By Maliha Rehman
In the drama ‘Pehli Si Muhabbat’, Sheheryar Munawar has made a return to TV, playing a romantic hero torn between family, love and taboos imposed by societal norms. His angst translates well on screen and he has been winning great reviews for his performance. However, when I mention this to Sheheryar, he insists that he hasn’t made any special efforts to make PSM’s Aslam come to life.
Throwback to the time when I visited the set of Pehli Si Muhabbat and photographed Sherry sitting on the infamous balcony where Aslam’s romance with Rakshi builds up
“I have just been acting the way I always have,” he says. “The only difference is that this time I am obsessing less over my role. I haven’t been scrutinizing each and every review. I have worked hard and left the rest to God. If people are liking the drama and my role, then it is because God ordained it to be so.”
This assertion, made with the sincerity that I have come to associate with Sherry, starts off a conversation that he and I have also flitted through in the past. Somewhere in the midst of the coronavirus imposed lockdown and the panic and anxiety that ensued during the pandemic, Sheheryar Munawar had decided that he wanted to focus on a bigger picture that extended beyond his own personal ambitions. He had turned to prayer, to question the purpose of life and sought peace in leaving everything to a higher being.
I won’t lie about who I am or what I think just so certain liberals would continue to support me. I won’t lie about the way I want to live my life just so others could feel that they understand me better.
“I just no longer wanted to run after goals that didn’t define me in the long run,” he says. “There are so many targets that we end up setting for ourselves, just because of what the people around us think or because we like the way it looks on social media. We’re needlessly looking for acceptance from the people around us and let our egos get the better of us. At the root of it all is anxiety and fear that we won’t get accepted or won’t achieve the goals that we are aiming for. But we need to realize that we’re merely little specks in a large universe.”
He continues, “Once we accept this, we let go of our fears and become better human beings. We try our best and then we hope for the best. And if we don’t get whatever we were aiming for, we are still at peace because we know that it just wasn’t meant to be.”
What made Sheheryar transition towards such deep self-contemplation? “I think the realization came to me over time. But before the pandemic halted life, I was moving at a breakneck pace, from one project to the other. I had so much energy and was a complete workaholic. Then, suddenly, things came to a standstill and my energy turned into anxiety. Sitting by myself with so much time on my hands, I realized just how fickle life was. Knowing that I can’t ever know what is meant for me has been the biggest truth that I have realized, and this truth has set me free.”
Could this spiritual turn of mind lead to a change in career choices in the future? “The acting roles that I have chosen for myself have always followed a moral compass. If I play a negative character, I make sure that he isn’t glorified. And no, I am not going to get preachy,” he laughs. “I am not a preachy person by nature. I believe in living and letting live. I also feel that we should teach others by example, by treating kindness with kindness. In my case, this also means tackling trolls in a respectful way. You can’t fight darkness with darkness. The only way to fight darkness is with light.”
His spiritual turn of mind may have given him peace, but does Sherry worry that it may bring critique upon him? We live in times when it is far too easy for people on social media to launch into rampant attacks, criticizing actors for their religious choices and questioning their sincerity. Is Sheheryar ready to deal with such critiques? Apparently, they don’t bother him. “My only concern is that I shouldn’t hurt anyone. I won’t lie about who I am or what I think just so certain liberals would continue to support me. I won’t lie about the way I want to live my life just so others could feel that they understand me better.”
“And I want people to know that it’s cool to be religious. That you can still enjoy yourselves with your friends, pursue you’re ambitions and leave a balanced life while still staying deeply connected to religion. There could be no better message.”