He’s one in every of TV’s favorite patriarchal figures. Sift by means of the TV channels at prime time on any night time and also you’re prone to come throughout Saife Hassan.
He could be the woebegone father besieged by the troubles of the world, or the spineless father-in-law, hopelessly peering from behind his newspaper whereas the ladies in the home increase hell. He’ll cry, protest and harrumph with nice conviction, however I’ve typically puzzled if Saife will get bored with enjoying the daddy determine numerous instances on TV.
This is among the very first questions that I ask him. He laughs. “I don’t mind. I’m just enjoying being in front of the camera.”
At my prodding, Saife reveals that he additionally doesn’t thoughts enjoying the occasional blink-and-you-miss-it position: the corrupt police officer who wreaks havoc and dies just a few scenes later within the at present airing drama Laapata, as an example.
In a world rife with egos and self-trumpetry, actor and director Saife Hassan is among the humblest stars, who really loves what he does. How does he stay so laid-back in a aggressive occupation?
“I do a lot of these roles because the director is my friend or has worked with me in the past and he just wants me on board the project. If all it takes is a few days of work, then I really don’t have any problem with it.”
The truth is, as I uncover, Saife Hassan doesn’t have an issue with a lot. He has a profession that spans greater than 25 years, ricocheting between stage and display screen, from the on-screen actor to the all-powerful directorial chair behind the digicam. He’s a longtime veteran, holding his personal whereas performing and directing different titans of Pakistani leisure. At one level, he could also be working with powerhouses equivalent to Naumaan Ijaz and Sania Saeed after which, the very subsequent day, he could give a break to new actresses equivalent to Kubra Khan and Amar Khan. Regardless, Saife Hassan doesn’t have an issue.
Saife Hassan with actor Wahaj AliIt may very well be that he simply really loves what he does. Additionally it is as a result of in a world rife with egos and self-trumpetry, Saife is among the humblest stars I’ve ever interviewed. He loves what he does, and that’s why he’s right here.
“Times have changed,” he muses. “There was a time after I would spend months rehearsing for a stage play, driving an previous automotive that may break down en route from Nazimabad to DHA. Now I’ve a greater automotive and I’m working solely on TV. The dimensions of issues, budgets, tales have modified. However the instances once we would have fun successful stage efficiency with a samosa-jalebi-chai celebration have been particular. Asal maza toh tub tha [The real fun was then].”
Saife reminisces typically through the course of our dialog, diving deep into the wealth of recollections he has of his thespian days, remembering how he had usually stumbled into his performing profession.
Nonetheless, whereas the previous could have its appeal, the current wields an influence of its personal. He has a breakneck schedule, balancing performing trysts whereas directing a slew of dramas for the Hum TV Community. His current tasks embody earlier yr’s collaboration with the ISPR Ehd-i-Wafa, 2016’s multi-starrer Sang-i-Marmar and the supernatural thriller Belapur Ki Dayan.
I’m conversing with Saife at a juncture when he’s within the midst of his subsequent huge directorial challenge: Sang-i-Mah, the sequel to Sang-i-Marmar. It’s the current, then, that we start with.
With actor Ahmad Ali AkbarSang-i-Mah, by the way, has pitted Saife with yet one more new actor — a really well-known one, at that. Rock star Atif Aslam is all set to make his TV performing debut within the drama. The forged additionally contains actors Naumaan Ijaz, Sania Saeed, Omair Rana and Kubra Khan who have been all a part of the primary drama, in addition to Hania Aamir and — one other newcomer — Naumaan’s Ijaz’s son Zaviyar Ejaz.
I’m curious: how has it been like to date working with Atif Aslam? “We wanted to cast someone who hadn’t been seen on TV before for the role,” says Saife, “and Atif actually favored the script. I had gotten very excited when Momina Duraid, the drama’s producer, prompt Atif’s title. He’s an enormous movie star and I assumed that it might be very attention-grabbing to see how he adapts to the character. It’s a really distinctive character, not like the standard roles you see on TV.
“It’s early days right now,” he continues. “We will soon be on our way to the mountains where we will be shooting a large chunk of the drama. Right now, we’re waiting to get permission to shoot a few scenes in a gurdwara.” This, evidently, is sort of an impediment, since even essentially the most nominal shoots at locations of worship now require permission, ever since Saba Qamar and Bilal Saeed drew flak final yr for filming at Lahore’s Wazir Khan Mosque.
