One of the finest actors of his generation, Omair Rana is known as much for his body of work in theater, television and cinema as he is for making significant contributions to the performing arts in Pakistan.

1. You were in the business of teaching acting long before you took up acting in earnest. Did you want to prove the famous idiom - those who can, do; those who can't, teach – wrong or was there some other motivation?

I am not sure, to be honest. I don’t really know what came first - teaching or acting.

I believe that I was always an actor. I was identified as one as a child and studied acting both in school and in theater. I was in the fourth grade when a teacher and his style inspired me greatly.He motivated me to become a teacher. I started coaching debaters and public speakers, partly to finance my education and partly to satisfy my urge to teach. As fate would have it, I failed to secure admission in an MBA programme and decided to work in the education sector properly. I started teaching what I loved which was drama and the performing arts. I taught theatre production at the Kinnaird College and drama at the Beaconhouse National University. I conducted workshops on acting. I also became responsible for introducing the first O-Level course in drama in Pakistan.

Coming back to your question, I must say that both professional actors and teacher “do”. The unknown truth is that a teacher often does more than the actor.

2. Our culture of instruction involves what is considered to be a sacred relation. The bond between an Ustad and a Shagird, a Murshid and a Mureed, and a Guru and a Shishya forms an important part of our cultural ethos.  Did you find this to be at odds with teaching acting using primarily occidental theories, methods and techniques?

Not at all. The syllabus may be occidental but both the teacher and the student are oriental. Our culture, upbringing and training play an important part in the teacher-student relationship which is almost always sincere, pure and, if you will, sacred. Good students and teachers are both devoted to each other and to their craft; this is in line with our cultural ethos.

3. What kind of a relationship do you have with your students?

In order to get a complete answer, you would have to ask both me and my students; so, let me give you an incomplete answer. I care for my students, I respect them, and I want them to succeed. I never focus on my students getting straight A’s; instead I try to teach them to think like actors, take risks and make mistakes, and get comfortable with their craft. I am happy when I see my students do well and supportive when they don’t. The relationship, when it works, is based on mutual respect, sincerity and love.

4. When is teaching frustrating?

Teaching is frustrating when all the stakeholders – teachers, students and the administration – do not put in an honest effort into making education work. I also get frustrated – very frustrated, to tell you the truth – when people look but do not see and hear but do not listen. It really does take the village to raise a child; sometimes people act in a manner that I feel they are competing for the position of the village clown!

5. When do you find teaching rewarding?

I find teaching rewarding when I feel that I have done my part with sincerity, honesty and devotion.

6. What rewards has teaching afforded you?

Teaching is not for the income, but the outcome. My rewards are seeing my students do well and feeling that I made a contribution, however small, to making them good at what they do.

7. What is the best piece of advice one can give to an aspiring actor?

Keep the child alive. Learn from kids: explore new things, cherish real experiences, play games,invest in friendships, explore the senses, fall in love, experience the entire spectrum emotions, cry, laugh, scream, yell, whisper, think, and always remain inquisitive. Keeping the child alive is the key to success for actors.

8. You have acted on stage, in television and in films. How are the three media different for actors?

Theatre would be the solid glacier, television the long flowing river and film the big blue sea.

9. Do you have a preference between theater, television and cinema?

Yes, the theatre.

10. What makes a “good actor?”

One who does not act. A good actor is one who truly and sincerely transforms himself into the character he plays. He has the right intentions along with requisite histrionic skills. A good actor always works to enrich, entertain and educate the audience. If this was not the case, there would be no difference between an actor and someone who lies to swindle others out of money. At a high level, both are acting and not speaking the truth – but the swindler is trying to get something from others whereas the actor trying to give something.

11. How have you changed as a person as you have achieved fame as an actor?

I do not think that I have changed at all. I also do not think I have achieved fame as an actor. I do get spotted in public, every now and then, but, mostly, I go unrecognized. This is a blessing for me because I value the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and where I want, without having to worry about people watching me.

Fame, prestige and recognition are not easy to handle. It is always a challenge to remain humble as you become successful. In the words of my brother:“if you are being elevated by circumstances and the people around you, then you must keep your feet firmly planted on the ground because only then will you feel ten feet tall; otherwise you will be a small man in the air who can fall at any time.”

