Usman Butt is a Pakistani model who started his professional career four years ago. Unlike most of the youngsters, Usman expresses a desire for perpetual learning despite being in his early twenties, an age which is spent by the majority in carelessness and oblivion. He divides his time between Lahore and Karachi, for in the former city lives his family and in the latter take place his shoots. Usman is about to make his acting debut in drama serial ‘Dil Aara’ which is to be released in mid-July on the newly launched Pakistani channel, BOL Entertainment. I asked him a few questions, which are as follows with their answers:
Tell us something about your education first.
This is a subject that is very close to my heart and dear to me. Despite having a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts, I strongly feel at times that I could have and should have studied more. Whenever I meet someone who is very learned, I feel the urge to study and enhance the depth of my own knowledge as well. Unfortunately, my career as a model keeps me very busy and does not allow me to return to school in a formal manner but I have found a way around the problem. Whenever I get the opportunity, I spend time with cultured people like the writer Faseeh Bari Khan, the qawwal Fareed Ayaz and the journalist Ally Adnan. Conversations with them are educational, informative and rewarding. I also read a lot of books and try to watch good films. I take my intellectual grooming very seriously and nothing else is of more importance to me.
Is it easy or difficult being a model in Pakistan? Do people criticise you? If they do, how do you deal with them?
Modelling has its pros and cons. It is a lucrative vocation. It’s fun, glamorous, and provides me with a lot of opportunities to travel, which is something I really like. However, I do not like the fact that the field is extremely competitive and also full of petty gossip-mongering. Then there are people who believe that all models live in a world full of alcohol, drugs and sex and assume that models cannot lead morally upright lives. They are absolutely wrong. Their ignorance is annoying but I do not let it affect or bother me. I avoid such people. They do not deserve my attention.
How did you happen to enter the drama industry? Did you have a passion for acting before?
I was always more interested in acting as compared to modelling. The truth is, me being a model has acted as a stepping stone towards my career as an actor. I have always taken acting very seriously and studied it formally as well. Faseeh Bari Khan, the writer and now the head of content at BOL Entertainment spotted me while I was participating in acting workshops with the renowned actress, Sania Saeed. He referred me to Khalid Ahmed, who at that point in time, was casting for drama serial ‘Dil Aara’. Khalid Ahmed flew me out to Karachi for a series of auditions and I landed the role of the male lead in the serial a few weeks after the auditions.
‘Dil Aara’ has some great actors in its cast such as Samina Ahmad, Mohammed Ahmed and Abid Ali. Did you fear their presence, considering that it was your very first project as an actor?
I did have some fears initially and was intimidated by their stature but things turned out to be well. Working with the senior actors was a true pleasure and a blessing. They treated me with love and kindness and helped me gain confidence as an actor. I would not have turned in half the performance that I did had it not been for their help and guidance. They are wonderful people.
Bee Gul is one of the best dramatists we have. How did you find your character written by her?
She is certainly one of the best writers of Pakistan; a very intelligent and capable lady whose writing I love. The character of Shuja developed by her is complex, real and nuanced. He is a simple young man of good moral character, with a keen sense of right and wrong. His life is turned upside down when he finds himself drawn into a forbidden relationship and has to choose between his heart and mind. The play chronicles his story as he confronts problems created by crumbling moral, ethical and cultural values in a society full of deception, mendacity and dishonesty.
Has Khalid Ahmed been a strict director or a lenient one?
He is kind but very disciplined and punctilious. He wanted everyone to bring in excellent performances and demanded that we put our hearts and souls into the making of ‘Dil Aara’. Since I was new in the field of acting, he gave me a lot of extra time to ensure that I develop requisite histrionic skills. I will always be very grateful to him for the support, guidance and attention that I received from him during the making of ‘Dil Aara’. He did lose his cool at me once but I was the one at fault, for I kept fumbling on a line and couldn’t get it right. After about a dozen takes, he let me have it but I think he felt it later on and tried to make up for it by being extra nice to me the following day. I had been wrong and had no issues with him reprimanding me. Infact, I appreciate his honest treatment being an elder.
What do you wish to do in future? Is there some extraordinary plan which you have in mind?
I do not have any extraordinary plans. I am a man of faith and a fatalist. I will work hard and leave it to God to reward me with the success He feels is right for me.