We proceed to speak about newcomers. A number of different actors had been into consideration for Atif’s position, however issues had not labored out. Bilal Ashraf, in actual fact, had been confirmed for the position however needed to decide out due to a change in dates.
With the Ehd-i-Wafa forged and actor Ahad Raza Mir
Instances have modified,” he muses. “There was a time when I would spend months rehearsing for a stage play, driving an old car that would break down en route from Nazimabad to DHA. Now I have a better car and I’m working solely on TV. The scale of things, budgets, stories have changed.”
“A number of instances, in my case, destiny simply takes matter in her fingers. I had initially signed on Armeena Rana Khan for Kubra’s position in Sang-i-Marmar. I hoped that she would have the ability to carry off the position of a tribal Pathan lady. Then, only a week earlier than taking pictures was to start, Armeena backed out due to a sudden conflict of dates. Momina prompt Kubra, who had simply achieved a stint in Nabeel Qureshi’s Na Maloom Afraad.
“‘Performing karwa loge?’ [Will you manage to get her to act?] Momina had requested me and I had stated sure, I might. I referred to as up Kubra and, inside the week, she was a part of the forged, and he or she did a tremendous job.
“Every actor chalks his or her own destiny,” he surmises. “Most new actors are talented and are willing to work hard. Also, it helps that I’m a director as well as an actor. If they are having problems with a scene, I can act it out for them. In theatre, we have an exercise called ‘mirroring’ where one person has to mirror the other to the point that both people are moving with exact precision. Just like that, the actor can ‘mirror’ me if a scene is particularly tricky.”
Has he ever had issues with the actors that he’s labored with? “Naumaan Ijaz and I had our variations through the making of Barri Apa, however then he received the Greatest Actor award for it on the Hum Awards, and he acknowledged my work in his acceptance speech. We’ve labored collectively since then, in Sang-i-Marmar and now, in Sang-i-Mah.”
From the darkish facet
Saife throughout his theatre daysWe transfer in direction of more moderen tales from the darkish facet of the directorial spectrum — specifically, the madcap taking pictures schedule of 2017’s Sammi.
“Sammi’s script was partly written once we started taking pictures. The drama’s author, Noor ul Huda Shah, had assured us that she would have the rest of the script prepared earlier than we have been achieved with two spells. However then, she didn’t ship on time. The script would come to us in items, two episodes at a time, and the story swerved incessantly from what the plot was initially purported to be.
“I would rush off to Punjab with the entire cast and crew and shoot two episodes and, then, return and wait for the remainder of the script. The drama got delayed so much that it ended up taking us a year to shoot it. We started off with pleasant weather and, by the time we wrapped up, we were shooting in the baking heat of interior Punjab, at 49 degrees Celsius!”
With actor and director EhteshamuddinEhd-i-Wafa, additionally, was shot in bits. “That’s just how the drama’s shoot was planned,” reveals Saife. “The ISPR was very involved in the drama’s making, even coining its title, and it was decided that different spells of the drama would be shot in spurts. Four episodes dedicated to the main characters’ college lives were going to be shot in Murree, and then four were filmed at the Pakistan Military Academy and so on.”
There was conjecture that one of many principal characters — performed by Ahad Raza Mir — was prone to die on the very finish, martyred whereas saving his nation. As an alternative, Ahad got here out from a bloody battle alive. Was it all the time determined that the drama would wrap up with a contented ending?
“There were actually long debates on whether or not Ahad’s character would remain alive,” he says. “Finally, we determined that we needed a contented ending as a result of we could plan a sequel sometime, starring all 4 principal leads.
“Besides, I like happy endings. Don’t you?”
I completely do, I agree — and evidently, so does the viewers. Ehd-i-Wafa had been a vastly widespread drama and I keep in mind social media being elated by its completely satisfied ending.
Why, I ask him, does he often keep within the shadows in the case of his directorial tasks? He hardly posts pictures of himself on the set, write lengthy social media testimonials devoted to a drama or a forged member or pose with the numerous trophies which have come his means.
