A long way from Hollywood, actor Faran Tahir shared his experiences and love for the performing arts with the audience at The Second Floor (T2F) on Sunday.
Famous for his role as a villain in the movie based on Marvel’s superhero, Iron Man, Tahir has worked along the glitterati of Hollywood, including Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman and Kevin Bacon. He also played Starfleet Captain Richard Robau in the 2009 film Star Trek.
But what he counts as an achievement was being able to convince the director and producer of Iron Man to change some parts of the original script which depicted Muslims negatively. Instead of portraying the bad guys as belonging to one religion, the altered version showed them as soldiers of fortune who were in it for the money, Tahir explains.
“After seeing the script, I spoke to them [director and producer] and explained that it was a superhero movie, in which the bad guys can be mercenaries,” he said while speaking at the T2F. “To my delight, they saw the point.”
According to Tahir, who has appeared in over 40 television shows like Supernatural, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy, the script writers do not know the reality. “They don’t know what we are like in real life and it is not their responsibility to clear misconceptions about us.”
It’s not all glitz and glamour
Born in the United States, Tahir initially decided to graduate in business and economics but then realised his passion for the performing arts and studied theatre at University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University.
Formal education in acting was important for him. “In my case, it was better to study theatre. I was trying to create a niche for myself. I didn’t have friends or the network and I can’t change the colour of my skin, so I needed to be better prepared.”
When he started his career, Hollywood wasn’t making roles for South Asians. “I have seen my share of tough times. I have even lived off my car. But I guess once you make a decision, you find ways to survive.”
Nevertheless, times are changing as filmmakers create movies for a global audience, he said. “Hollywood cannot cater to American people alone.”
More people from this part of the world are writing and producing, he said. “Still, people should protest if they feel that we are being wrongly portrayed in movies and injustice is being done.”
Pakistan and the arts
Tahir admits that being a Pakistani brought challenges in his acting career but he took a stand when needed.
Commenting on Pakistan’s entertainment industry, he said that Turkish soaps were being aired because they were cheap.
“I believe there is value in home-grown issues which are better appreciated. My problem is that if we don’t start working on that now, valuable creative people might start leaving the industry.”
Winning an Oscar is not Tahir’s ultimate goal. “There are a lot of great actors who didn’t win an Oscar. For me, the achievement is recognition of my entire work.”
Tahir is appearing in four movies due to be released this year, including The Tomb where he will appear alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.