FROM HIS PAST TO HIS FUTURE A LOOK INTO WASEEM ABBAS’ EXTENSIVE CAREER AND EXPERIENCES
We exclusively meet with Waseem Abbas in Lahore where he resides. He talked to us about his journey as an actor from being continuously rejected to now being one of the top veteran actors in our industry. Read on...
‘In my opinion my favourite role was in ‘Samundar’ because that was my first serial which was aired on TV as well as the fact that I had a leading role in the drama which gave me a lot of recognition’
Pleasure to have you here Mr Waseem! Please fill us in on your acting journey. How did you enter the Pakistani entertainment industry and was acting always in the cards for you?
When it comes to my entrance in the film and television industry, I think it was not very difficult but at the same time not very easy. My father was a big producer in the film industry, he was also a singer, as well as an actor. So when it came to me joining the film industry he was sort of against it and he wanted me to continue on with my studies. But I was stubborn, I even discontinued my studies for about six months at one point. I believe in that day and age there was a very proper way of entering and working in the industry. I went to the radio station for an audition and got rejected then I went to TV station where I was again rejected and then I joined the stage as an assistant but luckily in my very first play that I was assisting I got a role; that was where my career started and that was my first stage play. Then I again went back to radio and TV and luckily this time I was accepted and offered a great role in a play named Ek Haqeeqat Ek Fasana which was a series and that is how I started my journey.
You acted in Samundar, Raat, Hazaron Rastey, Family Front and Din to name a few. Of all the roles you have played in the past, do you have a personal favourite? Which one and why?
There are many characters that I have played in dramas such as Kaala Jaadu, Mi Raqsam and so many others which I have absolutely fallen in love with. In my opinion my favourite role was in Samundar because that was my first serial which was aired on TV as well as the fact that I had a leading role in the drama which gave me a lot of recognition. Among all the plays I have done I have many favourites, one of them being a play I did called Reza Reza in which I recieved a lot of appreciation. When I look at the work I am doing currently there are many plays such as Kashf which I worked in recently and really fell in love with the character I played. Good and bad roles are a part of our careers and there are going to be some you will really love and you will put your heart and soul into it, while there are bound to be others which you don’t like as much but you do those for money. And you have to because in our industry you can not depend on one drama or screenplay we have to work a lot. As an actor I am always on the hunt for a good character and lets hope I get more amazing roles in the future.
‘Acting is my passion and I believe that I will keep on acting until my last breath Inshallah’
Three pros and cons of working in today’s industry compared to yesteryear?
When it comes to pros and cons, all years have had their own list. For example at the time when there was only PTV, that had its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantage was that it didn’t matter if your serial was good or bad it received proper viewership because people didn’t have a lot of choice on what they could watch while the disadvantage was that because there was only one channel the competition was intense and the opportunities were scarce. At that time about four serials would air from one station, which meant a limited amount of roles even when there were so many actors in the industry waiting for a chance. Even today there are disadvantages and advantages, the advantages are that actors have a lot of work, a lot of choices and many different channels to choose from but at the same time the disadvantage of this is that the viewers also have a lot of choice and they can just change the channel if they don’t feel like watching a certain drama. In my opinion it is harder for an actor to make their mark in the industry than it was earlier but social media gives young actors many platforms, which can help them boost their image, which is a major advantage. Every generation and time has its own ups and down, I have worked in the past years and Mashallah still working in this changing time so I believe every generation has its own code and resources.
Like father like son; Ali Abbas, is also in the entertainment industry. Was this the career path you wanted for him or was it a decision he made on his own?
Well, Ali chose his own path and wanted to work in the industry since a long time but I had one condition which was that he had to complete his studies first and he made this commitment with me so he completed his degree in law and then for about six months he worked in a reputable law firm, then he also appeared for CSS after which he went to MCA. So I wasn’t really against him working in the industry but I just wanted him to complete his education, which he did, and now he is working in the industry and Mashallah he is successful. We hope he will get a big break soon and then I will be even more at peace with his decision to become an actor.
‘In my opinion it is harder for an actor to make their mark in the industry than it was earlier but social media gives young actors many platforms, which can help them boost their image, which is a major advantage’
You are an actor and director, is it easy to balance the two? Which field do you enjoy the most and why?