“I find it embarrassing,” he half chuckles, “and it’s additionally unimportant. My youngsters typically drive me to place up just a few footage, however I don’t even like that. Proper now, my brother has tagged me within the nominations for Greatest TV Director at this yr’s Lux Model Awards, and I’m making an attempt to determine learn how to undo it.
“Additionally, many of the dramas I’ve directed, except for Ehd-i-Wafa, haven’t been big business hits. I don’t assume Sang-i-Marmar topped TV rankings, though lots of people did recognize it. Initially, in actual fact, the channel was skeptical a couple of male-centric, tribal storyline however Momina trusted me with Sang-i-Marmar’s script. Equally, after I needed to direct Belapur Ki Daayan, I used to be informed that individuals wouldn’t wish to watch a horror thriller, however Momina gave me the go-ahead. She’s all the time had plenty of religion in me.
“I’ve additionally been fortunate to have labored on my greatest tasks with Mustafa Afridi. He wrote Sang-i-Marmar, Ehd-i-Wafa and has additionally penned Sang-i-Mah. I truthfully assume that he’s one of the best screenplay author that I’ve ever labored with.”
We flip in direction of the previous: lengthy earlier than Saife turned to TV, he was treading water in theatrical circles. As a constant member of Sheema Kermani’s Tehreek-i-Niswan theatrical troupe, his days and nights have been spent in musty auditoriums, transitioning from pancake to curtain calls.
Theatre was onerous work however he cherished it. He reminisces a couple of tour de drive titled Ek Hazaar Ek Thi Raatein, helmed by Bengali director Rashid Ahmed Bengali, which was rehearsed for practically a yr earlier than it got here on stage. “The beauty of theatre was that I got to work with directors and casts from around the world,” he says.
He additionally fondly remembers collaborating with artists from the theatre group Katha — Sania Saeed, Shahid Shafaat and Saleem Mairaj amongst them. “Saleem later joined Tehreek-i-Niswan and began working with us,” says Saife.
His skilled prowess diversified with the help of an endeavour taken on by the Pakistan Tv Academy in collaboration with the United Nations Growth Program (UNDP). A gaggle of thespians have been chosen to obtain coaching in filmmaking by a few of PTV’s most illustrious pioneers.
“The course was designed by Aslam Azhar, PTV’s first chairman. We were taught how to handle the camera by Nisar Mirza, PTV’s first cameraman, filmmaking by Shireen Pasha and playwriting by Munnu Bhai. All the very best!” Saife factors out.
“The course brought different thespian troupes together. Myself and Ehteshamuddin, among others, from Tehreek-i-Niswan worked with Ayesha Saqib, Sania Saeed and Shahid Shafaat from Katha and, after the course, both troupes started collaborating. This is where we met Saleem Mairaj.”
Even after the course, Saife remained dedicated to theatre, solely dabbling with TV. However then strained relations with Tehreek-i-Niswan’s Sheema Kermani led to a decisive level in his departure from stage.
“Some of us — myself, Asma Mandrawala and Mahvash Faruqi — had started doing dramatic readings under the name of a group called Zambeel Readings. Tehreek-i-Niswan had never delved towards readings and we thought that Sheema would not have a problem with this. However, she really took offence, which led to my departure from the group.”
He continues, “Also, we were all getting older, inching towards 50. We now had families that we needed to support. Theatre took up a lot of time but didn’t pay enough.”
As a director at Hum Community, he started to solely create content material for the channel. “I told Sultana Siddiqui, president of the network, that I was going to direct for her but I won’t stop from acting with everyone. To date, I act in dramas from different channels,” he laughs.
Given how a lot he loves the occupation, does the director in him cringe when a drama during which he’s performing will get dragged extensively for the sake of rankings? “I leave the director in me at home when I’m acting,” he says. “And I don’t become involved in something apart from what I’m purported to do there.
“I’m just an ordinary man who was teaching mathematics and general science to ninth graders in a school, who struck luck and stumbled into this wonderful profession,” he says. “Who am I to judge others?”
There’s that humility once more. Saife Hassan could profess to be extraordinary however he definitely isn’t. He talks mildly and self-deprecatingly, and doesn’t consider in pointless braggadocio.
Deep down, although, he should additionally know the way extraordinary he’s.
Initially printed in Daybreak, ICON, September 12th, 2021