Fast-rising star Imran Abbas has mixed up acting projects in acclaimed TV serials with high-profile movies.
The model turned actor has a number of big projects, including a role in Bollywood multi-starrer Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, season two of TV serial Khuda Aur Mohabbat, a Pakistani film and another Indian movie.
With a growing international fan base and further high-profile offers, popular Pakistani star Imran Abbas has set his sights on pushing the boundaries further as an actor and building bridges with other cultures.
Eastern Eye caught up with Imran to find out more about his life view, acting journey, inspirations, future hopes and more.
How do you look back on your journey as an actor?
If I retrace my footsteps, I have certainly come a long way. Hailing from a non-media background, the journey has been tough as I have walked the many miles alone without a supporting hand on my back. Although it just seems like yesterday that I took my first step into the limelight, it’s been years of hard work, perseverance and focus. Nothing comes easy, and never did for me. I’ve done it alone, but today I take pride in giving the credit to my own hard work and persistence. I never aimed for being a star and just gave my best to everything that came my way. If I am to thank anyone, it is Allah, who blessed me with this talent and created opportunities for me.
Do you remember the first time you faced the camera professionally?
Actually I faced a camera when I was very young, in my school days. So I was never camera shy. The fear of cameras was never there, which has helped me in my career. The presence of a lens never overpowered me and I always had a very friendly relationship with it. How did this relationship became so intimate, I don’t know, but we are comfortable in each other’s presence.
Which of your projects has given you the greatest satisfaction?
Jaanisaar was the most satisfying experience of my professional life. Not just because it was a Bollywood project on a much larger canvas, but because it was imagined by one of the most creative minds of Indian cinema – Muzaffar Ali. He is a perfect mix of art, architecture, colour, culture, history and literature. Muzaffar Ali’s cinema is a work of art and his poetic sensibilities were totally in line with mine. It was a great learning experience to work under the guidance of a filmmaker who has directed legends like Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Rekha and Farooq Shaikh.
Being an art student myself, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to work in a project that was a period musical romance, which was so artistic and rooted in history. I really gave my best to this project, not because it was demanded of me, but because it inspired me to my inner core.
Which has been your most challenging role in film or TV?
Well, again, I would say Jaanisaar. It was a time-travelling experience. I had to take myself back to the 19th century in body, soul and spirit. I worked really hard to do justice to the role and paid attention to every detail of the character. I lived and breathed the role.
What genres do you enjoy most as an actor?
I can’t say what I enjoy most, as I’ve not attempted everything in my career. I still want to try action and comedy. I have done lots of romance and heartbreak, emotional roles. I used to enjoy them also, but not any more. I now want a twist of comedy and a dose of action in my career.
Did being a top model make it harder or easier to find decent roles?
It was tough in the beginning. I think it’s the same for any model trying to carve a niche as an actor. In the beginning people assumed I was only interested in my looks and appearance. But gradually I proved my talent and was picked by renowned directors for challenging roles, as they trusted my abilities. If today I am being nominated for Best Actor awards, it is not for my looks, but the kind of roles I’ve played. So a pretty face may open one door, but it’s talent that helps you stay and rise.
Can you see yourself doing more projects in India?
Now that I have crossed the border with two films and with two further ones on the way, I have no reason not to do more work in India. I have some very good offers coming my way and will continue taking them, be it India or Pakistan.
How do you feel about Pakistani actors working in India?
It feels great to see top Pakistani actors working in India and becoming household names there. I think art and culture is the best way to propagate life, and to communicate or convey messages. Now Pakistan is creating different images through its actors in India and I think it’s wonderful.
Will Indian actors ever be able to work freely in Pakistan?
Yes, inshallah (God willing). In fact lots of Indian actors have already worked in Pakistani projects, like Nandita Das, Naseeruddin Shah, Kirron Kher and Om Puri. The flow of talent from India is there and it will continue, inshallah.
What ambitions have you yet to fulfill?
