“Working in dramas is like getting trained at a topnotch acting schools” Bilal Ashraf

  • 18 Feb - 24 Feb, 2023
  • Wajiha Jawaid
  • Interview

For actor Bilal Ashraf, content matters more than the medium. He doesn't care if his role is big or small, the project is for television or film - his focus is always on the variety and diversity of the subject.

We have seen him playing lead roles in movies like Janaan, Yalghaar, and Superstar. The silver screen actor has just made his television debut with Yunhi – and we loved his portrayal of a simple man, Dawood. I got a chance to meet the fabulous actor at a media junket for Yunhi.

He was dressed casually in black jeans and a shirt with a leather jacket completing the look. As we talked, I discovered him to be very different from what I had imagined based on his work on the silver screen. I found him to be extremely focused on his work, as well as open to new experiences and learning. We had a great conversation about his latest project and what made Yunhi so special that he was ready to make the transition from silver screen to television.

You are making a debut on small screen; is it not easy for an actor to make a transition from silver screen to small screen. What was so special about this project that grabbed your attention?

I've been offered some really good projects in the past, but I wasn't ready to commit to a longer format project at the time. In films, we have to record two to three scenes per day, whereas in dramas, we have to record seven to eleven scenes per day, which puts a strain on your schedule. Working in a drama with 20-25 episodes tests your patience.

I feel that our dramas are on par with any acting institutes. While working with talented people associated with this industry, I have had the opportunity to learn and hone my skills. After Superstar, I went to UK and did an acting and theatre course. When I returned, I wanted to implement what I had learned in my work. Television gave me that opportunity to hone my acting craft and to be patient in order to be successful. I believe that when an actor goes on a set, he gives his 100 percent and comes out learning new things every day.

So making a debut with Yunhi was a conscious effort?

It wasn't a conscious effort on my part to make my TV debut with it. It just happened. However, I do look for a strong team, simple script and a relatable story – and Yunhi has it all. There is a higher degree of relatability – from an old-aged grandfather, middle-aged man to a teenager all can relate to it at different levels. Plus, its simplicity appeals to me too.

What can you tell us about your character in the drama?

Dawood is a simple boy who is religious but never imposes his beliefs on others. He knows what is right and wrong but he never forces anyone to follow his orders. He is an extremely obedient boy who follows his dadas’s word as command.

When life throws challenges at him, he deals with them differently. The character has many shades. He is a very controlled person – he looks for solutions to his problems in a very controlled way.

While looking at the teaser we judge that Dawood is entirely different from your real persona. Do you agree with it?

I find that difference to be quite challenging. It's given me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself though. In life, we experience a range of emotions – happiness, sadness, excitement, depression, etc. Through Dawood's character, I've learnt how to behave in all these different situations and how to keep my emotions in check.

I've noticed a change in your work ethic recently – is there something that's caused you to change your approach?

Everyone changes over time. We learn from our mistakes and become better versions of ourselves – that's just the natural cycle of life. I know I'm not the same person I was a few years ago and I don't expect you to be either. Change is inevitable, and we should all strive to grow and improve ourselves whenever possible.

Coming back to Dawood, how do you prepare yourself for the role? Did you have any visual image in your mind for it?

When preparing for a role, it's important to go in with an open mind. If you have certain expectations in mind, you often get disappointed. However, when you go in with an open mind, you get a chance to learn more.

When I was offered the role of Aik Hai Nigar, I had a certain image in mind. I recorded my first scene with that same mindset. But later, when I met Lieutenant General Nigar Johar, I realized that my perception was totally different than the real Johar. So I asked our producers, Nina and Mahira, to let me reshoot my scene. Fortunately, they were kind enough to give me approval for it.

Similarly, with the role of Dawood, I went into it with a completely open mind. I rely on my director to shape it the way he wants.

You worked with Ehteshamuddin on the film Superstar. How did you find him this time around?

Ehteshamuddin is a genius and one of the best directors in our industry. I feel lucky to have gotten a chance to work with him. I didn’t find him any different this time. He’s still the same calm, composed, and focused person. He knows how to get the best out of his actors. I remember during the Superstar days, I translated the script notes into Roman. When he found out about it, he asked me to work on the Urdu script so I could have a better understanding of the work. His visionary approach makes the project unique and I loved it.

You and Maya have great chemistry together. How was your experience working with her?

We've done a lot of fashion shoots together, but this is our first television project. In fact, Maya was the first person who was approached for the project. She's an amazing performer and unbelievably supportive. She makes work easier for me with her casual approach.

I'm lucky to have such an amazing team overall – Deepak, Khaqan, Behroze Bhai – they all bring their positivity to the set which reflects in our work.

The drama is about to be telecast. What are your hopes for the show?

I hope viewers like it. The story contains several beautiful messages, all delivered in a light way. The most clear message is to never judge a book by its cover and to accept the individuality of women by giving her equal rights to live and express her feelings.