The winner of a numerous awards in filmmaking, the young, energetic and ambitious Kamran Faiq has worked as a producer, director and actor in a number of prestigious projects in a relatively short period of time. He was the youngest industry professional to represent Pakistan as a producer at the 70th Venice Film Festival and won top prizes at film festivals in Italy in 2010, 2012 and 2013. Currently, working in the films department of a major publication house, he is preparing of a serial and his first major role as an in actor in a feature film. In an exclusive interview for The Nation, he talks to Ally Adnan about his career in show business, his current project and his plans for the future.

1.           A lot of people who enter the world of show business in Pakistan, do so without any formal education and training in the field. You studied filmmaking at the National College of Arts, Lahore, for four years. Why is it that you chose to have a formal education in a field where it is generally considered optional?

In 2006, I won a talent hunt competition organized by a television station in Karachi. My prize was a contract for doing three plays as an actor. I had a truly amazing time during the contract period and, in addition to improving my craft, became acquainted with the direction and production while working in the plays.

Acting, directing and producing, very quickly, became my passion, love and desired vocation but reality set in as soon as the contract was over. I was forced to return to my decidedly less glamorous life in Lahore. After struggling to find work as an actor, director or producer for a few months, I realized that I had to make serious decisions about my education, life and career. I liked show business but also wanted assurance that a decent livelihood could be made in the field. I was also not sold on the idea of giving up education to pursue my dream on making it big in show business.

Education is very important in my family. I do not come from money but members of family value good education and are themselves very well-educated. The idea of giving up studies to pursue a career in show business is akin to heresy in my family. It wouldn’t have gone down well with my family. I found myself in a dilemma and the only solution was to study at the National College of Arts, a great institution of education, and major in filmmaking, the area of my true calling. I would then have a sound education and be qualified to work in the field of my choice.

2.           So you made a compromise.

No, not at all. I chose the best of both worlds.

3.           Was your time at the National College of Arts rewarding?

Yes, it was highly rewarding.

I felt at home in NCA. It is a place that values talent, celebrates diversity and encourages risk-taking. Elements like social status, money, religious affiliation, power and influence do not matter much in the institution. Talent, integrity and diligence do. I loved becoming a member of the “NCA Family.” 

NCA gave me a sound education in filmmaking. It also educated me in areas such as culture, tradition, humanity, justice and ethics that were as important, if not more, than the education in filmmaking. My years at NCA made me a more tolerant, understanding and kind person. My appreciation of integrity and honesty increased tremendously. I started believing in hard work, diligence and perseverance. I loved being at NCA. There is something about the atmosphere at NCA that encourages creativity, inventiveness, intellectual rebelliousness, and originality. I found it to be truly intoxicating.

4.           What was the single most important thing that you learnt at NCA?

The quality of a human being is not determined by his money, religion, national origin, education, family background, social standing, or position in society. Kindness, humanity, understanding, helpfulness and sincerity are the elements that make someone great.

5.           Money, social standing, status and connections are considered important, if not vital, in achieving success in Pakistan. Did you find these necessary to entering the world of show business?

No, I did not.

6.           Why is that?

One, because the world of show business in Pakistan is better than its very negative image.

Two, because these factors come in to play only when one wants to take shortcuts to success and not rely on talent, hard work and integrity.

The fact that I am a member of the show business fraternity is proof that money, social standing, status, and connections are not needed to succeed in the field. I had none of the four when I started.

7.           Show business is known for sexually, financially and emotionally abusing newcomers. What was your personal experience?

It was mostly good. The only abuse that I experienced personally was emotional. People in positions of power like to put others down. They seem to enjoy discouraging and demoralizing others. There is also quite a bit of gossip, arrogance and vitriol in show business conversations. Condescension and discouragement, so rampant in the show business world, are cruel and corrosive. They cause great distress.

8.           How does one deal with them?

One stays focused and continues to rely on hard work and patience. One relies on God and finds refuge in the company of true friends and family. Of course, having very thick skin and nerves of steel helps as well.

9.           Acting, producing and directing, you have an interest in all three areas. Is that because you are unsure of your true calling?

No.

