Ali Tahir is a man of multiple talents. He is fond of Mathematics, loves cricket and at the same time, presents himself as a creative person who can act on television, example being drama serials ‘Ghuroor’, ‘Ranjish’, ‘Teen Bata Teen’, ‘Junoon Mein Jitni Bhi Guzri’, ‘Iltija’, ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’, ‘Taar-e-Ankaboot’, ‘Mohabbat Subha Ka Siatara Hai’, who can perform in films and on stage, examples being ‘Chambeli’ and ‘Out of Order’, and who can direct as well, the proof of which we have in the form of the mega project ‘Samjhota Express’, the classic series ‘Taj Classics’, the soft family drama ‘Rang’ and the upcoming serial ‘Mohini Mansion Ki Cinderellayen’.

Despite being the grandson of Imtiaz Ali Taj and Hijab Imtiaz Ali and the son of Naeem Tahir and Yasmeen Tahir, to whom the people of the Sub-continent owe a lot when it comes to art, literature and culture, Ali Tahir shows no sign of pride, talks humbly, and even in the very first meeting, shows a friendliness that makes one feel at home. I asked him a few questions, which are as follows with their answers:

From being a seasoned actor to becoming a director in demand, I believe that your journey has been a successful one. What is your own take on it?

I keep trying to improve my work with the demand of time. After having acted for 15-16 years, I decided to move towards direction.

My father Naeem Tahir and my wife Wajeeha Tahir motivated me a lot to go for it and my brother Mehran Tahir provided me with the required funds. As a result, I produced my first directorial project, ‘Taj Classics’. Meanwhile, what further inclined me to move towards direction were the roles I was being offered as an actor at that time which I did not find enjoyable and exciting at all.

The ultimatum turned out to be a soap I did in Dubai with an Indian team, which was the last test of my patience regarding acting. From then onwards, I started observing directorial works and I did that for three to four years, after which I appeared again, this time, however, as a director around 2007 or 2008. As far as my take on this journey is concerned, I believe that all experiences have been lovely.

I have learned a lot but I think I am somewhere in the middle. I am still trying and that is what I think is the real thing; growing and learning. Being a director gives me that margin of experimenting and exploring new avenues.

Lately, however, you have acted in the works of many talented and important directors such as Angeline Malik, Sakina Sammo, and Mazhar Moin. How has the experience been?

All three of them have different styles of directing. Sakina Sammo is an actor’s director. Being an actress herself, she is very helpful, especially in dramatic scenes.

Otherwise, she does not speak a lot and trusts the actors, which is the hallmark of a good director. Angeline Malik also allows you to do whatever you want.

One example of it is my character in her drama serial ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’ which was supposed to be a negative character but I did not perform it in that manner.

Angeline encouraged and supported me throughout. Mazhar Moin is whom one can call a mischievous director who whispers ideas in your ears while you are acting which inspires you and put you in a good mood. I have a very good chemistry with him and love working with him.

For someone who has been working since the golden days of PTV, how are the modern scripts like? Do you find them worthy enough?

Yes, I entered PTV in the late 90s when its ‘golden era’ was coming to an end. I consider myself lucky that in such a glimpse of PTV’s good times, I watched a lot of well-known directors working, such as Sahira Kazmi, Yawar Hayat, Qamar Aftab and Rashid Daar. Later, I was fortunate enough to work with them as well.

What rendered that period good was the hard work put into the making of dramas, which is something that lacks now. Interesting scripts are still written, but the channels demand mundane topics like love triangles and ‘saas-bahu’ issues over and over again.

I am not in favour of this since it destroys the purpose of being in a creative field. We do have good writers but disagreeable demands of channels’ and the laziness of directors’ at work is what creates problems. These are the two differences I have noticed between PTV's golden era and the modern times.

What is your perspective as a director? What aim do you have in mind when you are directing?

My perspectives have been to create an environment which is both interesting and realistic, and to present natural characters with thoughts of their own.

The environment and characterization matter the most for me. My aim is to present every scene as an event and to fully dramatize it. Since it is a story which we tell and a story is made up of events, so my purpose remains to justify every event as an important part of the story.

What is your way of storytelling?

My way of storytelling changes with the story. However, basically, I always try to put a seed in the viewers’ mind at the beginning which may grow along with the story.

I try to present something gripping and interesting from the start which the viewer can hold on to. I mentioned environment previously. I believe that every story has a feel to it, an aura and locations that are suitable for that specific story only.

Another aspect of my storytelling is that the characters should be justified in whatever they do and every story that I tell must have a certain logic to it. It is around reason and logic that a story should revolve. So, there are a number of things I focus on while presenting a story on television.

What sort of a father are you? What kind of affiliation do you have with your daughter?

This must be asked by my daughter. But I think I am a good father who spends time with his daughter and bestows a lot of love upon her.

My daughter’s happiness matters a lot to me. She is a wonderful person, and I believe that the world will see what an amazing woman she is when she grows up and faces the world. Our affiliation is more like one between siblings. We confide in each other and share a lot of secrets hidden from the world.

On the whole, it’s a very close relationship which makes me realize the beauty which Allah has put in the element of parenting and in the relationship between parents and children.

Do you remember anything about the time spent with Imtiaz Ali Taj and Hijab Imtiaz Ali, your maternal grandparents?

Taj Sahib had passed away before I was born. However, a lot of time was spent with Hijab Imtiaz Ali, whom I used to call ‘Bibi’. Commitment to one’s work is something that I have learned from her, for even in her 80s, she would be sitting under a tree in the lawn, engrossed in writing with yellow coloured, feeble petals scattered all around her.

She was quite mature and clear-headed about every matter of hers. She also had a deep, mystical relation with God, the initial understanding of which I attained by observing her. Her other inspirational attributes included an intelligent way of dealing with embarrassing situations and a love for animals, which was actually the love for God’s creations.

How easily do you think people will digest ‘Mohini Mansion Ki Cinderellayen’, considering that it is a bold, Faseeh Bari script?

To be honest, I don’t know how easy or difficult will it be for people to digest it. You can’t have an idea of it while you are making something, but what is within your control is the dedication to the making of that project.

Do your work with complete sincerity and hope for the best. As I told earlier, one hardly comes across interesting scripts these days. And ‘Mohini Mansion Ki Cinderellayen’ being that rare case is what might keep people glued to it. Besides, it has a star-studded cast which might also succeed in engaging people. The alleys of the walled city of Lahore will also be something different for the viewers.

Yours has been a family of literary people. What are your expectations for your coming generations?

I believe in the freedom to do whatever one wants to do. But I do think that my daughter will eventually choose a creative field for herself. I feel as if she will either go for writing or for singing. But I do not in any way expect this from her or would force her. I just feel that way.

We always see a very happy and smiling Ali Tahir. Are there any sad stories of failure, disappointment, and rejection behind this beaming face?

I thank Allah that He keeps me smiling and has made me a person who loves to stay happy. I do not have any regrets in life. I have been so blessed (Alhamdulillah) that I do not think that I am in a position to complain.

Sadness and failure are a part of life and I have had my share of them. But I believe that one must always stay optimistic and look ahead. Often in such times, we start looking backward.

I have always stayed positive even during some extremely difficult situations, and have passed through them easily without any relationship of mine being destroyed. Now when I come to think of it, I enjoy the fact that I have developed relations rather than losing them. Faith in Allah is very important, when that stays intact, all predicaments pass and there remains no fear of future mishaps.