Mohammad Yasir is a young Pakistani banker, now settled down in London, who believes his true calling might be acting.
In the late 2000s, while he was a student in Karachi, he landed small but significant parts in renowned director Mehreen Jabbar’s TV show Daam (2010), and producer Nida Yasir’s Hum Tum where he starred alongside such stalwarts as Sajid Hasan, Atiqa Odho and Aamina Shaikh. He instantly got noticed for his spontaneous performances and boyish charm, as well as for his shoulder-length, side-parted hair that drew immediate comparisons with the Canadian actor and singer Avan Jogia.
He also had a brief stint as a musician and released the single Aa Jaana, featuring Urwa Hocane.
Soon, he enrolled at the University of Wales for a post-graduate degree in Business Administration. He has been based in the UK since.
Yasir says he didn’t pursue TV beyond an occasional commercial because he is “working in a very demanding and serious profession [which] leaves very little time for acting, auditions and/or casting calls.”
“But I do miss acting,” he says in an exclusive chat with Gulf News tabloid!. “And I’d like to return to it, maybe six months down the line, because that’s where my heart is in.”
The only acting assignment he grabbed after coming to England was an indie project titled Lily Moore Is My Friend. It follows the story of three foreign students in a university in England who develop a bond with each other, and how their lives are affected when they become part of a film project that features the actress Lily. The story is told from the point of view of Lee, a Chinese student, in a film-within-a-film format.
Lily Moore Is My Friend has been in the making for the last almost five years now, but Yasir says it should be out end of this year.
Tell me about the character you play in Lily Moore Is My Friend?
I play a westernised desi, named Michael. He’s a smart and somewhat selfish guy who puts his own interest first. He is keeping a little secret.
I’ve also recently done a [television commercial] for a major UK cinema chain [Cineworld]. I’m the main model, and it’s great to see my posters plastered in cinemas and on double deckers.
Do you believe that desis are stereotyped in British TV shows and films?
There is a big gap between real Asian ‘desis’ living in and contributing to the British society — consider, for instance, Sadiq Khan [Mayor of London], Baroness Warsi [former Chair of the Conservative Party], or Sajid Javid [current UK Home Secretary].
British television is mostly stuck in period dramas or fictional ones like The Last Kingdom or Game of Thrones, which have no place for BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] actors. As for their contemporary shows, it’s usually a shopkeeper or taxi driver that has to be Asian. Even then, more often than not it is a token gesture or to be shown in a negative light. Most briefs for casting calls state that directors are looking for stereotypical Asians — for example, ‘Dev Patel’ or ‘Suraj Sharma’ where there is very little room for character personalisation.
For myself, I don’t mind playing any character but I would like to see more of real representation of desis or Asians on television and how they are an integral part of British life in the true sense.
Are you looking at getting work back home in Pakistan?
I am a bit busy with my work in finance at present, but there are a few projects in Pakistan which I am discussing for early next year. Let’s see how it goes.