The Numero Uno ASIM RAZA

“Love is a very important ingredient in my life”
  • 23 Feb - 01 Mar, 2019
  • Attiya Abbass
  • Interview

The 2 p.m. traffic rush hour was insane and merciless, as I tried to make it on time for my interview with Asim Raza. I was told about his punctuality; and I believe a distaste of being late is only natural. Yet, a flustered and fifteen-minute late journalist was received in his warm graces, with a sincere avuncular smile. I observe Asim to be patient, thoughtful and extremely courteous. He listens attentively, ponders and when he speaks, conveys knowledge and experience.

Asim makes it known that he is; “straightforward, emotional and romantic. And that way I’m very fragile you see, the people who I love and care for, I inevitably attach expectations from them. I really make an effort to meet their expectations. I get really emotional about it. And it almost makes me vulnerable,” he confesses.

Venturing into the industry in the mid-90s, he has so far extensively worked in all visual mediums from TV commercials to music videos, plays and feature films. He is the steering force behind the countless commercials we’ve become attuned to on our screens for big brands like Coca-Cola, Lux, Cadbury to name a few. After the raving success of his first directional debut in the film Ho Man Jahaan in 2016, Asim at present is consumed with his second big canvas cinematic production, Parey Hut Luv.

You began your career as an architect before venturing into production-direction in the 90’s. What drove this shift of paradigms?

Honestly, for me, films were a passion. I didn’t know I’d come to direct or produce my own films at that point, but all my life, I dreamed about being connected to a film in some way – be it a production designer or an art director. Bas kisi film ka part hona hai, that was the dream. But at the same time I knew that being the only son of my parents, their expectations needed to be met. I couldn’t just go for it and be insensitive to my parents feelings about it. They were very traditional, in fact I’m the only person from my family who ventured into this profession. Hence, I decided to take the route of an arts field: architecture. Not only I did my bachelors but also masters in architecture. Then I joined Arshad Shahid Abdullah. And honestly, if someone asks me who’s been my mentor all this time, I’d say it’s Shahid Abdullah. When I saw his dedication to his work, or anything to do with creativity, it actually gave me reason to start believing, that if I’m passionate about something else in life I’d definitely pursue that. By that time, my education was completed, that was a must for my parents. When they saw that I was finally a qualified man, they told me to pursue what I’d like to. And that’s how I found myself sidling to the realm of filmmaking.

As a filmmaker, do you feel you have a responsibility as to how your film will impact the society as a whole?

I definitely do. As a filmmaker, you have a huge responsibility, because films around the world have contributed to society. It's a medium that is directly talking to the masses, as well as classes.

It's strong because you put people in a dark room for two hours and they just have to watch what you are offering. The doors are shut, no one is talking, and phones are away. With television on the other hand, the case is just the opposite.

We have a duty to entertain those people who buy tickets and come watch our film. You can’t take them for granted that they’d come and listen to your sermons, they won’t, and they don’t have to. So, you make sure that while you are entertaining them, you need to say or put forward something, that gives them some food for thought.

What goes behind your mind when you cast actors for your projects?

When I select people, and not just actors who would be working on my project, my biggest lookout is, will they enjoy this work as much as I would? It can be a film which takes about eight to nine months, even more perhaps or a small TVC for that matter. I like to work with people who share the same passion as me and we all fall into that box of friends, where you connect and share happy, sad, excited and all. To this day, every day when I have to wake up and reach the sets for a shoot, I am actually excited like it’s my first day there. And this is what makes all the difference.

Which project of yours in your opinion gave you that needed 'breakthrough' in your career?

When I did the musical video for Junoon, Sayonee. It was my career’s breakthrough. It brought me into the limelight.

What are your thoughts on the widespread culture of harassment that prevails in the entertainment business? Harassment not only of a sexual nature, but in terms of professional jealousy and character assassination of fellow co-stars?

The industry that you are talking about, nobody other than us accepts it for an "industry". Our government does not accept film as an industry, so far. Outside this industry, almost all professions have these issues that you are talking about. The only difference is, that people that belong here are known. In your office for example, there might be a lot of people working around you but you don’t know them. We don’t know them and we are not interested in their lives. But just because the spotlight is on the showbusiness and it is all about the 'show' here, anything minor or major that happens, becomes a propaganda. In a way, it is great, because it gives us a lot of responsibility how to deal with others. But I personally feel that things are often blown out of proportion. Just because logun ko headlines, masala chahiye hota hai, to sell their newspapers or magazines. We need to be more responsible about our behavior. We often forget our boundaries; we can’t seem to see the thin line where friendships end and intimidation starts. If we all understand these boundaries, these unhealthy elements won’t surface.

The reason why I'd defend it is because some very educated and good people are part of the industry and it is really unfair or unfortunate that we keep tarnishing the image of the industry by saying, all bad elements reside here and outside the film sphere the world is sane and saintly. It is not about the industries here, but about how individuals conduct themselves.

So, Parey Hut Luv. What inspired it?

Imran Aslam. It was my dream to do a project with him. The day I saw that there was a slight bit agreement in his eyes to write for me, I was like, this is it. I have blind faith in his writing abilities. Whatever he writes, I believe it flies. I love his sense of humour, I love the way he looks at relationships, his emotional side being as strong as his witty side. He has all those ingredients in the right place to make a good play or a film. So yes, Imran Aslam gave me the reason to believe in Parey Hut Luv.

What’s the importance of love in your life?

I feel love is a very important ingredient of my life. Even at work, I need to have a lot of love there. When I am working or doing anything in my life, I can’t just do it for the heck of it. Or for a practical reason. There is no such thing for me done for purely practical reasons.

Your coming-of-age Ho Maan Jahaan explored the intricacies of human relationships and how an individual evolves from and through it. Would Parey Hut Luv trace a similar arch of complex relationships, this time with the ‘romance’ crescendo high?

It does, in so many ways. It follows the same route. PHL is my second outing as a feature film, so as they say first film you make for yourself, second you make for the audience. And I have understood my audience a lot better today and hence, the same arch, the same coming-of-age storyline has a lot for my audience.

Best actor or actress from our industry at present, which you will cite as the “future face of the industry”. Let’s exclude Maya and Sheheryar here!

Then you will have to omit Fawad and Mahira also [laughs]. These few are my family. When it comes to work, I don't believe in nepotism as much but when it comes to praises I surely believe in sending it home. If I am omitting Fawad, Mahira, Maya and Sheheryar from the list… I’d say, Zara Noor Abbas has so much potential and when the film comes out you'd know what I was talking about. We are yet to discover the real Zara and there are multiple sides that she has to offer. •