We sat down with the only hero in Badshah Begum, Ali Rehman Khan. The actor who has become a household name today started off with theatre before opting for dramas. Having spent years doing theatre, Khan debuted with Rishtay Kuch Adhooray Se in 2013 alongside Sohai Ali Abro and then made his way to the silver screen with his entry in Janaan in 2016 co-starring with Bilal Ashraf and Armeena Khan – the star has since then been unstoppable!
With hits like Diyar-e-Dil, Khaas, Parchi and Heer Maan Ja under his belt, Khan is not only busy with Badshah Begum but also his film Parde Mei Rehne Do which is all set to hit the cinemas near you at Eid-ul-Fitr and we asked him everything you’ve been wanting to know about it.
You’re doing both television and film together, how are you managing it?
It’s manageable, I think. TV takes more time because the projects are long and lengthy whereas films are shorter, so it takes a lot of schedule management. I’ve seen some actors do three projects at a time, but I just can’t do it. I usually commit to one project and focus all my energy on that, sometimes when I have multiple projects going on, it can be a little frustrating because the dates keep changing and it affects the other project commitments, so I personally try taking up one project at a time. I avoid juggling between projects because then when the dates don’t work out or my commitments aren’t fulfilled then I feel guilty and it causes me a lot of stress, so yes, multiple projects are doable but not something I prefer.
When you were offered Badshah Begum? What compelled you to say yes? Was it the stellar cast or being the only hero in the plot?
Badsha Begum was offered to me 2 years ago when the cast wasn’t locked, the script wasn’t finalized either, so my yes came after I read the script. I loved Bakhtiar’s character and the plot, even though we weren’t sure in the beginning whether the play will be aired on TV or an OTT platform, so the only solid ground for me was the story. Sometimes I feel like I don’t get difficult roles because of the way I look – there’s already so much criticism about people darkening their skin for a particular role, so the audience acceptability has to be there – it has to look believable if you’re showing a particular character from a particular place then he should at least look the part, why should I darken my skin to look a certain part? – so I loved Bakhtiar because it ticked all the right boxes for me because he’s from an urban city, his mother runs an NGO, he’s not a flat character, he has different layers to him, he has his own journey, there’s a romance angle involved too, so I wasn’t losing out in any way. I really want to do grey characters too, so let’s hope I get to do one!
You starred in Khaas 2 years ago as an anti-hero, and for the longest time people were hoping that you’d change for the better but that never happened; what was it like when you used to go out, how did people take that?
People would always come up to me, asking me to stop doing what I was doing with my wife in the play and to treat her better, men would come up to me really proudly telling me that their wife says they’re exactly like them and I would say that if you really are like the character I play then it’s not something to be proud of, try changing yourself. A lot of women would come up to me sharing how they know of an Ammar in their family, which means that people can relate to it, they can connect to it. That’s the thing about grey characters, they’re flawed and people can relate to it. At the end of the day, people enjoyed watching the show and a lot of men too realised how they’d been treating their spouse the same way as Ammar and told me how they’re working on changing themselves.
Badshah Begum is turning into such a grand drama, the cast is huge there are a lot of people, so did you ever think that you will get lost in the mix?
No, I feel proud that finally, we got something in which there are a number of people, stars. I am not talking about myself but there’s Zara Noor Abbas, Yasir Hussain, Farhan Saeed also some newcomers like Hamza Sohail, Hiba Aziz, Daniya Hussain, Komal Meer – they are excellent actors. You are getting a multi-starrer drama with Shahzad Nawaz and Samar Ansari, so if you ask me it’s the pride of the drama to have such a heavy star cast that I am proud to be a part of it. I had the same feeling when I did Dayar-e-Dil with an array of amazing actors. I did not, at any point feel like this and if you can get past this and rather focus on the content, the characters, and the entertainment value, so everyone shines as a team. But thankfully neither I nor anyone else from the cast has had that feeling, we’ve been excellent together!
If you were to swap a character or a role from someone in Badshah Begum, who would it be?
I might not swap but I do have a favourite character that if I got a chance, I would have loved to play Yasir’s character, Peer Qaiser, it is my favourite character in the drama. He is a little twisted and I love playing these kinds of characters, so if I were given a choice I’d play Peer Qaiser. But then again Yasir is perfect for the role, I believe he is built for the role – the character is in a league of its own, and when you watch the drama you’ll know why.
What was the experience working with Zara Noor Abbas like?
I loved it, this is the first time that I’ve worked with her, she is very supportive and creates a very caring environment – she doesn’t just care about herself but also her co-actors, director, producers with the intention to focus on the content. She makes it a priority that the scene is shot flawlessly and that the project is impeccable and to do that she motivates everyone on the set. She’s very inclusive on set and supports them, hypes them up, and makes sure that everyone on set is 100% on board when shooting. Even Khizer (the director) has the same mindset, so do I, which is why we made a very nice team together.
It is your second play with Khizer and even the first one was very famous, you were the antagonist in that too, how do you feel to work with him again?
I really enjoy working with him and I feel that this drama has much more energy as Lapata wasn’t this big, it did not have as many characters. With Badshah Begum, the magnitude is very big – in terms of characterisation, the storyline and the development of each character, all of this comes with a challenge to weave it on the screen while creating relevance to the actual story – giving every character the importance they deserve. There are about 10 storylines in the play and all of them intertwine at some point, I think Khizer works 10 times harder in the drama in comparison to Lapata, and I love the way he works. He has this methodology, there is madness behind it, you know he just doesn’t let anything slide and yet is never fully satisfied. So he is always on both sides of the spectrum but he always listens to the actor’s suggestions or comments, he tries it the actor’s way and if he likes it he keeps it that way and this speaks volumes about his personality as there are some directors who are not like that, so he listens, and he tries to manoeuvre himself around and he always provides solutions if you are in a pickle. There are times when a person gets stuck or is in that block, Khizer never complains, even if takes hours no matter how small that scene is he would not let it slide, this is what I love about him, he is very patient, polite and mediocrity is not something you’ll see in his plays. There are a lot of things I love about him as a director but my favourite is his mind and vision and the way he treats every problem is just unbelievable.
Lapata had many characters, so does this show, is that something that Khizer enjoys?
Yes, the characterisation is very important in this show, he doesn’t discriminate amongst any character whether they have a small part or are there throughout the story, everyone is equal and that is the beauty of the play.
The male actors in the drama are related to each other except you, how do you feel regarding this particular aspect of the script?
I am the only one that is not a brother and I enjoy that, I mean it’s a family drama, so of course, family politics is the main crux of the script but my character is unique as I play a lot with it – it’s a very big contrast as he is from another world and the other members of the cast belong to another world and when their worlds suddenly collide and it leaves everyone wondering how can you place someone from that world into this one, so I enjoyed it a lot given that it has a romantic angle to it too.
Badshah Begum, Rishtay Kuch Adhooray Se, Janaan, Diyar-e-Dil, Khaas, Parchi, Heer Maan Ja, Parde Mei Rehne Do, Dayar-e-Dil,