It’s 5 p.m. on a warm Monday evening, and Sachal Afzal is talking about energy.
“I believe that everyone should eat something sweet after a shoot,” Sachal says. “There’s a lot of energy from other people you absorb during long hours spent in close quarters, and that energy will spill out somewhere.”
An interesting observation, and such an unusual conversation starter. Of co-urse, Sachal had come to this point after sharing that he misses Gujranwala, his hometown, for of course his family and friends, but mostly because when he is home, he eats whatever he wants.
“Everyone has one thing that keeps them going,” he says, “for me that thing is food,”
Easy for him, though, right? One doesn’t simply become one of the country’s top male models. There must be a lot of working out and meal planning going on somewhere in the backdrop of the feasts in Gujranwala.
“I don’t know what to say,” says Sachal. “I’ve had the same measurements text saved on my phone for a while now. I don’t work out that much. I just have a very fast metabolism.”
In the next instant, he thinks over what he just said. “Maybe I need to stop telling people about the measurements thing or I could jinx it.”
Sachal Afzal was the Best Male Model at the 20th Lux Style Awards, where he caught everyone’s eye not just for his lean good looks and the three minutes he spent up on stage while receiving his award. He had to be one of the best and most stylishly dressed men at the event.
“I wanted to pay homage to Lollywood, so I went to Tabesh (Khoja) and put this look together. I also wanted to carry a gandasa, but that might’ve been too much for the red carpet.
“What I have learnt by being in the industry, and from Tabesh is that every event demands its own respect. So while I can wear my dhoti at an event like the LSAs, formal, high-shine leather shoes will pull the look together.”
At this very moment, Sachal is dressed in a black kurta, jeans, and baseball hat. “I like the movies,”
he shrugs, “and these days I’m channeling Sanjay Dutt, whom I love.”
It’s funny, how a boy who moved to Lahore to attend Government College, who confesses that he would miss a step when the girls hanging out by the GC amphitheater would shoot appreciative remarks at him, often referring to him as ‘Pyare Afzal’, who thought life back in his teens was what life was all about, now poses comfortably in front of cameras, walks down ramps, and speaks so openly when he does.
Conversation with Sachal flows easily and endlessly. He goes from thought to thought seamlessly, though each topic connects to the other, and paints a deeper picture of what Sachal Afzal is all about.
One of the things, apart from food, (“sometimes you just want a nice meal, plated beautifully.”) Sachal is passionate about is fashion. Lucky, you’d think, since he is a literal model, but his love for dressing up goes way back into his college days.
Unlike in Gujranwala, where Sachal recalls thinking, “you thought this was the life. It didn’t matter how you looked, what you wore, how much money you had in your pocket. It was just about you and your friends, and having fun.” He found himself caring more and more about presentation.
“I like my things in order. I like my bedsheet on flat with no wrinkles. I like wearing nice clothes, occasion-appropriate. And whatever I wear, I take care to adopt the appropriate posture, the correct style.
“At GC one of my friends, he was in the Economics Department and I was in Political Science, and I pooled in money to buy clothes. I have this huge thing to not repeat the same outfit for 30 days. So, we’d swap, and the days he wore something I’d just recently worn, I’d warn him to stay far away from me.”
Meticulous. Detail-oriented. Maybe a little too focused. But those aren’t bad things. One way of looking at it would be to assume Sachal is really boxing his options in. Another would be to believe that maybe this isn’t boxing in, maybe Sachal Afzal is just excellent at seeing what he wants, how he will achieve it, and then doing just that. Maybe it’s just a streamlining of priorities, and maybe this very young man has better boundaries than most of us.
He is super simple as far as what he needs to achieve in life is concerned though.
“I believe a man needs just three things to thrive: good food, good clothes, and good company,” says Sachal. “I believe that when you screw your head on straight, align your heart with your intentions, and have malice towards none, the right people are attracted to you automatically. Your company dictates so much of who you are and what you end up doing.
“There are times I meet people simply to get closer to my own ideas. Just debate. Even if I know what I have decided is right, I seek out another perspective. It’s so important to do that. And then you need the opinion of those you know will never steer you wrong. Your very best friends are the one who will always question why you’re doing what you’re doing to the point of irritation.”
And then of course, the conversation flows naturally towards romance. Sachal, who believes one must never give their inner self up to even the closest friend strongly believes that ‘the one’ is the one you’re ready to give it all to, to worship endlessly, and cater to in every way.
Not exactly surprising, given how concentrated his efforts are towards everything that interests him. But ask him if there is, indeed, ‘the one’, and Sachal blushes deeply.
He does not answer, perhaps the question is too intrusive and personal, and is immediately retracted.
“There was a time in the last two years that I thought that maybe, I need a woman to sort my life out,” he says, waving the apology away, “but it is what I said it is, you have to find yourself and be true to yourself first. Sort it out. Then let the right one in.”
Speaking of right, modeling seems like the it’s the best fit for Sachal Afzal, but he has been acting too. Not just dabbling – acting.
The next serial he will appear in is Geo TV’s Mannat Murad, which he says is a very lovely story, and he found his role intense. There are other projects he’s shot for, but cannot speak about at the moment. Suffice it to say, shooting all through Ramazan – for television – is an experience that Sachal found very rough.
“I do my own hair and makeup, it takes me 15 minutes,” he says, “so when I arrive at the call time, and I’m the only one, it is frustrating that no one else is there, knowing I will be on time, and ready on time.”
Television is a notoriously unpunctual industry in Pakistan though, that’s really no secret, but Sachal is still irritated. “if your one job is to make sure the artist is comfortable, then why are we not doing it?”
The conversation full-circles here. “It is off-putting when things are not organized. If you’re working with a team, make sure their schedules, meals, breaks, and pack-ups are sorted. That’s literally just common courtesy.
“Because then, the whole energy of the team goes off, even if you yourself are the one fuming. We work together all day, and absorb each other’s energies. And they will release themselves at some point, maybe even with you telling someone off aggressively
“And I don’t want that for myself. I like being around people – I like a good mehfil – and I like knowing people are comfortable when I host them. So what is important is what you choose to take in, and what you choose to let go of, and then what you choose to share with the world.”
“I believe a man needs just three things to thrive: good food, good clothes, and good company,” says Sachal. “I believe that when you screw your head on straight, align your heart with your intentions, and have malice towards none, the right people are attracted to you automatically. Your company dictates so much of who you are and what you end up doing. “There are times I meet people simply to get closer to my own ideas. Just debate. Even if I know what
I have decided is right, I seek out another perspective. It’s so
important to do that. And then you need the opinion of those
you know will never steer you wrong.”
Though laser-focused on the path he envisions himself going down, Sachal Afzal is a chameleon on camera and a philosopher in real life. – photo by Ashna Khan