Finding a lead actress for his upcoming Sufi-drama film Ishq Khuda has been a great headache for director Shehzad Rafique. Since the pre production stage of the movie, we have only heard about actresses joining the project and then leaving it on midway for their personal and professional reasons.
Finally with the ‘film hitting its sets’ earlier this month, the director Shehzad Rafique sort out the big actress issue by signing the sizzling Arabian actress ‘Wiam Dahmani’.
Replacing Zara Sheikh; who by the way left project citing her mother’s illness as the reason, Wiam Dahmani is not only in Pakistan these days to get her work recorded but has also quickly developed a unique love for the country and especially its food.
In a recent chit-chat with Galaxy Lollywood, the charming actress talked about ‘Pakistan, her love for films and much more’. But before moving onto the interview, let me tell you one thing, Wiam not only has a little bit command on Urdu but has also kept a great eye on the issues related to Pakistani film industry.
Q: So Wiam, let me start by asking you about the treatment you are getting these days in Pakistan. We know you are currently in some ‘Wadi’ for the shooting, tell me more about this Wadi and how’s your experience overall there?
Well, Pakistan Zabardast!! (Laughs), everything is nice and we are shooting in this beautiful village named ‘Waadi-e-Soon’, I am enjoying how cooperative, how comforting everyone is here.
Besides shooting I am actually trying to consume the environment here, being friendly with people and it’s all helping me out in portraying my character. So my experience here has been really good so far.
Q: Moving on to the real reason you are these days in Pakistan. We mainly know you as a singer mostly and that too because of your recent association with Pakistani band ‘Suroor’. How did you actually end up signing Ishq Khuda. How Shehzad (director) convinced you?
It’s always about the script, your co-stars and the team you are going to work with. When Shehzad approached me he said and he still says this sometimes during the shooting that ‘Oh my God’, you are so into Kulsoom”—‘Kulsoom’ is the name of my character in the movie by the way’—and he was like you are perfect for this role. So once I was convinced, I never looked back.
Q: Tell us what actually your role is in the film, would we be also seeing you performing on some romantic song in the film, because songs are integral part of Pakistani films and one thing is sure that with an amazing music team that Shehzad has on board, the music is going to be a blast. So should we expect something really special?
Haan.. Haan bilkul, you see music; especially in Lollywood and Bollywood stands for almost 60% success of the film. One thing that I recently discovered about Shehzad is that he is a huge music fan himself, we have got quite big names in the film, Rahat is there, and Shazia Manzoor has few songs in the movie too. I am actually performing on one of Rahat’s songs, so hopefully it will be a good treat for fans.
About the role, I am actually playing a full modern Punjabi girl named Kulsoom, it’s been quite an interesting experience for me, also in the sense that it is the first time I am playing the role of some Punjabi girl. ‘Meera ji’ is in the film, Ahsan Khan is here and then of course the superstar Shaan, so it’s all amazing being one amongst all of them.
Q: Ishq Khuda must be an important project for you also in the sense that you are making your film debut through it. How enjoyable and different you found film from singing or hosting shows or even doing television serials?
Well acting is acting and it becomes more difficult when it’s a film. Professionally speaking, I am no strange to the 35 mm cinematic camera because I already shot two of my music videos on the same scale with Indian directors. So it’s not something weird for me but ‘Bilkul’ it is different when you are doing a feature film, a film is always huge when it comes to the work level but MashaAllah ‘Shehzad sahib’ is such a professional director that his support made it all very easy.
Q: Shehzad Rafique is known for his quality work in the film industry, how is your experience so far working with him?
As a director I see him bilkul perfectionist. He just doesn’t take a shot and moves on until and unless it’s the one that he had already perceived in mind. He keeps watching the scene millions of times and he is not like, ‘Ok, let’s skip to next shot’, No! He makes sure that whatever he has captured is the best he could get. And also he is always guiding about the scenes, movements and all. For example if I am doing a romantic shot, so he says ‘Ok you remember that scene from that particular movie’ and it always helps. He is quite strict let me tell you (laughs), but in a good way because even he knows that being harsh on actors might end up in artist losing the concentration and that is never good.
Q: Ok Wiam, you have worked quite a bit with the ‘sub-continental entertainment industry’, even before Ishq Khuda. Having a completely different background, how different or difficult it was to come into a hugely different atmosphere and get adjusted in it, keeping in mind the language barriers, the cultural ones and all that. How you cope up with such factors?
Well it wasn’t really difficult for me also because I am a movie loving person, I am so crazy about movies that I have watched all kind of films, Filipino, Italian, French, English, Urdu, Tamil and literally in every language, I have even seen Salakhain, Muhabbatan Sachiyan and twenty to forty other Pakistani films from industry’s ‘golden age’, because you know when an artist is indirectly in touch with a particular culture; be it through watching films or anything, he or she gets to learn many things. Just take the ‘Misaal’ (Example) of small facial expression for word ‘Yes’, it would be different in Pakistani films, completely different in Hollywood films and so on. So films in a sense teach you many things and that’s been the reason it didn’t create much of a problem for me.
There are many actors working in Bollywood who know nothing about Urdu or Hindi but still they are hit and doing some really good work there, Katrina Kaif is one of them and also the Canadian girl in Mahesh Bhatt’s recently released film Blood Money, so it isn’t a big deal and at the end you have the best solution ‘dubbing’ (laughs), so no big deal.
Q: From whatever you talked it can easily be derived that you have done your study on Pakistan film Industry. It must have been in your knowledge that the industry is in its bad patch and good films aren’t really being produced as often as in India or Iran or any other established industry. How you see yourself making a debut in such an environment.
Let me tell you one thing, I did a lot of research on Pakistani industry before coming here. What I feel is that Pakistani people are really thirsty for entertainment. This is an upside for filmmakers here that they have a huge market that has a thirst for good films, ‘tau’ why not produce some films… ‘Kyun Nahin’.
I tell you something, I give Lollywood five years from here and Insha’Allah it will rise and you will see money here, you will see prosperity and you will see it competing with other international industries. In fact I already heard about a big production film Waar, Shaan is doing a great job there then there is Ishq Khuda coming up, a completely different film, the camera, the lighting, the strong story it has, so it’s all going in the right direction.
Q: Ok now while I am in the phase of wrapping this interview up, tell me keeping in mind your experience in Pakistan, are we going to see you more involved in Pakistani entertainment industry in future, be it films, TV or even singing?
I am so happy to be in Pakistan, they have a rich culture, very simple people and I love the food here. Besides Ishq Khuda I am involved in some other projects but I seriously don’t mind, ‘Shehzad Sahab’ also asked me the same thing that ‘ Wiam, would you return and work again in Pakistan after you do films in other industries and become hit’? And I said ‘haan Kyun Naheen’? If my co-star will be a good actor if the script would be good, then of course yes!
Interview was conducted by editor Galaxy Lollywood Aayan Mirza and is a sole property of the site.