
While acting appears to be a fulfilling job, it comes with its fair share of frustrations and Ahmed spoke about what bothers him the most.
“I am an actor, therefore I must dress and talk in a certain way. The façade of maintaining an image is extremely tiring because you’re doing something that isn’t you. Everything else about the job is fun -difficult at times- and rewarding, but this isn’t.”
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Although all the actors do not come on-screen together, Ahmed was all praise for Ali Kazmi’s performance. “He brings in such a relief factor to the film, which was needed. His performance is refreshing.”
Essentially wanting to see a shift in television, he quoted Steve Jobs: “It is not the consumer’s job to know what they want” to state that although gradually, but, there is a need to educate the masses through TV and bring them out of the drawing dramas.
Laal Kabootar releases nationwide on March 22.