Salman Shahid is a unique and talented artiste of Pakistan entertainment industry who has been working in this field for more than 35 years. He is one of the legendry artistes who have got proper training for acting. Salman studied film for four years in Russia. He has proved his mettle on stage, films and in TV plays. There are many Bollywood hit films in his profile among those Ishqiya is the last one. Salman is master of doing all sort of roles either serious or a comic. For many years he amused Pakistani people by his comic shows like Tal Matol, Teen Bata Teen and Hoo Bahoo. He does not believe in quantity but on quality of production. He is selective in accepting the roles. Now a days, his schedule in shooting films is so tight for any media person to catch him for an interview. In an exclusive interview with Sunday Plus he talked about the entertainment industry of Pakistan and also about his future projects. Following are some excerpts from the interview:

Q: What project are you working on these days?

A: These days I am busy in the shooting of a Pakistani film Tamanna. It is being produced by a young woman Sarah Tareen and directed by an English fellow, Steven Moore, who has been living in Pakistan for the last eight years. It is basically an adaptation of an English film but with many changes. I and Umair Rana are playing the main roles and Faryal Gohar and Mehreen Raheel are giving guest appearances. It is a love triangle and a thriller. Sahir Ali Bagga and Rahat Fateh Ali have composed its music and one of its songs has already won Bafta Award.

Q: How do you see the Pakistani film industry?

A: The scenario of movie making is changing rapidly in our country. The trend of making private films on digital formats is gaining popularity. Tamanna is also made on the same format. For example, Shoaib Mansoor made two films which were totally different in theme. Besides, Pakistan, these movies were also appreciated in India. Recently I was reading about these films on a website and some Indians commented about one of these movies that it was embarrassing for India which is making so many films but a movie from the neighbouring country is far better in quality than the movies of Bollywood. I hope that very soon Pakistan will produce 12 to 15 good movies in a year and people should support such films.

Some people also talk about the revival of our old industry but in my humble opinion, there was nothing in those films which were produced in the last six decades and those films do not need to be revived.

Q: How was the experience of working in Bollywood films?

A: I have very good experience of working in Bollywood films. Its major reason is that they know the real art of making films and their working style is understandable. They are punctual in their schedule and do not create problems for the artistes. Above all they fulfil their commitments.

Q: What are other differences which you observed?

A: I think it is the production teams that make the difference. The infrastructure of filmmaking in Bollywood is better than that of Pakistan. They are advance in technology and are also more educated. For example, in Pakistan no one knows how to use camera for filmmaking professionally. There is not a single cameraman who can give you a full film of international quality; similarly we do not have any proper studio of international standard. That is why making movies on video digital format is gaining popularity because in this style of filmmaking one does not have to go to studio.

Q: Is there any other Bollywood project in the pipeline?

A: Daidh Ishaq, the sequel of Ishqiya is under production and I was in loop because the movie ended on me so they want me to continue it. They have sent me the script but there is no final deal up till now because I have some reservations which I have conveyed to them.

Q: What are the essentials which you observe before selecting a role?

A: First, the script of the project that how much it is important, its dramatic quality and how much space it has for me. Sometimes the screen time of a role is little but it is major. For example, in Ishqiya I did not have much screen time but it was very major. It was important to this extent that the story of the film revolves around Mushtaq (played by Salman Shahid) because the lead cast fearing him is constantly on the run. Many other supporting roles in the movie had more screen time than me but their roles were not as major as mine. Then the cast and director of the project are also very important which I take into consideration because one learns working with good actors and directors. A good script and a good director bring the best in an actor and I never underestimate these things. It is unfortunate that there is scarcity of the both in our country which is a big set back.

Q: Our drama industry is flourishing. How do you see this progress?

A: Yes it is flourishing which is very good but in my opinion the beneficiary of this progress is the owners of TV channels or the employers. Let me explain this point; the payment of artistes has increased but at the same time the number of episodes of a serial has also doubled. These days a serial play is not of thirteen episodes as it used to be. As for as I am concerned who is not very well aware of the rules of this new drama industry, I make the deal of a serial play having the same idea that a serial would be of thirteen episodes but afterwards I come to know that it consists of twenty one or twenty two episodes. And I think it is unfair to the artistes. Secondly, getting payment for the work is very difficult. Mostly it is delayed and one has to pursue on regular basis to get the payment.

Q: Foreign plays are gaining popularity in Pakistan. What do you say about it?

A: It is beneficial for the owners of private TV channels but overall it is bad for the artistes and the industry. Foreign countries are selling their products against nominal charges because of two reasons; first they want to invade market and secondly, they are selling a product with which they had already done their business and selling it again is sheer bonus. Channels have to make little investment on Urdu dubbing and these plays are telecasted on prime time to get maximum business.

Q: What do you suggest?

A: There are countries whose level of producing everything is far better than our country. If those countries are allowed to invade our market then it will kill our industry. In this modern age one cannot stop everything but still one has to do something for the safe guard. It is the duty of PEMRA to put some restrictions. It is simple economics that why countries put tariff on foreign products, because they want to save their own market from outside invasion.

Whenever your market is invaded by stronger product, you lose your own market. Look! Cable operators are always running Indian programmes and most of the people watch them. Indian music is played most of the time and it made a severe dent to our pop industry. The same happened with our film industry and then the piracy of DVDs put the final nail in the coffin. Now if the same happens with TV and drama industry then it shall also finish.

I am not totally against foreign plays; these are good to some extent; but these plays should not be telecasted at prime time.

Q: Are you doing any new play these days?

A: One play Mi Raqsam in which I performed was recently telecasted on a private TV channel; besides that there is no other play which I am doing.

Q: How do you see the change in form of young talent?

A: I think the new generation is very intelligent and very talented; but they are doing little jobs in the industry i.e. ads, videos of songs etc. May be it is because they earn more in these little items; but they should do something big like movies, productions etc. They should come out of small jobs and aim something high.

Q: What is your dream project which you still want to do?

A: I do not have any dream project except that I have always wanted to make a film. I would be using what I learnt in Russia about filmmaking. I have written thrice film script and am looking for an investor. The day I will find one, I would go for production with the best team possible.

Q: Which actor or actress inspires you most?

A: Anybody who does good work can be inspired. For example in Hollywood there are many good actors and I often observe them especially those who come for short time. These actors are taken for granted but in fact they perform sometimes better than any other big actor.