David Thompson once wrote about the importance of supporting actors in Hollywood.
At one point, he mentions, “It was in being so naturally “themselves” that supporting players were regarded as the salt of the earth or the oil that makes the machine work.”
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Thompson, for as he puts it, “supporting actors aren’t just those familiar faces who can steal a film. They show a way for movies to portray real life.” In simpler words, they’re a window through which you could see the real world via your silver or TV screens.
The phenomenon that Javed Sheikh is (has been)
In recent years, Pakistani cinema (& TV) has seen one of the most prolific and celebrated supporting actors in a long while. This actor has, very smoothly, glided from one character to another and has effortlessly portrayed them, receiving many accolades across the subcontinent. The man I am talking about is Javed Sheikh.
With a career spanning over decades, Mr. Sheikh has proved himself on countless occasions. Being amongst the most well-known faces of the new age Pakistani cinema, such has been the presence and influence of the actor that it was just not avoidable to see people (unjustifiably) complaining about Sheikh’s presence in every other Pakistani film. There may be two opinions on that but there is no denying the talent this legend has.
While Sheikh may be amongst the lucky ones to receive the widespread accolade and to be someone who does not have to go to others for work, the list of such supporting actors, unfortunately, isn’t long.
Mehmood Aslam of the “Mehmud Sahab” fame
Apart from Shafqat Cheema, Nayyar Ejaz, and Sohail Ahmed, this list includes another shining name – Mehmood Aslam. The man behind the much popular “Mehmud Sahab” of Bulbulay has been around the local entertainment industry for four decades, doing supporting roles. But it is in the last five or six years that he has become a household name in the real sense of the word. Apart from Bulbulay, he’s been seen in every second hit drama on TV and will be seen in both the cinematic offerings this Eid ul Fitr, playing pivotal supporting roles (surprisingly outnumbering JS this time).
With the release of these films, Mehmood Aslam will be seen pretty much on every screen in Pakistan, leading us to dub him the next Javed Sheikh of the Pakistani entertainment industry.
Born in a Punjabi family of Lahore and now based in Karachi, Mehmood Aslam has been around the arenas of TV, theatre and film way before most of you reading this article weren’t even born.
Mehmood Aslam was cast in a few forgettable films in the 90s too. However, it’s his stint in last year’s Teefa in Trouble as Butt Sahab that young Pakistani cine goers know him for. He has appeared in TV shows such as Andhera Ujala, Janjaal Pura, Bulbulay, Landa Bazar, Ladies Park, Sadqay Tumhare, Khaani, Mann Mayal and many many more.
This Eid Mehmood Aslam is playing two different characters in two films that are poles apart. In Yasir Nawaz’s Wrong number 2, he plays the Pashtun sidekick of Javed who appears to have a romantic side to him while in Wajahat Rauf’s Chhalawa, he’s portraying a patriarchal Punjabi feudal who wishes to marry off his daughter according to his own will and wish.
While a lot of supporting actors have the problem of getting typecast in particular, set roles (Shafaqat Cheema as the ruthless, bad guy, Nayyar Ejaz as the scheming, shrewd, and evil guy, Shehryar Zaidi as a loving father who always talks sense etc.), Mehmood Aslam and Javed Sheikh are amongst the lucky ones who receive roles as diverse as the human visual color spectrum. From Bulbulay to Khaani and from Teefa to WN2, Aslam can play any role he is offered.
It’s this diversity in his characters that acts as his strength and may very well persuade other filmmakers to cast him in their films in the future. He has a peculiar presence, great comic timing and can change roles like a chameleon changes its colors.
Pakistani cinema and fans should rejoice to have such an actor amongst them and we definitely want to see more of him on big screens. This would not only ensure the utilization of an actor of such caliber to the fullest but would also alleviate the (rather unjustified) complaints of a section of viewers who say “har film main Javed Sheikh kiun hota hai?”