Emmad Irfani’s a thinker. Anyone who knows him will tell you this. He can spend hours talking about self-discipline and planning things out. And when it comes to acting, he once told me that he likes to ponder at length over the characters that he is playing, figuring out what makes them tick in order to make them realistic. He’s big on quotable quotes and leaving you with introspective thoughts that you take back home with you and think about later.
But to what extent can life be planned out, with all the uncertainties it throws our way? How does an actor – even one who professes to watch out for and sidestep ‘loopholes’ – stay motivated when the world comes to a standstill because of the coronavirus?
Emmad, in these times, simply has to look back through his personal ups and downs and recall all the life rules that have seen him through. His latest acting project, ‘Jalan’, opposite Minal Khan and Areeba Habib has just begun airing, a drama in which he says that he is playing ‘a complicated character with many shades’. This may be so but the storyline itself is focusing on an uncomfortable topic, where two sisters are shown fighting over one man. Will Emmad, as the man in question, be able to shine in this story? Will it match up to his previous project, last year’s hit drama ‘Cheekh’? We’ll only know in a few weeks.
Nevertheless, having wrapped up ‘Jalan’, Emmad is in contemplation and self-isolation – like most of us – and he’s sharing some life rules to live by and some very interesting anecdotes.
Read on, get inspired…
Life rule #1: ‘The tenacity to return to the battlefield even after being defeated is what separates the ‘hero’ from the could-have-been.’
“There was a time when I was switching careers, trying to understand what I was meant to do,” recalls Emmad. “My plans for a career in sports came to an end due to an injury and I worked in the corporate sector for three years before resigning. And for about 10 years, I was modeling halfheartedly. Sometimes I wondered what character I was playing in my own story – was I the hero?”
A blast from the past from Emmad’s modeling heydays
“Then, I saw this Bollywood movie called ‘Luck By Chance’ and the story hit a chord with me. Why couldn’t I try acting? A few initial hitches made me resolute that I had to do it wholeheartedly in order to succeed. Effective acting doesn’t happen by chance. I have had to work really hard.”
“There are times when I have fallen flat on my face but the key is to always get back again. Even failures are partial victories and true heroes go from failure to failure, learning from them, until they ultimately win.”
Life rule #2: ‘We change out of two reasons … it’s either inspiration or desperation.’
“I have realized that I have sometimes changed because I have been inspired to achieve something and at other times, when I have been desperate to feel significant and touch my potential.”
“A changed mind is very powerful and it prompted me to make dramatic decisions in my life. The obstacles and challenges that came my way helped in my personal development. I was struggling with my initial acting roles when I was offered the drama ‘Saya-e-Deewar’. I knew that it was a major production and saw it as the ideal opportunity to prove my critics wrong. I took on an acting coach and invested time into devising the behavioral patterns of the character that I was playing.”
Emmad elaborates, “You could say that a mix of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration lead to the character becoming a success. You have to sweat it out if you want to make something work. And also be passionate about it.”
Life rule #3: ‘Our emotions can either serve us or master us … it depends on who is in charge.’
Emmad recalls, “For the longest time, negative emotions ruled my life. It now seems as if I was running a propaganda against myself, constantly putting myself down. Perhaps I paid too much attention to people who were criticizing me. I was low on self-esteem and as a defense mechanism I didn’t want to push the limits, just in case I failed.”
“I hit rock bottom emotionally and developed a lisp. It was only much later that I fortunately realized that if I personally felt that I didn’t stand a chance at something, then I won’t. I had to believe in myself the way a football coach does, standing in the sidelines cheering for his team.”
“Once I regained my self-esteem and understood the importance of thinking positive, I managed to bring my life back on track.”
Life rule #4: ‘Stay humble. Don’t let adulation go to your head and criticism to your heart. Focus on your progress and not the gap.’
Thinking back to a favorite memory, Emmad says, “When I was 15 and dreamt of becoming a professional cricketer, I got the chance of meeting of Waqar Younis. The Pakistani cricket team needed to practice with two ballers and my coach selected me as one of them. It was like a dream come true.”
“At one point, I had thrown a ball and Waqar picked it up and commented, ‘Good ball’. I was completely taken aback and said thank you. Then, 20 minutes later he said to me, ‘Aap ki balling action achi hai, work on it’ (your balling action is good, work on it).’”
“It was also such a revelation. He didn’t need to say anything to me at all. But a few comments from him meant the world to me. His humility was inspiring. And all my idols, since childhood, are men who appear to be incredibly humble. Jon Bon Jovi, Bono, Imran Khan, Waqar Younis … these are all high achievers. But it does not seem that they have let adulation go to their heads. They just do what they do and inspire people. And their humility amplifies the love that their public has for them.”
“In a similar context, I really look up to director Asim Raza’s values. He has this way of encouraging and respecting people that enables him to get the best out of them.”
He adds, “And of course, I know that the day that I think that I am great, that’s when my decline will begin. As long as I think that there’s room for improvement and I keep working hard, I will be able to be the best version of myself.”