Osman Khalid Butt has had an eventful year and truly has a full plate at the moment. From choreographing ‘Billo Hai’ for upcoming film Parchi, writing two film scripts and romancing Kanwal Baloch on Baaghi, the actor has proven that he is a jack of all trades.
Discussing all that he’s done this year and how Baaghi has changed the dynamics of television, we speak to the ever-busy actor about the tears he shed on TV and what he has in store for us next.
SH: In a previous episode, we saw your character show his emotional side. It’s rare to see men cry on TV. Is there a message here and how do you feel about it?
OKB: I think it really depends on the character; people process pain differently. That episode featured Sheheryar at his most vulnerable; what could be a bigger trigger than the death anniversary of his wife and child? I always perceived Sheheryar to have a high EQ – and it’s really okay to let your guard down with those you feel comfortable around. That’s what I found beautiful about the Sheheryar-Kanwal dynamic: how at ease they are in front of each other. How there is no pretention, no façade in their exchanges. He’s an idealist and a romantic. She’s battle-weary and pragmatic, yet still longs for a real connection. Their falling for each other is almost inevitable.
I consider myself an emotional person; I admit, I’ve gone through phases where I’ve intellectualized emotion, but that’s a dangerous defense mechanism. There is no shame in being a man and shedding tears. It’s not an assault on your masculinity; quite the opposite, in fact.
SH: Have you ever thought of playing the antagonist on a show?
OKB: Every waking moment. (Laughs) I’ve played negative characters on the stage and there is just so much more material to work with than what a traditional lead offers. The closest I came to that on TV was Aunn’s intense selfishness in Aunn Zara and Wali losing his wits and abducting Farah in Diyar-e-Dil.
The problem with television and negative roles (barring exceptions, of course) is this: there is a very troubling trend of romanticizing villains. We have well-dressed murderers in search of that paak-pavitr girl to help them see the light; stalking and harassment is sexy; rapists are just bad boys waiting to be reformed – or worse, good guys who just… slipped up. Now, I’m not saying villains can’t be suave, but the punishment must fit the crime, which is hardly ever the case.
I would love to a play a properly fleshed-out villain. I’m itching to tap into the dark recesses of the mind, discover what makes that negative character tick. I’m just waiting on a good script.
SH: Did such a character exist in Qandeel’s life or is this use of creative freedom? What do you hope the audience takes away from your character?
OKB: I was told there was a man in her life who, like Sheheryar, proposed marriage to her. Who offered her respite from the manipulative men she was unfortunately surrounded by. However, creative liberties were taken to expand the character.
For me, though, Sheheryar – more than a character – represents a school of thought. As a society, as a people, we are steadily becoming more and more intolerant and judgmental. We’ve adopted the social media’s freedom of hate-speech mantra as a collective consciousness. It affects the way we think and act. Sheheryar is not some knight in shining armor or savior out to reform Kanwal – he is a friend, he is a support system, he is a listener, he sees through her façade and even challenges her but never presumes to judge her. He is what men should be more like. Make a woman feel empowered, not marginalized.
Qandeel was demonized the second she stepped into the limelight; mocked, threatened, or at best, dismissed. There is no denying she made questionable choices but did any one of us really bother scratching the surface and trying to find out her story? No. She was just the vulgar ‘how ‘em looking’ girl – and she was murdered. Some people on my own Facebook newsfeed had the audacity to write ‘good riddance’ under news updates of her passing. This is what I mean when I talk about intolerance. What has become of us, really, if we endorse or are apathetic to murder just because a woman doesn’t fit the accepted or traditional ‘Pakistani girl’ narrative? I hope with this serial people rediscover what it means to be human.
There’s a quote from a song by NOFX I heard more than a decade ago on a One Tree Hill episode of all places, itself a derivation of Martin Niemöller’s poem ‘First they came…’, which resonates even now.
‘First they put away the dealers, then they put away the prostitutes. Then they shooed away the bums, and beat and bashed the queers. Turned away asylum seekers, fed us suspicions and fears.
We didn’t raise our voice, we didn’t make a fuss. It’s funny, there was no one left to notice,
When they came for us.’
SH: Will your character stay for the entire length of the show?
OKB: Yes he will. Right through to the inevitable end.
SH: What’s next? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline after Baaghi?
I am currently writing two film scripts, which is exciting and maddening in equal measure. I am also going through several very interesting scripts for 2018, for both television and film (acting). Immediately though, it’s just Parchi promotions (for which I choreographed two songs; my debut as Director of Choreography!) and a whole lot of acting-related meetings.