I started off as an actor and plan to continue to act. The world of acting opened up new frontiers for me. Directing and producing are only two of them. I do not think that acting, directing and producing are mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite, actually. A lot of people –  Ben Affleck, Woody Allen, Zach Braff, Kenneth Branagh, Clint Eastwood, John Huston, and Sydney Pollack, to name a few – have excelled in more than one area. I plan to select projects solely on the basis of quality. I will be equally happy to work as producer, director or actor as long as the project is good.

10.      You wore two hats in Devar Bhabhi. Was working as an actor and assistant director simultaneously tough?

Yes, it was. Acting and directing require very different skill sets and having two areas of focus makes the situation very challenging.

11.      How did you manage?

I managed by focusing on one – and only one – area at a time. I was also lucky. The team of Devar Bhabhi was incredibly supportive. Help, guidance, support, cooperation, flexibility, you name it, whatever I needed, they provided. 

12.      You directed the opening sequence of Mah-e-Mir. Why were you not involved with the rest of the film?

The producers asked me to only direct the opening sequence. I believe they wanted my entire focus to be on the sequence.  I would have loved to direct the entire film but was happy with the role I was offered.

I would like to say that shooting an opening sequence, however small, is no mean task. One needs to have a deep understanding of the entire project, its theme and its mood, to do it right. The opening of a movie sets its tone and tenor. I worked very hard – some would say too hard – directing the sequence. I believe that my hard work paid off. 

13.      What do you think of Mah-e-Mir?

It is a good film. I like Mah-e-Mir.

14.      Why?

Mah-e-Mir does more than just entertain. It makes viewers think, feel, reflect, question, imagine and ponder. It takes them out of their intellectual comfort zone. And it forces them to learn.

Mah-e-Mir is  also highly original. It does not try to imitate Indian, Iranian or any other cinema. It truly represents Pakistani cinema.

15.      Pakistani cinema is getting a lot of attention these days. What do you think of Pakistani films?

I think they have improved in recent years but that is mostly because there was a whole lot of room for employment. There is still a long way to go.

16.      What do you think needs to be done for the cause of Pakistani cinema?

A lot, but the most important thing to do is to educate viewers. Once that is done, others improvements will take place on their own. An educated, experienced and intelligent viewer rejects bad films; he demands more. That is what we need.

Over the years, we have produced fare that has ruined intellect of filmgoers. So much drivel has been produced in the name of cinema, that Pakistani viewers have the lowest of expectations. This needs to change. Pakistani cinema will genuinely improve only when the audience appreciates nothing but good films.

17.      You currently work for the films division of a major publication house. What do you do over there?

I am supervising the production of a feature film currently. I am also developing content for digital platforms.

18.      That seems interesting.

It is. Digital content, available on platforms other than just television and cinema screens, is becoming increasingly important. I am working on developing the content and structure of these platforms. It is a great job and I am having a lot of fun.

19.      What are your current projects?

I am working on a feature film and a television serial. They are being written by the same writer and will both feature me as an actor.

20.      What is your film be about?

It is an old fashioned love story based on the Sufi ideals of love. My character falls in love with a girl and loses everything in the process. Yet, he has little interest in tying her down and marrying her. He loves her for the sake of love.

21.      Pakistani drama serials are known as much for their quality as for their lack of thematic variety. Will your serial offer something new?

I hope so. It does not deal with domestic familial issues of wronged women. That alone makes it different from most serials.

22.      What is it about?

It is the story of an affluent young man who goes on a journey of self-discovery following the unexpected death of his father. The journey forces him to confront areas of his personality that he neither likes nor understands. It is a smart, intelligent and original story. 

23.      You are relatively new in show business. It is not easy to achieve fame and fortune in the field. Are you scared of the possibility of failure?

I do not fear failure, not one bit. My job is to work hard with intelligence, honest, integrity, and diligence. It is up to God to reward me with success.

I dream a lot about a successful future but rarely about fame and fortune. I want to become the best in what I do. My real fear is that I may not fully explore and exploit my talent. I am scared of leading a life where I have not tried hard enough.

24.      Is money not important to you?

Not as much as it seems to be to a lot of people of my age. Of course, it becomes very important every time a new gadget is released. I love electronics. Money will become very important to me as soon as Samsung releases the Galaxy S8.

25.      What is most important to you?

Making people who love me, and whom I love, proud is most important to me.

26.      Who are these people?

They are my family members, because God gave me great ones, and my friends, because God helped me choose great ones.

*Photographs by Asim Memon