Becoming an actor is not easy – Agha Mustafa Hassan
Often seen as a secret lover on screens, Agha Mustafa Hassan is an emerging talent who started his career as a theatre actor. He is his own critic who always strives to do better. Ambitious, talented and handsome, Agha Mustafa is in conversation with BOL.
How did you get into acting?
I actually never initially thought of becoming an actor although I wanted to be a cricketer. My father, being an Army Officer, wanted me to be disciplined and study. I got involved in studying more than playing cricket. It was 2013 and I was studying at NUST. My elder sister took me to a play’s audition in Islamabad. I auditioned for “Our Complete Family” and I got the lead character.
How was the experience of performing on stage for the first time?
I was very relaxed before going to the stage. I was taking it lightly but as soon as my turn came and I was about to perform, I felt that my heart was in my throat. My co-star gave me some words of confidence and after delivering my first dialogue, everything went well. I later auditioned for Anwar Maqsood’s play Siachen, in which I landed the lead role. After playing Siachen, I knew that I want to be an actor.
How was your experience of performing in Siachen?
It was something that taught me that becoming an actor is not easy. We were four boys who were cast for Siachen. As it was about the life of soldiers, we were locked in an area for 4 months, we didn’t have access to phones or TVs. We had a trainer who used to train cadets and he would come to train us.
It was in the middle of the Karachi spell of Siachen when Jami visited the set. He saw my work and later offered me a commercial which was my first experience in front of the camera. I then did Sang-e-mar mar and from that point onwards, my career actually started as an actor.
Did acting come naturally to you?
The struggle is the same but the opportunity comes to you if god wills, otherwise no matter how hard you try, if something is not meant to be for you it is not going to come true. We have brilliant actors and that is why they sell.
Since you are young, what led you to play Nawab in Neeli Zinda Hai?
I believe that our bars are too low. My parents would watch Dhoop Kinare, Saaey and the acting in those productions had another level. Our TV dramas had an audience. I took Neeli as a challenge. People actually sell faces and personalities. Men usually don’t get good roles. The lead is always a woman, and it is a female-oriented industry. The scripts are for women and I respect that. When I read the script of the Neeli, I thought that if I am not going to be an actor then there is no point of me being a hero.
I have a theatre background, and I love playing characters. I pride myself in the fact that my performance should be natural. And trust me, I hate my work because every time I watch my scenes I always think I could have done better.
All actors in Netflix shows are not big stars but the characters are so well written that their delivery is unmatchable. People criticized me for doing Nawab because I am young. But that is not my benchmark. An actor does all roles and characters.
Are you saying that we don’t have good actors?
No. For instance, Imran Ashraf was always a great actor but what brought him into the limelight is the character Bhola. Today, Nawazuddin is leading the Indian cinema. On the other hand, there are many actors whose acting is not up-to the mark but because they look handsome they sell, which underestimates that real actors. Now, the audience is used to liking an actor’s face instead of their performance. Ahmed Ali Akbar has made Parizaad a success; if he was replaced with a pretty face who just wanted to look good, Parizaad would have been a flop.
What is your criteria for selecting a script?
Whatever I like! Most of our dramas have similar stories because that’s what is primarily selling and what the audience wants to watch. We have brilliant writers Saji Gul, Mustafa Afridi, Anwar Maqsood and even Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar.
Any films coming up?
I recently concluded a film with Ehteshamuddin titled Dum Mastam. I am desperately waiting for the web series “Man Jogi”. It stars Nauman Ijaz, Saba Qamar and me. And the character I have played in this series is going to change the perspective about me as an actor.
Many actors say that they will only step in the film industry once it matures.
They lie (laughs). Many big stars of our industry are doing films such as Fawad Khan. And even Mahira Khan has come back to TV after so many years because she was doing movies. Yes, if you think you are not ready for the big screen then that is a different story.
What do you think our industry needs to change?
I am not experienced enough to say that. But for the sake of discussion, I would say that the movies like Moor or Manto were fabulous movies but they flopped on the box office because people seek entertainment. That is why Jawani Phir Nahi Ani was a success. If Leonardo DiCaprio was doing a film in Pakistan, only a certain class would have watched it, the rest would have turned it down.
Secondly, there is no fixed solution to the problem. Mere Pass Tum Ho was a success. And why? Because the writer had written it so powerfully which inevitably made the dialogues and the entire drama the talk of the town. There is no fixed formula either; it’s not a given that a combination of a few people will make one particular drama serial a hit.
Thirdly, the digital platforms like YouTube or Netflix are introducing new and creative directors, writers, and actors. They are coming up with brilliant content and concepts.
Ever came a point when you thought of quitting acting?
A lot of times. I had many low points in my life. It was nearly 2 years back when I literally cried while praying that I can’t push it anymore. My family wasn’t supportive, I was a NUST graduate who could have landed in any MNC and would be stable. Within ten minutes, I received a call for a web series.
An actor’s life is difficult. If you have links then it could be a little easier for you but in the end, you have to play the card, prove yourself and earn it.
I would think about why I’m not getting work even though I am doing so well. My aunt had told me that there is a fixed time for when things will come to you.
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