As far as media or acting is concerned, I don’t have much ambition left. I’ve had a very fulfilling career.
But I have a lot to achieve in my personal life. I think I’ve transformed into a very different person now. With the passage of time, I have grown out of the material world and grown to be more spiritual. I am working within myself to be more content and have inner peace. I want to be happy and have a happier world around me. I want to be surrounded by people who love me unconditionally and want to spend time with them and have them around me for the rest of my life.
I know loved ones can depart any time or you can depart from them, but still I wish it. It’s more a life’s wish than ambition to be a lighter soul that is not burdened with any regrets or negativity. I also want to do something for humanity and those around me, as I think I owe them.
I owe immensely to society, Mother Nature, the good earth and the environment. I want to give something in return that will outlive me and serve generations to come. The blessings I can reap even after I am gone, because this is the only thing that will come to my aid in my life after death.
You sing very well, so do you have any major musical ambitions?
I will probably sing a song for an upcoming film. I think people have tuned themselves to strange kind of notes now and the kind of music I want to produce will definitely not be very commercial. So being practical, I don’t think I will be able to establish myself as a commercial singer. My singing may be confined to myself or people who share my kind of music. The music I want to do, many people would not want to listen to, and the kind of songs people want to hear I cannot produce.
Do you see yourself doing any projects in the west?
Of course, if I am in this profession, I will certainly not limit myself to geographical boundaries. Also there are so many, plots, characters, storylines and films that are being produced nowadays based on people and faces like us. So if anything worthwhile, solid and with substance came my way, I will definitely want to be a part of it.
What is the strangest thing you have read about yourself?
That I was desperate to work in India. I had never been desperate to work anywhere, let alone India. As I said, I came into this field with no ambitions to be a star or an actor. You get desperate for something you are insanely crazy about. I have been with Allah’s grace very blessed and never had to ask for work. I had never sat and waited in production houses for work. So when I read this kind of stuff, it feels very strange and alien.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I’m a very simple person and don’t have many friends. I don’t watch TV or many films despite being a part of these industries. I prefer spending whatever time I have left after shooting as a normal person. Because as an actor whenever you work, it transforms you into a person who is not very happy. It disconnects you from those around you.
The key to happiness is when you are able to keep the real alive in the unreal world of media. I love people, art, literature and love the company of people who love the same things. I love being around genuine, spiritual people who can enrich my soul in some way, regardless of their age, religion, caset or nationality. This is who I am.
Who is your acting hero?
There are many actors whose traits and qualities I admire, but there is no one single actor I can name as ‘the one’ I follow.
Which is your favourite movie of all time?
I’m a great fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. I loved Guru Dutt’s movies. I also like Mani Ratnam’s work. From Hollywood, I like Martin Scorsese’s films. I actually like directors more and their style of work and the versatility they create with it.
Which leading lady you would love to romance on the big screen?
I would love to romance my all-time favourite Madhuri Dixit, regardless of her age or mine. Age is just a number in our heads. An older actress and a younger lead can have an equally good onscreen chemistry as any run-of-the-mill couple. I have always dreamed of working with Madhuri Dixit and hope it comes true soon.
If you could learn something new, what would it be?
I would love to learn the art of disconnecting oneself from his thoughts. How to be a master of your mind and command your thoughts. How to control your mind, instead of it controlling you. How to harness your thoughts. This is an amazing thing to do, how people can untangle themselves from others. I don’t want to be an insensitive person, as sensitivity is what separates us from animals. I want to be a human who is not oversensitive, which is what I am. This can make life a curse instead of a blessing. Yes, I want to master the art of controlling my thoughts.
Finally, what inspires you now?
A peaceful death. I want to live a life that makes my exit more peaceful and easy. I want to be a lighter soul when I leave this body. All those who seemingly die in peace, with no regrets and on a note of happiness, are an inspiration for me, people who leave behind memories that make others laugh or cry when they are no more. With everything so unpredictable, life and death of peace and tranquillity is my biggest inspiration and ultimate wish.