It is pretty difficult to both act and direct at the same time because when you are in front of the camera you cannot monitor your own shots so what I try to do is that which ever play I am directing I do not work in it as an actor. Other than that if I were given the choice I would love to be a director now because there are so many things that should be done differently and whatever is becoming cliché in the television industry should be broken. For example the play Parizaad is a completely different play and the play Khuda Aur Mohabbat was also a different story line. I would like to do something different and I think that being a director is something I would love to do dearly; I believe that if I work hard and focus on it I can do a great job in it. Acting is also my passion and I believe that I will keep on acting until my last breath Inshallah. So I would like to do acting and direction side by side and hopefully I can find a good balance between the two.
Do you ever watch any of your earlier acting roles and regret taking on a certain character? Is there something you wish you knew back then that you know now?
I haven’t really done any character that I have regretted. I work very consciously and choose my characters very wisely by completely analyzing the character first and if I think I don’t want to do it or it does not appeal to me I usually don’t do it. Yes, there are always some compromises that have to be made and if something happened in that case then I can’t really say anything. In my opinion an actor really needs a good character. In the past when we started our careers we had to do both good and bad roles because at the time we needed quantity rather than quality but at this point I think we need more quality than quantity. Even at this point sometimes we do end up doing characters that we look back at and aren’t the most proud of but otherwise the script is in front of you and you can decide whether you can portray that character or not. If you do not have an interest in a certain character than you should not do it because you will never be able to portray it well. Acting requires a lot of focus and if you are in two minds on whether you should take a role or not than you will not be able to have that focus. Due to these reasons i have never really had a deep regret regarding my work.
How has shooting on set been affected after the Covid-19 pandemic hit? Has it changed for the better?
Covid really destroyed the world economy and ruined many people’s lives. In the same way us actors also had to face a tough time. We had commitments and requirements that we had to complete. For example at the peak of Covid two of our plays were on air and we had to film them. One of them was Kashf and one of them was Prem Gali. In one of the scenes of Prem Gali there were a lot of people involved in it, a lot of supporting cast, which caused us all a lot of problems, but somehow we all managed together. Constantly wore masks, used hand sanitizers and tried our best to follow SOPs. In the same way in the play Kashf there was a set with many people involved in it, which we couldn’t avoid. I am not going to say that Covid was a good thing because it did cause a lot of harm and fear, which has subsided now, and I do not believe that is a good thing because the lack of fear has made people careless. Covid does exist and until it exists we have to fight it and be positive while doing it. Hopefully it will end soon and the world will go back to normal. The cinema industry was damaged a lot in this process; our film industry had just started to boom when Covid hit causing it a lot of problems and setbacks. Covid overall has only really harmed the industry as a whole.
What are the factors that you consider before accepting any role?
Before taking any roles one of the biggest factors I look at is the margin of performance I get in it. So overall I look at how much the character has in their hands, how many twists and turns does it get, and do I get to portray my acting skills through this character. This is very important because at times some characters are going simply but they have these two ground breaking scenes with a great margin for performance and those are the types of roles we would accept. Secondly, I think another main factor to choosing a character is the salary. How much would you earn from that role? - This is an important question. The most important factor is the margin of performance that is available and the second factor is the money you would earn out of it.
What is next for Waseem Abbas?
Well I still have a lot to do. I am looking forward to some more amazing work. I am currently working on writing a new serial, trying to be a little different and would also like to direct this serial. Let’s hope this turns out to be a great project. A lot of things are usually in the pipeline when you are working and this includes acting. In the many things that are still in process one of the projects I am looking forward to is a script I am writing and Inshallah I will direct it myself as well and lets hope it turns out to be something amazing.
‘In the past when we started our careers we had to do both good and bad roles because at the time we needed quantity rather than quality but at this point I think we need more quality than quantity ’
Any message you would like to give to our readers?
My message is love, love and love for everybody. Peace, love and taking care of each other and of your society. Be happy be positive and trying to subtract negativity out of your life. If you want to be successful and happy try to be happy even with the little you have and try not to be too materialistic. We as humans can be happy even in little. So my message to everybody is to try to be happy and try to keep others happy. Be positive, be happy and be fulfilled.
INTERVIEW: HI PAKISTAN
PHOTOGRAPHY: TAHIR CHAUDHRY