Instep Today

He is made of stars

Instep Today
By Amina Baig
Sun, 08, 23

Mirza Gohar Rasheed, who currently stars in Geo TV’s Jannat Se Aagay, has built a nuanced portfolio of work, and is ready for the next phase too.

Firstperson

He is made of stars

Even if the last time you sat down and watched a Pakistani TV series was in 2010, you will know who Gohar Rasheed is.

You will either know him from theater, which is where he first met acting. Rasheed, a film & production grad from Beaconhouse National University, was primed to begin his career behind the camera, but realized sometime around 2008 that he could act too. His first onstage gig was Shah Sharabeel’s Bombay Dreams, followed a couple of years later by Moulin Rouge, also a Shah Shara-beel production.

True to his original plan – “I always thought I would have a nine-to-five job, make money, have that stability a confirmed paycheck brings,” he says, “just as we are taught from the minute we enter this world” – Rasheed worked with a local channel in Karachi for a few years before he moved on to acting full-time.

“I do know that in the next nine years or so I will work even less than I do now, but in that period I will slowly turn my attention to a more behind-the-scenes role,” says Rasheed. “I very much do have that inclination and I fully intend on following up on it.”

Perhaps your first brush with Rasheed’s acting prow-ess came with one of those epic romantic trage-dies that ensnare the audience in the hopelessness of unrequited love, made even more traumatic by the inclusion of the worst human being you could think of.

In one such series, Gohar Rasheed’s character was that terrible person, stepping in to replace the hero in the heroine’s life, gathering a massive fan – or non-fan – base of an audience that hated him.

Rasheed, who also essayed the role of General Zia ul Haq in Anwar Maqsood’s Sawa Chaudha August, do-esn’t worry too much about being typecast. He joked, at a junket last year for a movie starring Humayun Saeed in the lead: “as you can see, this is the face of a villain.”

He is made of stars

In the brief glimpses we see of Rasheed as Noman in Jannat Se Aagay, he is subdued and sophisticated. He isn’t smoking any kind of intoxicating reptile, he isn’t gambling his distressed wife’s possessions away, and he isn’t entrapping a talented woman into marriage by force so she can earn for the family.

“After The Legend of Maula Jatt,” says Rasheed, “I’ve become a little more intentional about the roles I pick.

“So, while I have played a hero, so to speak, in other serials, I have decided I’d rather play characters that are gray.

In Jannat Se Aagay, you eventually won’t know who is at fault in the marriage between Jannat (Kubra Khan) and Noman.”

Rasheed’s turn as Maakha Natt in the much-delayed, much-anticipated The Legend of Maula Jatt was a real eye-opener as far as his acting skill goes.

“I have a special skill set that allows me to play the villain with impact,” he laughs. “And I’m glad that directors have seen something in me that allows them to trust in it.”

Gohar Rasheed’s Maakha Natt, to put it mildly, was absolutely unhinged. He loot-ed, plundered, abducted, and killed; terrorizing whole villages while being deceptively sympathetic. Maakha had zero remorse, and one has to wonder what kind of person can play such a character with that kind of depth and ease.

The obvious answer would, and should, be, a very good actor. Rasheed isn’t worried about always being the villain, never the hero, and says he has loved every character he’s ever played.

“We all play a role in life, don’t we?” he muses. “To quote Shakespeare loosely, ‘all the world’s a stage, and we are all just playing different parts’.

“That’s the great thing about being an actor. When one life role gets too much, when you feel like okay, I need a break from this, you can step away and play som-eone completely else for a while.”

As for the characters he does get to play, Rasheed doesn’t think that a limited scope of work doesn’t just exist for actors who are men, but those who are women too.

“There isn’t a philosophical or poetic explanation for this, nor one I can express in anything but the plainest terms,” he says. “Whatever is working, selling, fetching the best ratings is what everyone will do.”

Interestingly, Jannat Se Aagay – written by celebra-ted playwright Umera Ahm-ed, directed by Haseeb Hassan, and produced by 7th Sky Productions – which is four episodes in at the time we speak, takes a glimpse behind the scenes at two different broadcast networks.

Kubra Khan’s character, the titular Jannat, plays a famous morning show host with a huge, obsessive following, rivaled only by Ayla, who hosts a rival morning show at another channel.

He is made of stars

As Jannat plays to win ratings, thwarting Ayla’s attempts at outranking her show time and again, we see how both women manage things with the network as well. At one point, Ayla argues with her boss when he asks her to do more socially-conscious human interest stories, reminding him that he had told her himself not to put serious issues up for viewing first thing in the morning. “That didn’t get the ratings then,” her boss explains.

The self-awareness of this exchange, when put in context of what Rasheed says, underlines the fact that at the end of the day, television too is a business, with an eye on profitability.

This in itself isn’t a problem at all. To thrive, businesses have to supply more of what is in demand – basic economics. The problem arises when the approach to production becomes stagnant. If we never experiment, how will we advance?

Rasheed is of the opinion that shake-ups come in all shapes and forms. He did, after all, begin his career in theater and television when the profession was still something of a question mark for Pakistani society as a whole.

He notes that he has seen the acceptance for men foregoing traditional careers and opting for creative ones has become more acceptable in the last couple of decades.

As for the drive for ratings and financial success, he believe that every once in a while, all it takes is one member of the industry to try something new to jolt the rest.

“I fully intend on making my contribution to that,” he says, “in the future – or near future – when I step off the screen and behind the camera, I will do my bit to contribute towards constantly progressive content. If because of what I do, even one actor – man or woman – finds themselves shaking off stereotypes and booking better roles, I’ll consider my work done.”

“We all play a role in life, don’t we?” muses Gohar Rasheed.

“To quote Shakespeare loosely, ‘all the world’s a stage, and we are all just playing different parts’. That’s the great thing about being an actor. When one life role gets too much, when

you feel like okay, I need a break from this, you can step away and play someone completely else for a while.”