12. Have friendships and relationships changed as you have become well-known?

Fortunately, they have not. I still enjoy the same bonds that I have had for a long time. If anything, I have made a few new friends because of being an actor.

13. A few years ago, you experienced a very tragic loss. Did the tragedy affect you as an actor?

What’s bad for the heart is good for the art, right?

14. Did the sad loss affect you a person?

Absolutely. I feel closer to God and have been more grateful to God for everything I have, ever since.

15. How does one recover from such a huge loss?

It is not easy to handle the loss of children you are expecting. I assume you commit to the moment. In the midst of the tragedy, you do what you need to do, even if it is to break down and cry. Once the worst is over, you allow healing to take place at the time and pace it needs. Once healing has begun, you think about your loss and see what good it may have brought about. There is a line in Hamlet – there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so – that I truly believe in. In order to recover fully, one must find a way to look back at the tragedy and find ways to think about the good that may have come out of it. Tragedy makes one grow as a person. It makes one stronger. It makes one wiser. It prepares one to deal with whatever life has in store for him in the future. One’s eyes may well up when he thinks of past tragedies but he is a better person after having dealt with adversity.

16. The profession of acting has traditionally not been considered a respectable one in Pakistan. Is the reality really bad?

No, it's worse! Seriously though, there is more smoke here than the fire. I have seen much darker stuff in industries other than show business.

17. Show business is thriving in Pakistan in a big way. Yet, there is a lot of talk about degrading standards. Was the work done in early years really that good or is the nation wallowing in nostalgia and imagining the past to be better than it really was?

The standard of work is defined both by quality and grade. Quality is defined by viewers whereas grade is determined by people who understand the craft. In the past, we used to focus on both quality and grade. Nowadays, our focus is on quality and not on grade. Today, we give viewers what we believe they want. We don’t care enough about them to give them what they deserve.

In the early days, all the disciplines were purer to the cause.The vast majority of people in show business came from theater. They were committed, sincere and honest. And they were very talented. The population of Pakistan, in those days,was better educated and had superior taste. The state took more responsibility. People did not have money and time to waste. Profligate ways were not in fashion. As a result, there was a lot of focus on preparation, rehearsal and practice before cameras started rolling.  The quality and grade of the work was consequently very high.

Today, production teams make decisions that used to be the domain of artists. More attention is paid to form than to meaning. Consequently, the work produced has a veneer of gloss but is superficial and lacks depth.

18. How do you select the roles you play?

Production companies tell me about remuneration, dates, team, character and story when they offer a role to me. I consider the same five items, except in reverse order, when making my decision.

19. Have you matured as an actor since you started?

I believe I have. When I look at past work, I see a lot of mistakes. I think I donot make most of themanymore.

20. Are you a good actor?

I would give myself three out of five stars.

21. What would you do if you couldn't be an actor anymore?

I would lead a very, very sad life.

22. Does being a celebrity, decidedly charming and quite handsome make it easy for you to cheat on your lovely wife?

Cheating is easy for anyone who has the desire, wherewithal and opportunity. Fame, looks and charm do not affect fidelity.

23. Does working with beautiful ladies, often closely, make you uncomfortable?

In certain cases, it does. Unlike theater, television and cinema do not allow the time and opportunity to build proper relationships and rapport with fellow workers. I am comfortable in theater but a little awkward in television and cinema. I struggle with maintaining a balance between being professional and friendly. I don’t want to be aloof and appear cold and I am afraid of being overly friendly and making others uncomfortable. I am a little awkward, like I said.

24. Does your working with beautiful ladies, often closely, make your wife uncomfortable?

I believe my wife trusts me. I do not think my work makes her uncomfortable.

25. How often do you get into trouble with your wife?

Way more often than I should.

26. What is the one thing that, if made public, would bring you infamy?

A famous female actor was once asked her actual age by the great interviewer Ally Adnan and she replied by saying, “what makes you think I will tell you something that I have kept a secret for forty-two years?!" So, what makes you think that I will tell you that I peed in my pants on a roller coaster ride a few years ago and had my last drink of milk from a bottle at the age of sixteen?!

27. Now that you have taken a dig at my interviewing skills by paying a backhanded compliment, we should probably end the interview.

I am not done taking digs at you but, sure, we can end the interview.