He’s been on our screens and radars for almost decades, but Syed Jibran has finally broken through to the other side of stardom.
he one thing you won’t expect Syed Jibran to be is a storyteller. But there he is, telling you about his life and journey that led to this point in time, with all the boring bits cut out. It’s almost as if he has, despite setbacks, rejections, and outright failure at times, decided that he gets to pick what his story is. And the narrative he is going with is one where he is favored against all odds.
His isn’t a rags-to- riches story; Jibran was born into privilege – his father is an oncologist, and he himself has studied medicine – but it swerves between successful and unsuccessful. And as anybody who has ever single-mindedly pursued any kind of dream knows, at some point the disappointments don’t matter; all you want is to finally arrive at the dream.
Jibran will laughingly tell you: “I only got into acting for a 100-rupee bet,” but the way he made sure he won the bet tells you how determined he can be.
“A Zara Sheikh poster is what instigated the whole thing,” he remembers. “My friend was talking about how actors and models are a different breed altogether, and I countered that anyone can do what they’re doing. Bus, phir sau rupay ki sharth lagi, and I started pursuing my winnings in earnest.”
For a self-proclaimed, “very, very shy guy,” the lengths Jibran went to, to score his first TV spot, are the exact opposite of shy.
“I stopped Laila Zuberi at an airport, I visited the TV station regularly, I asked anyone who had any connections to hook me up, I had a friend’s uncle set me up a meeting with Sajjad Gul in Evergreen Studios.”
Sajjad Gul told Jibran to come back when he finished his degree, and as Jibran puts it, “aesi meethi goliyan bohat logon ne deen,” before he got his big break. Or, as we will see later, his minor dent. His friend encouraged him to admit defeat, which Jibran said was ridiculous, because he was still trying.
Finally, he discovered that a doctor at his university also wrote for television. Jibran requested Dr Wasim Khan to introduce him to someone who would get him some screen time. Then he landed in a one-scene role on a play produced by Taufeeq Hussain Shah, which had him having a romantic stroll in the park with a girl, collapsing, and dying, with his heart going to Tauqir Nasir.
This led him to be discovered by Tariq Mairaj, whom Jibran – Islamabad ka Shah Rukh Khan – labels Islamabad ka Karan Johar. After he starred in the Eid play for that year, when the media boom was still a couple of years away, he went on to audition for a soap on Hum TV for its launch.
Syed Jibran, the actor, is very understated. You will see him either play very calm characters or hideously abusive ones. This, he points out, is not a choice. Referring to an earlier conversation, he says that television scripts in Pakistan are largely focused on the female character. The other most well-written character will be the villain, so of course that’s what most actors would go for.
“This is how I stayed in Karachi; by the end of one year, I had done 14 commercials, a couple of plays – I was getting work left, right and center. I have to say, Karachi may not be the best city for everyone, magar yeh sheher mujh pe meherban hogaya.”
By 2014, Jibran found himself out of work at large, and meaningful work in particular. While he runs two successful restaurants in Islamabad, 1969 & Time Goes On, and BLT, so finances have never really been an issue, the actor counts not being challenged enough in his acting career among his lowest moments.
While Yasir Nawaz saved the day then with Shak and Chup Raho, Jibran once again had a lull a few years later, which is when Ghabrana Nahi Hai happened.
Every time Syed Jibran packs his bags to move to the U.K. with his wife and kids, his career finds a way to make him stay. And as he stated in an earlier conversation with Instep Today, the big screen is where every actor wants to end up.
“I’m told I have a good eye for scripts,” he says, “so when Hassan bhai sent me this one to look over, I told him I wanted to be part of the film: iss film ko chorna gunah hoga.”
Syed Jibran the actor is very understated. You will see him either play very calm characters or hideously abusive ones. This, he points out, is not a choice. Referring to an earlier conversation, he says that television scripts in Pakistan are largely focused on the female character. The other most well-written character will be the villain, so of course that’s what most actors would go for.
“With GNH, I immediately asked to play Vicky,” he says, “the cop – Zahid’s (Ahmed) role is obviously the hero, but I have never played a Vicky before. And Saqib Khan, the director, gave me free rein to make it my own.”
Everything from his hair to the little gestures Vicky endears himself to the audience with are Jibran’s own input.
To that end, the lockdown of 2020 came to his rescue a little bit. “Not that anything about COVID-19 was good, but I had been coming straight from a serial shoot to this, and was a little overweight and didn’t have the right look,” says Jibran. “When we resumed shooting in November 2020, I had grown my hair out, got in shape, and was ready to tackle Vicky.”
The work – from styling his character, to its quirks, to the backstory and universe Saqib Khan and Jibran created for Vicky and Zuby – put into the role paid off. When credits rolled at the premiere, the theater rang with the sounds of people congratulating Jibran and cheering for Vicky bhai.
Syed Jibran, the actor, has arrived.
In his younger days, one of his best friends, Wajid, often told him that one day his stardom would be announced to the world: “local boy makes it big!” his friend said the headlines would read. And though he has been working for almost 20 years now, Jibran feels he can finally claim the headline.