Osama Tahir: Television’s ‘good guy’

August 23, 2020

After giving an impressive performance in his last project Ruswai, the actor returns to TV in drama serial Mushk, and has lots more up his sleeve.

Osama Tahir as Shayan, an integral character in drama serial Mushk that has started this week.

Osama Tahir, who made his TV debut with Dar Si Jati Hai Sila approximately three years ago, made his mark with just his first serial; he was nominated for the Best Emerging Talent trophy at the Lux Style Awards (2019).

Since then, the actor has appeared in several TV serials, with impressive performances to his name. Among them are productions such as Belapur Ki Dayan, Hania and Deewar e Shab. The most recent addition to the list is Ruswai that concluded earlier this year. In the serial, Osama was cast as Hamza, the strong and supportive brother of a gang rape survivor – something we rarely come across on local television.

He has reappeared in his next TV project, Mushk, in which he essays a character named Shayan and his role is (very) integral to the story, according to writer Imran Ashraf, who features as the leading man. The first episode of Mushk aired this week and with it we were introduced to the intriguing character that Osama plays; in just one episode we saw him as a young debonair man in London, then as an unrecognizable prisoner locked away in a cell.

“My character is the one that needs a saviour in Mushk as opposed to other dramas where a woman generally needs someone to save her,” Osama shared in this exclusive telephonic conversation with Instep. “This is the most interesting thing that I found about my character Shayan. It was one of the most difficult and challenging roles that I’ve ever played, not just in terms of emotions but also in terms of acting. Director Aehsun Talish was a great help and made me understand the character’s emotional and physical growth and deterioration.”

According to the actor, Mushk is “about love, finding love, falling in love, losing love and then finding peace within yourself before you find love again.”

In addition to shooting for Mushk - prior to the Covid-19 pandemic - the actor had hoped to make his theatre comeback but his stage play was cancelled due to the lockdown. Reflecting on the stage performance he was supposed to be a part of, Osama noted that it was a collaborative effort between local and Sri Lankan artists. “It was going to take place during the NAPA International Performing Arts Festival that commenced before the lockdown was implemented in March 2020. Artists from Italy, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were here too. We were developing the story and characters, and had started rehearsing since there wasn’t much time left for the show,” he shared.

Osama’s association with theatre goes back to more than a decade ago as an actor-producer during his university days. He confessed that he missed being onstage; the last time he performed onstage was in December 2016. He believes theatre helps an actor in discovering himself while there is a lot to learn from the experience. With a movie (Chalay Thay Saath), followed by dramas coming his way, he did not get enough time but as soon as an opportunity arrived, he went for it. Alas, it didn’t make it to stage and there is no news yet if it is going to take place or not.

Nonetheless, the actor’s most recent TV role in drama serial Ruswai resonated well with viewers and generated positive feedback for his performance. “I’m supremely grateful, in a nutshell,” he expressed, adding, “I didn’t realize the character, the narrative would turn out to be this big. It went far beyond my expectations.”

Osama has mostly played the ‘good guy’ on the small screen (Dar Si Jati Hai Sila, Hania, Deewar e Shab, Ruswai), which is in contrast with the stereotypical representation of men we see on local television. “I think I have just been lucky to get such scripts and characters,” the actor admitted.

However, speaking of portrayal of men in dramas, he noted, “I think the problem is that we write scripts based on concepts instead of developing stories. Let’s take the example of Dar Si Jati Hai Sila, my first drama; Bee Gul wrote a story behind a concept. That worked out because it had a story too and every character had their respective journey at the same time. But usually, we, as creators, fail at storytelling; we pick up concepts with the story based on one-dimensional characters.”

“It is very unfortunate for the industry as a whole,” he continued. “This is one reason why I was very excited to be a part of Belapur Ki Dayan because it wasn’t about a hero or villain, it was a totally unique narrative. I think we need more of those. Viewers will also start understanding diverse concepts. We need to work on characters, their back stories and so many other things that make up for an interesting story. This is what we lack right now and demands more of our focus.”

As far as characters are concerned, Osama is of the view that it is not so much about being the lead character. It gives one more screen time, more money and strong marketing but it is not always as integral to the narrative.

“I would like to do lead roles too, like other actors, but if there is no substance in it, it is of no use,” he asserted. “It all boils down to how viewers look at it. For me, except Hania, it has been supporting characters on paper so far. Even Ruswai, technically. But when the story developed properly in production while we were shooting, the director wanted to see Hamza progress and perform. And then viewers started realizing that it is not just Sameera’s journey, it is Hamza’s story too. People perceived that as an equal substance.”

Moving on, when asked if the industry is welcoming to newcomers, Osama informed that it does have opportunities for new faces but not without talent.

“Production companies are looking for new faces all the time; anyone can give it a try,” he responded, adding, “When I did Chalay Thay Saath, I thought people would be willing to hire me because I have done a film but that wasn’t the case. They wanted to see if I can perform, act or audition for them. And I think that’s a great thing. We should audition more often and be more particular about having quality performers.”

On a parting note, Osama informed that there are a few opportunities for films that he has been considering lately. However, he has yet to figure things out with other creatives involved in the process.

“A film cannot be made the way TV is made. It concludes within three hours so the script has to be very strong, in addition to performances and direction as opposed to traditional TV. There were two teams I wished to work with since they wanted to do it in collaboration with actors, directors, editors from pre-production till post production. But right now, we aren’t sure how and when we’d be able to do it since everything is very uncertain,” he concluded.

Osama Tahir: Television’s ‘good guy’