Mom opened to very encouraging reviews for you and Sajal Ali in India. How has it been received in Pakistan?
A good product is well-received everywhere. People here in Pakistan have loved the film and are ecstatic about the collaboration between the two nations.
Tragically you and Sajal Ali could not be a part of the film’s promotion and release. Tell me your honest deepest thoughts on not being able to be in Mumbai for the opening of your film?
Obviously it is a sad feeling when you are not able to promote a project you have spent tiring days and nights working on. But then you are relieved that the promotion lies in more than capable hands, for the likes of Srideviji and Nawaazuddin Siddiqui and Akshaye Khanna.
Before you, Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan could not be in India for the release of their big films. How do you look at this situation where artistes from Pakistan are being left out of their moment of glory? Is there are growing sense of resentment among Pakistani artistes for this state of isolation?
I wouldn’t go as far as saying there’s resentment to this situation. But I would agree it is hurting the relations between artists of both the countries. The politics may steer a situation in any direction but the people of both countries love and respect art for what it is. They don’t see passports when they purchase a ticket, they see a film.
Political relations between the two countries have deteriorated to such an extent that cultural ties are also threatened now. What do you feel about the impasse between the two countries and how it can be resolved?
No matter how hard people try, our cultural ties will come out strong. We share more than just the color of our skins, we share history, we share values, we share customs and it is just a matter of time we will start sharing our artists, directors, writers, technicians on a large scale too. I honestly believe we can find peace in art.
In fact you have produced a TV series on the Hindus in Pakistan and have constantly championed Indo-Pak peace. Is that hard to do when hostility seems fashionable?
No it isn’t. As I said, people of the both countries are smart enough not get themselves into politically incorrect situations. My production of Seeta Bagri was extremely well perceived and people in Pakistan supported its message of tolerance and brotherhood.
How did you decide to work in Mom? And was it difficult to shoot for the film with growing political hostilities between the two countries?
Once I got the offer, I couldn’t resist myself from saying yes since I knew I would be playing a role against Srideviji and I was also aware that Sajal Ali from Pakistan who is a beautiful actress is part of the cast. The political hostility as you say did create hurdles for the film. However, it was Boney Kapoor Saab who became the leader and crisis-breaker and sorted out the production issues and took us all home for a win.
You are a known face and name in India thanks to your wonderful television serials which have amply demonstrated your range. Tell us about your experience of becoming a television star before capturing cinema?
My journey in the media industry started with my modelling career and it took off with a casual role in a drama serial. People were extremely kind in accepting me as an actor when I knew nothing and since then, I am trying to prove to them and my fans, that they were right about me.
Does the film industry in your country offer you enough opportunities as an actor?
The New Cinema, as I like to call it, is a growing baby. There are a lot of players with growing ambitions. Hence it is creating opportunities all across the board which is a beautiful sight; however, since it is an evolving industry we will need time to eradicate the mistakes and ace the strengths.
Tell us about yourself, wife, children and interests other than cinema?
In real life I am a complete fan of what I play in films. Just like what we see in the films, my family comes first. I have three kids whom I call Maryam Jaan (age 12), Daniya Jania (age 9), Zayd Sahib (age 7) and their mother Zarah who takes care of them and of me so I can go out and do projects like Mom. My kids have been my biggest fans and critics and let me tell you, it feels awesome!
I am sure it does. Finally, when do we see you in India?
Hopefully, very soon!