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24 Feb

Meet Kent S. Leung, Syra Shahroz’s latest on-screen hero!

There are some films that stand out, even months before their release, and one such example is the upcoming road trip film, Chalay Thay Saath. Call it the magic of Pakistan’s northern areas, the fact that this is Syra Shahroz’s debut feature film or the casting of a Canadian actor, who adds a very international dimension to the project.

Introducing Canadian actor Kent S. Leung –who’s from Vancouver but traces his roots to China – the film aims to introduce an angle of Pak-China friendship. However where does the very cute actor, who plays Adam in the film, fit in? He tells us exclusively in a witty and spontaneous interview!

Something Haute: How was your experience with Chalay Thay Saath?

Kent S. Leung: I had a great experience working on Chalay Thay Saath. Not only did I meet some great and talented people but I also got to see a part of the world I never planned on seeing. And with that in mind, the people and scenery of Pakistan really blew me away. It’s unfortunate the rest of the world only gets a glimpse of Pakistan and not in the way I did. Hopefully, with the help of this film, people will get to see the beauty that I got to see first hand.

SH: What made you choose the project?

KSL: At first I was a bit apprehensive. To be honest, when I got word of the role I didn’t even know Pakistan made their own feature films (I know, call me an ignorant North American I guess). But after some research and a friendly Skype call with Umer and Beenish I got excited for the project very fast. After a quick google search and realizing there were some big Pakistani stars in the film I went from thinking this was some random indie to something that’s much more than that. I don’t think I realized the scale of the type of movie I was shooting until I was in Gilgit meeting everybody and getting a sense, first hand of the shooting days to come.

The character I played also drew me to the film. I also became a bit of an adventurer as I, within the last couple years, moved from Vancouver to Beijing. I gravitated towards “Adam” because he was also traveling to find more meaning to his life and a place for himself there.

SH: What was Pakistan like for you; what did you enjoy?

KSL: Pakistan by almost all measures exceeded my expectations. However, my expectations I dare say weren’t exactly high considering the one sided media coverage people are provided outside in the world. I met some of the nicest people while in Pakistan and it literally started the moment I landed in Islamabad. People ranging from the workers at the hotels I stayed at, to some young men I met while exploring the “slums” nearby, to the many shop keepers in Hunza, I was always welcomed warmly.

The scenery in Hunza was breath taking. Some of the places we shot at were an absolute feast for the eyes and I think it’s really clear how beautiful the places are as can be seen in our first film teaser trailer. My mouth literally waters with anticipation for watching the film on the big screen.

Despite my stomach disagreeing with my tastebuds… I also gotta say I really enjoyed the food. However, 40 days straight of the same cuisine from the same restaurant was a little over doing it I must add. Also even though at times I did enjoy eating with my hands and feeling like a kid again; I can’t say I learned to enjoy the smell of chicken tikka perpetually on my fingers.

SH: What are your expectations from CTS?

KSL: I’m not gonna lie, my expectations have grown a lot since watching the trailer. Seeing the dailies only really gives you a small idea of how the film can possibly look, but once I watched the trailer I was filled with a deep satisfaction and pride (and a familiar feeling of thinking “what are they saying?”) However with expectations comes the fear of disappointment and since I’m not familiar with Pakistani films at all I am really left with the thought of not knowing what to expect.

However, in my heart, I truly believe it’s gonna be good and I feel that I will leave the theater feeling that sense of satisfaction and pride growing immensely.

SH: Do you see yourself working in more Pakistani films?

KSL: You know what, I’m open to what comes. Working on CTS has left me with mostly only fond memories and as an actor who simply loves to act and “work”, if good roles come up I can’t see myself saying no to them. Not to leave out that fact that Jackie Chan just did a co-production between China and Bollywood (Kung Fu Yoga), so I’m left hoping that there’s an opportunity to do a China-Pakistan co-production sometime in the future.

SH: What are some of your favorite memories working on Chalay Thay Saath?

KSL: Two of the first people I made quick friends with were the Yousuf sisters (somewhat intentionally with Syra considering we were supposed to fall into “movie love” soon enough). I remember clearly the first day I arrived in Gilgit at the Serena Hotel. I was jogging around the garden and passing by Syra and Pals every few minutes as they were chilling out on their room patio that was open to the garden. They stopped me the first time to compliment me on my extremely loud green sunglasses I was wearing. After that, I every time after passing by I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to stop and chat or just mind my own thing (ya know? that awkward self-talk.. “should I…? shouldn’t I..?”). Later we struck up a conversation about fitness (naturally… actors) which became a common theme in our friendships. Later on in Hunza, I even gave Pals and Syra some personal workout pointers.

Some of my fondest memories include moments of the game the cast played where we would try to take selfies with as many people sleeping on set as possible. We have some shots that suffice to say a few of us went to far.. (why were we SO excited to get a picture of Faris sleeping??).

 

SH: Working with three of Pakistan’s leading ladies (Syra, Mansha, and Zhalay); how did that go?

KSL: The only criticism is that the three of them really made me feel that Osama, Faris and I were seriously out gunned. When I was doing my “background” checks I was surprised to discover that Faris and Osama were nearly entirely ungoogleable. Surprising because the three female stars were well… stars. That being said working with the three of them was an absolute pleasure as at no point did I get a sense there was any comparison being made between the lot of us.

Mansha was always full of fun facts and always had something interesting to say. Zhalay became a bit of an older sister of sorts throughout the shoot as we grew close over chats about psychology and fitness.

I was extremely pleased to discover that Syra is an extremely humble and down to earth person. Shooting opposite her was a treat and by the end of the shoot, I had the utmost respect for her not just as an actor but as a person. I truly believe that it’s not easy to be a celebrity and humble at the same time but seeing Syra interact with the fans she became a bit of a model celebrity in my eyes. I always envision the day my own career takes off and have every intention to be more and more humble no matter where my career goes. Now I have someone to model after.

Shahjehan Saleem

The author is Deputy Editor at Something Haute as well as a professor in the Media Sciences department at SZABIST, Karachi. Socio-cultural theories and geography fill up the rest of his time.