Pakistan’s adored television pair Saba Qamar and Emmad Irfani brought the acclaimed drama serial Cheekh to life. Their onscreen chemistry has molded perspectives and helped many restore their faith in the institution of marriage. Not to forgo their acting talent that stoked us to the core.
Model-turned-actor Emmad Irfani has engrained himself in the realm of performing arts. He hopes to further develop his artistic image with robust television roles. We will now see him lead a feature film, the period drama Gawah Rehna, as his debut.
Saba Qamar has also stood the test of time, signing her new film Kamli and bagging other exciting roles. Get to know the fiery stars better in this candid conversation with OK! Pakistan.
Three words that encapsulate your persona.
Saba Qamar: Simplicity, honesty and positivity.
Were your parents supportive of your career choice when you started out as a newbie?
SQ: Let’s just say they were not enthused that someone in their family wanted to pursue a career in show business.
How would you classify yourself as a performer?
SQ: That is a tough one! I am still learning.
Your drama Cheekh has amassed a huge fan base. What inspired you to play Mannat and are you content with your performance overall?
SQ: I knew Mannat would help shape perspectives when I read her character for the first time. The script raised social awareness and the story was worth telling. I prefer playing characters that have substance, and can challenge me as an artist. I am content with the kind of love and appreciation I have received from the audience.
“ Cheekh’s script raised social awareness and the story was worth telling. ”
In what ways has Cheekh tapped our society’s power dynamic?
SQ: For starters, it has generated consciousness in our society, and has led our people to believe and accept that their voice has power; they just need to use it rightfully to combat social evils and injustices.
Your chemistry with co-star Emmad Irfani was widely praised by critics and fans alike. How did you both manage to kindle a realistic spark onscreen as a fictional couple?
SQ: I am truly grateful to everyone who loved and supported our chemistry. I knew beforehand that our relationship would be a major pull factor for the viewers. It was important for me to keep it organic. Emmad and I performed with ease just so our chemistry would appear genuine and not made up. I believe the realness of Mannat and Shayan’s bond stood out for most people.
An actor embraces a range of characters, be it powerful, villainous or naïve. Do you wish to see yourself in diverse television roles?
SQ: Yes, of course. I love challenging myself as an actor and pushing my limits to play unique characters.
Do you fear being stereotyped for playing strong female characters?
SQ: I am a fearless actor. I have portrayed distinct roles my entire career and have chosen inspiring characters. I don’t think one can be stereotyped in that capacity. An actor must unapologetically perform different characters to experience optimum growth.
How is the transitioning process like for you, swapping from one role to the other?
SQ: The transition is never easy for me. I adopt one or two traits from each character and completely let go of the previous character. Embracing a new role can be tough for me sometimes but I think the process itself is important because it allows me to perform better. As actors, we are at an advantage provided we continuously learn and evolve from our past portrayals.
Among all the characters you have previously played, which one was the most difficult to transition out of, both mentally and physically?
SQ: Qandeel Baloch in Baaghi.
Which past role is closest to your heart?
SQ: Mishal in Besharam.
Your preferred role for the future: comedic or dramatic?
SQ: I don’t have a preferred role. The characters only interest me if they are meaningful.
What kind of character do you hope to play next?
SQ: Someone out of the box.
You have also worked in the critically and commercially successful Bollywood movie Hindi Medium. How was your experience working with Irfaan Khan in a professional capacity?
SQ: It was wonderful! Irfaan Khan is not only a brilliant actor but also an amazing human being. I am glad I had the opportunity to work with one of my favourite actors.
Tell us about your forthcoming projects.
SQ: I am working on two new projects; both the scripts and characters are extremely interesting and very close to my heart.
We are yet to see you make a comeback on the big screen. Have you signed any feature film yet?
SQ: My next film is Kamli by Khoosat Films. My character is influential and I am certain that the audience will experience an emotional rollercoaster while watching the movie.
Your thoughts on nepotism?
SQ: It all comes down to talent, in my opinion. People who are skilled enough will succeed regardless. Those who fall short of acting will never be able to make their mark despite who backs them. Talent prevails in the end.
A colour that matches your personality?
A personal quality you want to work on?
SQ: I am credulous. I hope I can change that.
Are you satisfied with where you are in life?
SQ: Yes, I am. You feel happy once you fully embrace your flaws and past mistakes.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
Emmad Irfani: I want to work on myself every day in a manner that amplifies my craft.
When did you discover your passion for modelling?
