By Maliha Rehman
Asad Siddiqui is tired of enacting roles where, in his words, he “isn’t doing anything”.
He also knows, though, that most Pakistani TV drama narratives feature characters that don’t have much to do. He can’t fight the system and so, Asad has decided to add variations to his work, all on his own. He opts to work with directors whose work he has liked. He also invests time into adding shades to the characters that he plays so that, while they may have been entirely uni-dimensional in the script they become interesting on-screen.
Asad’s role in the currently airing drama ‘Aye Musht-e-Khaak’ is a case in point. The 7th Sky Entertainment production is a huge hit but the focus is primarily on the star-crossed romance of the main leads, played by Feroze Khan and Sana Javed. Asad plays Sana’s older brother and he is whole-heartedly, unbelievably good. Dayaan prays regularly, is respectful towards everyone he meets, rarely raises his voice, dissipates tensions within the home and is just so good that he could have been totally forgettable. Asad, working with the drama’s director Aehsun Talish and producers Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi made efforts to make sure that this did not happen.
“I worked with Asad Qureshi and Aehsun to add nuances to the character,” says Asad. “I figured out how I wanted him to stand, walk and talk. There is one scene midway through the drama where my character discovers that Mustajab, played by Feroze, has a murky past. I confront him and Feroze flies at me, screaming, threatening violence. Dayaan, in retaliation, continues to talk to him calmly, refusing to get riled. I have tried to play with his personality by building these subtle differences between him and Mustajab.”
By doing so, Asad has managed to make Dayaan noticeable – his character, otherwise, could have had easily dissolved into the shadows. Nevertheless, the hero of the drama is Feroze Khan. Did Asad not worry that by playing the heroine’s brother, he was risking getting himself type-cast as a side character? “I was actually offered several scripts most of which featured me as the romantic lead but I opted for this one,” the actor reveals. “I am always drawn towards dramas that have a good director on board and in the case of Aye Musht-e-Khaak, I really wanted to work with Aehsun Talish. A good director can do wonders with an ordinary script while a bad director can make even a good script disastrous.”
He continues, “Of course, I understood that my character wasn’t doing much in the story. The story was going to be revolving around Feroze’s character, his journey, the lifestyle he has, the flashy clothes he wears. I took it on as a challenge. I don’t obsess over playing the lead role but I do want the character that I play to be interesting.”
In the case of Aye Musht-e-Khaak, did he foresee that the aggressive nature of the male lead – the infamous ‘Bobby’ or Mustajab – would lead to backlash from the audience? “Yes, I did have some idea,” he says, “but I also knew that the critique wouldn’t be directed towards Dayaan.”
“My sisters, in fact, now tell me that they wished I was more like Dayaan!” Asad laughs. “They tease me that I don’t shower money on them and take them on shopping trips the way Dayaan does, with his sister Dua.”
The aggression shown in Aye Musht-e-Khaak may have been critiqued widely but it is also a drama that has trended consistently, highlighting the work of the entire ensemble rather than just the main leads. Regardless, does Asad feel that the roles that he gets offered under-utilize him as an actor? “Yes, I want to fall off ceilings, climb walls! I want to do so much more,” he says.
The actor will be seen soon in Choraha, co-starring Mikaal Zulfiqar and Madiha Imam as well as in Tumharay Husn ke Naam, which also stars Imran Abbas and Saba Qamar.
“The ratings game is a necessity and I understand that,” says Asad, “but I’d love to take on out-of-the-box characters.”
Good luck finding those, in the Pakistani drama industry. But to take a basic, do-gooder role and make it stand out is also reflective of an actor’s mettle. Asad Siddiqui has managed to do just that in Aye Musht-e-Khaak.