The amazing revival of Pakistani cinema will continue with new romantic drama Dekh Magar Pyaar Say.
The big-budget movie has generated a lot of buzz, and one of the reasons is the presence of exciting newcomer Sikander Rizvi, who stars opposite acclaimed actress Humaima Malick.
The dashing grandson of legendary singer/actress Noor Jehan and brother of actress Sonya Jehan established himself as a restaurateur before taking on the lead role in Dekh Magar Pyaar Say.
When Eastern Eye caught up with him during a shoot for the film in London, Rizvi looked every inch the movie star and was, not surprisingly, looking forward to his debut. The half-Pakistani, half-French actor talked about the movie, his grandmother, the revival of Pakistani cinema and more.
What led you towards your debut film?
I wasn’t looking to get into the film industry, it just happened by chance. I am in the restaurant business and have a hospitality background. My grandmother is Noor Jehan and my sister starred alongside Shah Rukh Khan in My Name Is Khan, so I do have an entertainment background.
I acted in a commercial in Pakistan, they contacted me for an audition in the upcoming movie, and I said why not. I thought it would just be a cameo appearance, but they said it was a main role. I didn’t think that was possible. After two or three days of them talking to me about it, I thought it would be stupid to reject this opportunity. It was a fantastic, well-known director (Asad Ul Haq) and the script was great, so I decided to give it a shot.
What did you like about the script?
I loved the story. The Pakistani film industry had died and recently started to get a revival. But so far the movies have been very limited and there has been nothing like Dekh Magar Pyaar Say.
It was different to anything I had seen in this part of the world, including Bollywood. It has a big Western touch to it, but the way the colours and story unfolds is still very desi. I loved that. Everyone will relate to the story in some way. That blend of East and West attracted me.
What was the biggest challenge of acting in the film?
I thought I would be scared in front of the camera, but I wasn’t. I think the challenge was to know how to act because it is my first film. If I look back from the first day to the last day of shooting, I grew a lot as an actor. I watched how the other, more experienced, actors like Humaima acted. I learned from the good actors around me. I learnt a lot of techniques.
So the biggest challenge was how I was going to play such a huge role for someone who is a beginner. It was quite daunting to know that I would be on the screen for so long and carry a film.
Is this film aimed at couples?
The interesting aspect of this film is it has got all the ingredients that will make it appeal to everyone. It has romance, it’s got fun, mischief and plenty of emotion. So it will connect with everyone from teenagers to your grandparents. Everyone will relate to the story in some way. It also has some great one-liners. It’s a great wholesome family movie. I think that is a really cool factor about this movie.
What was your favourite moment from the shoot?
(Laughs) Apart from the 17-odd hours of work we did every day? There are so many memorable moments from the shoot. Most of them we can’t really share. But with this being my first movie, everything was new to me so every day offered up something memorable.
Are you hoping this film expands the horizons of Pakistani cinema?
There is a revival happening and I am hoping our movie can make a massive difference to the Pakistani film industry. There are other movies coming out that look cool. I hope all films that come out of Pakistan do well because I want the local industry to flourish. It used to be like that once during my grandmother’s time. I hope we will be one of the forerunners to this.
Which actors do you admire?
There are so many great actors. In Hollywood I would say Edward Norton and the lead character of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston. In the Indian movie industry, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is phenomenal and I think Nana Patekar is fantastic.
Have you made a plan beyond this film?
Asjad, if you had contacted me three or four months ago and asked me if I was going to be in a movie, I would have thought you are crazy. But now I have done one and really enjoyed it. It kicked me out of the comfort zone of my restaurant business and has been a fantastic experience.
So who knows what can happen next, I don’t want to plan too far ahead. I am just a beginner and been very lucky. I have come out of nowhere and been put in a movie made by one of the best directors in the country. I feel very blessed and lucky to be in this position.
I don’t know what is up ahead and what will happen later. Once the movie comes out I just hope people think I have put in a good performance. That is all I am hoping for.
Dekh Magar Pyaar Say is a love story. Which is your favourite love story of all time?
Oh my god, that is a tough question. I don’t want to say the clichéd ones, but I would say a classic like Devdas.
Are you a romantic in real life?
(Laughs) I would like to think so.
Will you be acting full-time now or mixing it up with your business?
I am not going to just focus on one thing, I will be doing both. I also have a lot of other plans as well, including other businesses. I will see how the reaction is after the film is released but I like to multi-task. So my other interests will carry on.
One of my favourite moments of your late grandmother Noor Jehan was the song Awaz De Kahan Hai from 1946 film Anmol Ghadi. Which is yours?
My most amazing moments with her were not work-related, but spending time with her. Towards the last six or seven years of her life, she used to live in Karachi, my home town, so I used to see her a lot. Every time it was memorable. She was a larger-than-life personality that to this day I have never seen the likes of.
She was extremely generous and kind-hearted and kept the entire family together. To me, she was just my grandmother whom I loved very much. My father was the apple of her eye. He was her eldest son and they were very close. I was fortunate to spend time with her even before that in Lahore.
As a kid were you aware of how big an icon she was?
Of course. You were aware of all the attention she got and people just freezing around her because they were so in awe. My mum is French so we also used to go to our house in the south of France. Whenever she travelled, she would have this big entourage. Sometimes she would just sing impromptu and it was wonderful to see.
So I realised there was something special about her when I was a kid, but only found out the magnitude of her achievements when I was older. But first and foremost she was my grandmother. I feel proud to be the legend’s grandson.
Why should we watch Dekh Magar Pyaar Say when it comes out?
Firstly people should support Pakistani cinema, which is enjoying such a great revival right now. There is a lot of talent in this country, you see that in this film.
The director is exceptional and a heavyweight in Pakistan. I don’t think people will have seen anything like this movie before. It’s a very different story; it is a romantic comedy, it has got twists and it’s going to be something that hopefully people will sit through and enjoy.
Finally, why do you love cinema?
It makes you forget where you are. Cinema is your own interpretation of a particular part and the way you see things. It’s a dream, it makes you dream and it makes you think of another life. A life that could be a life you could have, so I think it’s fantastic. Who doesn’t like cinema?
Dekh Magar Pyaar Say will be released on August 14