New Age Actors on a Roll

Since a while now, Pakistani dramas are being made on the same saas bahu plot with toxic heroes, illogical love triangles and filthy affairs. There is hardly any drama based on the lives of teens or young adults. However, a new currently on air drama by the name of College Gate, has totally changed the demographics of dramas with its storyline and fresh narrative. Set in a college backdrop, the show follows a group of friends with diverse backgrounds and personalities. The college environment provides a window into the lives of the students and, surprisingly, touches on concerns that are pertinent to teenagers, such as academic pressure, familial expectations, and cultural diversity, which are the most pressing issues affecting this generation. MAG got in touch with some of the actors from the cast of CG for an exclusive and candid conversation. Excerpts:

What influenced you to choose acting as your profession?
I don’t really know it started from a very young age being the youngest child in the house and acting as if I had imagery friends to play with when I was little and then growing up to play and write little skits with my siblings as I was getting older. But I never thought I’d choose acting as a career.

Hina: I think my inner self was my inspiration when I opted acting. That's something that made me feel alive and happy and I always knew that it's the only thing I can do for my whole life because our work is always very exciting and every day is new for us.

Khaqan: Brilliant films and television shows.

Zarrar: I used to do a lot of theatre in school and university, so naturally on-screen acting was the next step up.

Shuja: My dad had a massive film collection and introduced me to cinema very early on. I think I was 7 when I saw Robin William as Peter Pan in the film Hook on DVD and that was it for me. I’ve wanted to act since then.

What challenges have you encountered in your journey, and how have they shaped you?
No real challenges really, but I guess being educated as a visual designer I know the nitty gritty of good frames and moving pictures I have a set standard that needs to be met and when it’s not, that’s a challenge.

Hina: Talking about challenges I would say there were multiple challenges, living in a society where acting isn't opted as a primary profession especially when you are highly qualified become a tough decision. But when you really want to do something the Almighty makes ways around for it.

Khaqan: The biggest challenge for me as an actor so far, has been moving to Karachi. Leaving everything and everyone behind, navigating my life in this new unexplored city has shaped me into an even more resilient man, one who’s always ready to step out of his comfort zone.

Zarrar: Navigating social interactions is probably the toughest thing for me, because you got to be careful choosing ‘friends’ in this industry.

Shuja: No direction, no help, rejections, legalities, humiliation, bullying, no pay. Too many to pen down, honestly. All I’ll say is that they have made me even more focused on my craft and work harder than ever.

What made you say yes to College Gate? Any takeaways from your character that feel significant to you?
My friend Khaqan and co actor in CG asked me to audition and I did, I don’t think I can take anything from Annie really, she’s nothing like me, except I happen to be empathetic so her goal to have an NGO is similar to mine having an animal shelter or a reserve someday.

Hina: College Gate was one of those script that I can totally relate too. And I instantly made a decision that I have to do this. Script, character everything was so refreshing that I couldn't resist myself.

Khaqan: The fact that I got to shoot in Murree for a month. I really wanted to escape the Lahori summer heat.

Zarrar: Wahaj is an inspiring character. Someone who shows the audience it’s okay to chase your dreams and that’s why I wanted to do it.

Shuja: There are next to zero dramas for teens and young adults, so there was no way I was going to pass on such an amazing opportunity. The story and characters were unique as well so that was a bonus. As for my character – Bilal and I are poles apart in real life, so I can’t say there were any significant takeaways.

Are there any dream roles that you really would like to play in the future?Mamya: I want to play diverse characters, also a character nothing like myself so I can really work on the craft and see where I stand. But I’d like do something that’s physical challenge and action packed too.

Hina: Yes, there are multiple roles that I would want to do. But if I have to mention one then it’ll be an autistic patient.

Khaqan: I’d love to be in a fantasy adventure someday.

Zarrar: I think any character that’s not involved in a saas bahu type story would be a role I’d look forward to doing. Every character has its intricacies and that’s the beauty of film and drama.

Shuja: I’m itching to play a larger-than-life hero, stunts and all!

If you could swap any character of your co-actors in College Gate with yours, which would it be and why?
I would take the character of anyone if the boys, Usman Wahaj or Bilal, I feel like these characters have a lot of room to play around with their emotions.

Hina: I personally loved my character but if I had an option to swap I’ll definitely choose Annie’s character. Because she’s very people's person, she is sensitive, and care about all her relationships whether it be her friends or family. She’s always there to solve anyone’s problems.

Khaqan: No, I’d always pick Usman.

Zarrar: Probably Bilal because the character is much nuanced.

Shuja: I would love to see Khaqan play Bilal, I think it would be a good challenge for him considering the character he’s playing right now is very much himself.

And I would love to do a comic role like Usman that would
be quite new for me.
Lastly, can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
I can tell you that Fatima Jinnah will be a treat to watch.

Khaqan: I’m currently shooting for a drama called Sukoon. It will air soon. The character I play in it is very different from Usman. Be sure to check it out!

Zarrar: Nope can’t tell you much about that but I can tell you to go watch my new cooking series over on my Instagram page (laughs).

Shuja: I'm currently shooting two projects – one for Geo TV with Faysal Qureshi as my father, and one other project.

• Coordination: Umer Mushtaq
• Hair & Makeup: Angie's Salon
• Grooming: Ilyas Salon
• Photography & Styling: Hussain Piart
• PR By: Alchemist
• Featuring: Khaqan Shahnawaz, Mamya Shajaffar,
  Shuja Asad, Hina Chaudhary & Zarrar Khan