Saleem Mairaj has been in the industry for almost 3 decades now and for an average reader of this blog, it’s a long time that most of us probably haven’t even spent in this world yet. From theatre to dramas and from telefilms to films, his acting career has seen many ups and downs yet he does not seem to give up on what looks like his one true passion; acting, anytime soon.
The same holds true for his Indian counterpart Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Hindustan Times once called Siddiqui “an ambitious actor and a reluctant star” and honestly, I couldn’t have chosen better words that apply to our very own Saleem Mairaj too. While Saleem Mairaj may not be your quintessential hero or superstar, the man is ambitious about what he does, through and through and well, that’s that.
Now I am in no way insinuating that Saleem Mairaj and Nawazuddin Siddiqui have the same acting style. No, I am not. The two of them have their own individual styles and they cannot be compared albeit unjustly so I shall not get into that. The reasons I base my question (Is Saleem Mairaj our very own Nawazuddin Siddiqui?) and its eventual answer on are as follows: versatility, persistence and hard work. Let’s delve into all three of them one by one.
Of versatile roles and persistence
Born in Karachi, Saleem Mairaj has been acting in theater, television, and films for a long time now. He started as a theatre actor and made his debut in the television industry through his drama Colony 52, back in the 90s, that aired on state TV aka PTV. Saleem began taking on diverse roles from early on. From his role as Safdar in the remake of the seventies’ classic drama Kiran Kahani to his more recent roles in dramas Pul Sirat, Umm-e-Kulsoom, Khandan-e-Shughlia (a comedy serial), Masub Ki Dil Lagi (a sitcom) and telefilms such as Khurchan and Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut, Mairaj has time and again proved that he is an actor with remarkable talent.
The actor, however, rose to critical acclaim and became a known face mostly after he starred in a soap Kash Mein Teri Beti Na Hoti in 2011. He played the role of Shahji – the father of an affluent family. His character was bossy, dominating and controlling. On the other hand, two years after the soap was aired, Saleem played the role of a malang in another drama titled Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahin; a role that was poles apart from what he played in Kash Mein Teri Beti Na Hoti.
The story does not end there. In Mann Mayal for instance, he played yet another character Jamil – an ambitious boy who is secretly in love with Ayesha Khan. This ambitious, lover boy character was played with such flawlessness that it made the audience love and hate him at the same time.
Of films, hard work, and more
As for the films, the recently released Laal Kabootar had Saleem Mairaj starring as the villain called Mama. While most of us were busy lauding Mansha Pasha, Ahmed Ali Akbar and co. for their brilliant performances, we may have forgotten Saleem Mairaj in the process. The guy is everywhere, lending support to every film and drama that he is in with his versatility and persistence yet he hasn’t gotten the appreciation that he deserves (hence this article, you’re welcome!). Similarly, the horror flick Pari that was released earlier last year had Mairaj in the background, subtly playing his short yet powerful part – perhaps the only good thing about that comedy (read horror) of errors.
Mairaj’s distinctly versatile characters in Actor in Law (the witty failed actor), Ramchand Pakistani (Vishesh – a Hindu), Saawan, Jhol, Rangreza, Josh: Independence Through Unity, Na Maloom Afraad 2 and so many more are a living testimony to his hard work and ability to be as adaptable as his characters demand him to be. If we start delving into every of his character, we probably would have to go on for another few pages.
Towards the end, I would just like to emphasize that Saleem Mairaj, in his every role, is the manifestation of the fact that he will not allow himself to be type-cast, not now, not ever. Here’s wishing Mr. Mairaj aka our very own Nawazuddin Siddiqui the best of luck with his future endeavors. I hope we get to see more of him in our films and movies, for many years to come.