Over to films, Ali stood out in Janaan and then stole the limelight in Parchi last year.
Ali Rehman Khan has strong presence, on and off screen. He’s been around since 2010, but one remembers his breakthrough appearances on TV and film in Diyar e Dil and Janaan respectively, after which he rose to credible heights. Currently the industry’s blue-eyed boy is channelling an unexpected negative role in TV serial Khaas as Ammar, an entitled narcissist who is so self obsessed that he can’t recognize the emotional torture he is subjecting his wife to. Ali’s performance is so convincing that it has gotten people questioning how close to the character he actually is. Over to films, Ali stood out in Janaan and then stole the limelight in Parchi last year. Enjoying great chemistry with co-star Hareem Farooq, he’s appearing in yet another project with her; Heer Maan Ja, his next film that is all set for release on Eid ul Azha next month.
We meet Ali individually and collectively as part of Heer Maan Ja media junkets and film promotions that pick up steam as the film’s release date gets near...
“My character is completely different from that in Parchi; Ash was a very street smart person who would look for shortcuts in everything without any reasoning but Kabir comes from a good family,” Ali shares details about his character Kabir, who is an architect. “Kabir is educated; he just wants to work hard and become something really big and not care about the world. He is on the verge of becoming something bigger but he meets Heer and his bad luck starts. He gets thrust into this whole situation. He is very unlucky in life, just by default.”
Directed by Azfar Jafri and produced by IRK Films & Arif Lakhani Films in association with Geo Films, Heer Maan Ja has an ensemble cast that also includes Hareem Farooq, Mojiz Hassan and Faizan Sheikh while it features cameos from Aamina Sheikh, Ahmed Ali Akbar and others. Ali and Hareem have been cast together in multiple TV and film projects in the past however in Heer Maan Ja they will be in a romantic relationship for the first time, according to the actor.
“This film is the first time we are actually doing romance and it really drives the film because Hareem and I share really good chemistry,” the actor explains, adding that the two instantly related to the characters and believed them to be true. “I think what people haven’t seen is me and Hareem in a romantic setting.”
Heer Maan Ja is releasing on Eid ul Azha alongside two other Pakistani films including Asim Raza’s Parey Hut Love and Mohammad Ehteshamuddin’s Superstar. When asked what he feels about the box office clash and what will make HMJ stand out, the Khaas actor responded, “It is a fun, paisa-wasool film. I think on Eid it is the most important thing to watch a film with your family without thinking too much or getting depressed. We haven’t seen a fun, masala film to come out lately. It is going to be a complete entertainer; it has a bit of everything. Heer Maan Ja is a family film; we don’t have any profanity in it, we don’t have any juggat baazi or jokes that would be inappropriate for families. We always try to keep our content very clean and, for us, that is something that sells.”
“At the end of the day, people are going to spend their money on something that is completely different from what they have been watching on television,” Ali continues optimistically. “They want to see cinema, they want to laugh a little and they want to see some romance that we don’t see on television a lot anymore. I wish other films all the best of luck and I hope we all do well. It is a big Eid and a big opportunity for all of us.”
Briefly reflecting on the fact that people are already watching him on TV serial Khaas these days, Ali clearly opines that in Pakistan, stars are made on television before they move on to cinema. Gone are the days when you had just movie stars; now an actor has to be on TV, in film, online and everywhere to be big. Quoting Fahad Mustafa’s success as a prime example, he feels that actors can no longer be restricted to one medium anymore.
If we look back at the trajectory of Ali Rehman Khan’s career, his time on TV began in a drama called Rishtay Kuch Adhooray Se in 2013, for which he won the Best TV Sensation award, which he followed up by signing on a few more plays. However, he shot to fame with Haseeb Hassan’s Diyar e Dil that put him on the map. Last year, Ali played the protagonist in Main Khayal Hun Kisi Aur Ka opposite Hareem, which as a production wasn’t too impressive.
Reflecting on the play, Ali admits that it was a misadventure.
“It is unfortunate that it didn’t work out,” he says, adding that initially it appeared to be a very interesting script. “But there are always some hits and misses; it happens. You can’t just completely start churning out hits all the time.”
Ali’s ongoing drama serial Khaas, which casts him opposite Sanam Baloch, has attracted attention for two reasons: one, Ali’s performance as the ominous Ammar and two, the subject which targets the menace of emotional abuse in a marriage.
The play features the actor as Ammar, a self obsessed man who keeps finding faults in his wife Saba, subjecting her to emotional trauma. The story highlights emotional abuse, which is generally overlooked in our part of the world where women are expected to compromise in the worst of situations as long as it keeps the marriage intact.
It’s a new theme and the good part is that the story offers a refreshingly progressive heroine in Saba (played by Sanam Baloch) who fights the situation rather than accepting it as her ill fate. The narrative is certainly relatable to a lot of women, who have spoken about their experiences on different social media forums, with reference to the play. Domestic violence and physical abuse may be in the headlines these days but what we rarely get to see is stories of emotional abuse, which at times is worse because it has no visible scars.
“I get a lot of messages saying this is the story of our lives,” Ali shares while we are on the subject. “It is a very true story. I’m glad Saba is very strong and she is taking a stand despite Ammar’s family always backing him. She is standing up to me and not playing the fragile girl. We knew that this would be popular with people as they would relate to it but it took some time for them to catch on to the show. I’m glad it is finally picking up.”
Ali’s career will definitely pick up even higher with it, and then some more with his upcoming film. He shares how he couldn’t really commit to a lot of projects earlier, since he was transitioning between his corporate job and his acting career, but he has now shifted his base to Karachi and is throwing himself into acting wholeheartedly; he now plans to expand and grab as many opportunities as he can. He reveals that he is presently working on an upcoming TV project, which is being directed by Aabis Raza and features Ushna Shah opposite him. He is also in talks for a few other projects including a web series but the actor will announce them once they take some concrete shape.
Till then, watch him channel his inner romantic comic in Heer Maan Ja!