EI: People said I had the qualities of a typical model. Initially, I had my apprehensions considering that fashion is predominantly a female-oriented field. I experienced immense success with modelling when I took it up as a career but wasn’t entirely passionate about it. It was more of a hobby. It was six years ago that I decided to leave modelling behind and focus only on acting.
“You can’t look back once you move forward. One has to keep on evolving.”
Which international labels have you modelled for?
EI: It was a long time ago but I have worked with Indian fashion designer Ritu Kumar, and Dolce & Gabbana in Dubai.
Why is it easier for models to switch to acting?
EI: I don’t think it is easier; it is quite hard. The training of a model is unlike that of an actor. A model is not popular to a mass audience. One either sees him on the ramp or in a magazine. Modelling is all about how you pose and style. He is a silent mannequin, who appears to be perfect. Acting, on the other hand, invokes curiosity; where you are, where you have been and where you want to see yourself in life. It is an exciting yet complex world but you learn something new about it every day.
The purpose of acting is not modelling for the camera but becoming a different character altogether. Why do you think drama and film producers bank on models to play powerful characters?
EI: I don’t know – producers look for an actor as far as I know. Your acting skill is your portfolio. If they were to cast a model in a specific role, he or she must have the required credentials in acting.
Let’s talk about Cheekh and its roaring success. Do you feel that your role as Shayan has helped Pakistani viewers, especially the male demographic, better understand what compassion and love are?
EI: That was actually one of my objectives. I can’t speak for everyone. It may have affected a few positively. Maybe others thought the opposite of my role. If my acting has had an impact on some people, it indicates that I have done justice to my job. I had thought of different ways to make Shayan an inspiring character. Although he belonged to the same household, he shared different values. He wanted to serve humanity and treat people with utmost respect. He chose not to give in to his family’s empire. He was a self-made man with altruistic qualities. I tried to incorporate the morals I carry with me in his personality. Many of my male fans jokingly say that I have created problems for them. They all want to be like Shayan (Laughs).
“If my acting has had an impact on some people, it indicates that I have done justice to my job.”
Would you consider Cheekh to be your breakthrough role?
EI: Absolutely, but it also took me six years doing many roles that made me capable enough to perform Shayan to my fullest potential.
In what ways has this project satisfied you?
EI: Our director Badar Mehmood and his vision took this drama to new heights. I assume a renewed responsibility with each role I undertake as an actor because I am giving life to a character. I should realise that my onscreen persona is not a part of me but someone else. I have worked extremely hard in that headspace. I have no control over the outcome but what I do have control over is an optimistic attitude that can quantify my potential and eventually my results. That said, I am quite satisfied to be a part of Cheekh’s impactful story.
You are currently working on a new historical film about the Khilafat movement titled Gawah Rehna. Describe its plot and your character.
EI: I received a call from Tahir Mehmood, the director of the film who was working in a Turkish consulate in Istanbul. He had a constructive script in mind for a feature film and explained the storyline, conflicts and intertwining of characters. Tahir sent me the script; it was in Roman Urdu, which is challenging to read, especially on the phone.
The script transported me to that bygone era once I started reading it. I was pitched the role of a confident young man who experiences turmoil in life but rebuilds himself. I strongly believe that the day you take charge of your life is the day you graduate from childhood to adulthood. Gawah Rehna is a story that needs to be told. As artists, we are not communicating constructive stories to the world and should take our jobs more seriously.
Is this your debut film?
Who else is involved in the project?
EI: Our legendary artist Qavi Khan, Ghana Ali and Rehan Nazim.
What other drama roles are you exploring?
EI: I try to play one character at a time. If I do multiple roles and appear in three different dramas, I am extracting the commercial value out of it but I am not doing each character justice. We recently began shooting for Gawah Rehna.
Going further, will we see you pursue acting more than modelling?
EI: When I ventured into acting, I left the model side of me behind. It is now all about the actor, Emmad Irfani. You can’t look back once you move forward. One has to keep on evolving.
What are some of your hobbies?
EI: My hobbies have become my work but I invest a lot of time in sports. I enjoy music and movies too.
Favourite menswear designer?
EI: Omar Farooq.
Affordable or high-end fashion?
EI: Both work for me.
Describe Saba Qamar in one word.
The best travel destination, according to you?
Your lifetime goal?
EI: To be the best version of myself.
INTERVIEW: HAIDER RIFAAT
Photography: Abdullah Haris
Styling and coordination: Rao ali khan
JEWELLERY: ROUGE BY ROOJ AMIR
Make-up & hair for Saba: Fatima Nasir
Grooming for Emmad : Tony & Guy North Pakistan – Shammal Qureshi