Fawad Khan likes to believe he’s got a funny bone. The Pakistani heartthrob says this in relation to his new Urdu movie, 'Money Back Guarantee', a political satire that sees him playing a grumpy banker with a thin moustache and a peculiar gait. It’s supposed to be an evil character that’s also comic.
It’s a departure from anything he’s played on screen before. In a career spanning more than two decades, Khan has been associated mostly with the charming, nice-guy, romantic hero popularised by the Ashers and Zaroons in TV shows like 'Humsafar' and 'Zindagi Gulzar Hai', and also by Bollywood romcoms such as 'Khoobsurat' and 'Kapoor & Sons'. It seems he’s raring to shed the image.
Of late, his choices have become more diverse: be it the Muslim freedom fighter in pre-Partition India, in Disney+’s 'Ms Marvel'; or the beefy, Punjabi prizefighter with long locks and kohl-lined eyes, in Pakistan film industry’s biggest money-spinner yet, 'The Legend of Maula Jatt'. His next few projects are no less exciting — from 'Churails' director Asim Abbasi’s series for Zee5, 'Barzakh', where Khan reunites with his 'Zindagi Gulzar Hai' co-star, Sanam Saeed; to 'Neelofer', his first home production, opposite Mahira Khan.
Khan’s acting debut was in a sitcom, 'Jutt and Bond' (2001); and later, he flexed his comic timing a couple of times. But 'Money Back Guarantee' might fetch him the attention he deserves for his flair for comedy. If the film’s promos are anything to go by, Khan has an ace up his sleeve.
The film pitches him against cricketer-turned-first-time actor Wasim Akram, and other stars, including Mikaal Zulfiqar, Ayesha Omar, Kiran Malik, Shayan Khan, who is also the film’s co-producer; Javed Sheikh, Hina Dilpazir, Afzal Khan Rambo, Ali Safina, Marhoom Ahmed Bilal, and Akram’s wife Shaniera in a special appearance. The film is written and directed by Faisal Qureshi, best known for his TV commercials for a leading mobile network company in Pakistan.
Ahead of the film’s release on Eid Al Fitr, Khan sat down with Gulf News for an exclusive chat. Excerpts follow:
You seem to have adopted peculiar mannerisms and style of walking for your character in 'Money Back Guarantee'. Tell us how much of this was the writer-director’s vision, and how much yours?
It was a collaborative effort. But I think one comes with homework on set, and then after everyone’s given their best, the result is often great. So, with my character it was just the evil side of me coming out, and I guess that’s what it would be if I was like that in real life.
Whose idea was the moustache?
Khan points towards himself, and breaks into a laugh.
Do you have a love interest in the movie?
I do. I actually have two. Would you like to know who they are?
One is Laxmi, or money; and the other is Shakti (power). (Laughs)
You’re best known for your romantic roles. Do you think you’ve a funny bone? Or, was it for the sake of trying something new that you were attracted to 'Money Back Guarantee'?
I’d like to think that I’ve a funny bone. And I think I’ve tickled that part of me in various TV commercials also. Then my character in 'Akbari Asghari' had comic shades.
I’ve always enjoyed comedy. I like watching it, and I’d like to think that I do it reasonably well. The rest I leave to the audiences to judge.
An ensemble movie can mean that no character will get the most screen time. Was that ever a concern for you, especially because a lot of people are going to be watching the movie for you?
I’ve always tried to chase a good script. And this ['Money Back Guarantee'] was something I wanted to sink my teeth into. I understand actors are very vain, and extremely insecure, myself included; and committing to an ensemble can be a risk. But I enjoy the journey of making a film. Obviously I hope the product turns out good, but if the vibe is good then all is good. And, that, I think, is the true metric of success.
A lot of my co-actors are individuals I’ve worked with before, and we’re like family. Honestly, if there are more people in a scene, it only gets better when you’ve got great talent.
In 2019, you launched an initiative, The Next Big Story, to “hunt and incentivise talented writers” by offering them to work for your company, Alteridom Films. Two years later, your own jury selected the winner of the competition, but we don’t know what happened afterwards.
This wasn’t my initiative alone. Hassaan [Khalid], who is my partner in my film company and we have a long-standing relationship and go back as friends, was mostly its mastermind. I think it’s a great initiative, because content is king, like they say, and the backbone of content itself is not just the way a film is shot but it’s actually the script.
Today, I think the material coming out from Pakistan is quite diverse, but then earlier we didn’t have digital media. We came across some interesting scripts. I’ll confirm with Hassaan but I believe the prize was definitely awarded to the winner. Later, there was little or no movement on that front because we were caught in our first home production, Neelofer, which happened before Covid. So, the film and The Next Big Story happened around the same time. And, to connect people and introduce them to directors, for us that was a little too much on the plate at that time. We’d like to resume that at some point, though.
In making films like 'Money Back Guarantee' and even 'The Legend of Maula Jatt', do you think there’s a danger that we might be glorifying or glamourising gangsters and those who defy authority and take law in their own hands?
That’s a very interesting question, and I think it’s been asked in Hollywood a lot of times. Yes, the media has an influence, and that’s why I would caution the viewers when they go in to watch a film, that it is for the purpose of entertainment. And I’ve always strongly believed in that.
The issue isn’t just with the heist films, but also films or dramas that deal with active issues in society. I hold the notion that I am here to put a piece of art in front of you, for you to take something back from it, but I’m no authority and I’m not preaching any morality. Obviously, narrative will always have a bias, but trying to stay away from moral policing of the audience is the best way forward.
So, do you have a release date for 'Neelofer'? It was expected on December 25 last year.
I heard about that too. (Laughs)
Your first full-fledged OTT series, 'Barzakh', will be available for streaming soon. It’s being hyped as an offbeat subject. Would you say that OTT is where the best roles are?
Not really. There are some feature films that I am looking at right now which have very interesting scripts. I think this is a great time for the Pakistani media industry. The one request I have to the movers and shakers, when it comes to the media industry in Pakistan, is that the time to judge on merit will surely come but let’s first push and market our local product so that people will watch it and it gets the kind of attention it deserves.
I also think local streaming platforms are the need of the hour. They’ll bring revenue to the industry and filmmakers and every person involved at every level of filmmaking and online content creation.
So, OTT is a great way to put out our narratives internationally, but home-grown platforms must also come up. The more local platforms we get, the more unique our expression and narratives will be.
Don't Miss It!
'Money Back Guarantee' is release in UAE cinemas on April 21.