Firdaus Jamal - I was born to act
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Firdaus Jamal has always been quite adventurous with his roles.

After working for over 30 years in TV, film, theatre and radio, the versatile Pride of Performance winning actor has lately taken to directing and producing serials and even set up his own produc-tion company. Sitting in his modestly furnished, newly established office in Lahore's busy Central Plaza, he explains why he has shifted towards direction.

"You see today everything is commercial. People are after money, not quality."

And he isn't? "No!" he roars. "I've worked for 28 years as an actor, without doing anything else. I had the opportunity to direct, but I always felt that I should concen-trate only on acting, and that I must specialize in one field. It is only now that I realize that I can afford to branch out."

Firdaus doesn't necessarily see turning to direction as a natural consequence for an actor.
"When I am acting, I am watching everything. I'm absorbing things, like what sort of lighting is used, what the camera placing is like, what the mood of the scene is, the kind of tempo it requires...things like that. This is part and parcel of being an actor. I've been observ-ing all of this for many years now so I think it's easier for me to slip into the director's shoes, compared to a lot of other peo¬ple who have very little or no experience at all in either field."

But do good actors necessari¬ly make good directors?
"Certainly," he declares. "Abid Ali has proved himself in this regard. Look at Brando. He took up direction after he had worked as an actor for 25 years. Look at Mel Gibson."

Firdaus springs a surprise by revealing that he started his career in showbiz not as an actor but as an assistant director.

"Not many people know the fact that I began my career by assisting the director of a Pashto film. I had done my matriculation at the time. A friend of my father, Zahoor Hussein Gilani, was directing the film. This was in 1971. You see, it's always better to start by assisting a director," he goes on. "Even Steven Spielberg started by assisting George Lucas."

Though waxing eloquent on the finer aspects of direction, it is evident where Firdaus Jamal's heart is.



"I must say that I was born to act. My passion has always been acting. But things have their own way of shaping up."

The actor has the experience of working in all four showbiz mediums. He received the Pride of Performance award at a very young age and was nominated several times for TV serials as well as stage plays. Firdaus has won many awards in his career, including the best broadcaster award from Radio Pakistan. He was also declared the 'Voice of the Millennium' in the year 2001 by Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. But, he couldn't quite cut it in films.
"I don't think I did any great films," he admits. "I have per¬formed in more than 40, but I didn't get any proper roles."

By proper roles, does he mean that of a hero?
"Well, unfortunately, here they consider only heroes as actors. Since they never tried me as a hero, I only got to play the supporting characters."

Does he think this had any¬thing to do with the fact that he was never considered a 'heart-throb"?
"I suppose. But actually, I would say that things went wrong from the very beginning as far as films are concerned. The serial which brought me to the limelight was Waris where I played a negative character. So when the first film was offered to me (Rishta directed by Pervez Malik), I played the role of the villain in which Nadeem, Shabnam and Anjuman had the main parts. So, you can say that it was my bad luck to have 'clicked' as a villain, and the film industry continued giving me similar roles."
So was this the reason that made him opt out of the film world?
"I left films because I didn't want to be typecast. Besides, I couldn't survive as a villain against, for instance, Sultan Rahi, because I was very skinny. I didn't have the height nor the build to match up to a typical film! villain," he replies.
Firdaus's last film was Kanwara Baap, which was directed by Altaf Hussein.

"I worked hard in that film where, again, I played the villain. But, sadly enough, the film proved to be a big flop.

I was so disappointed that I had to say to myself, 'No more films!' These days I am concentrating only on TV. I've left theatre also, though there was a time when I was a regular theatre actor. I did stage for about 20 years, but then the standard of plays started to nose-dive. I couldn't possibly be a part of the trash that was coming out."
Firdaus Jamal says that at the time when he did Pashto films, their standard was quite good.


bwd  Set 1/2  fwd

"There were some excellent Pashto productions in those days," he reminisces. "My first acting assignment was as a 100-year-old baba, and I was only 16 or 17 at the time. It was for a film which was based on a Pashto folk tale, Babu Naye Sher A/am. Somehow they couldn't get hold of the actor who was to play the part, so I stepped in. In that sense, you can say that my beginning in acting was as an 'actor' rather than as a 'star' or a 'hero'."
Another important milestone in the actor's film career was the Urdu movie Alladin, which starred Babra Sharif and Faisal in the lead and was directed by Iqbal Kashmiri. His all-time popular theatre play remains the classic Anarkali, which was penned by Imtiaz AH Taj in which Firdaus got to play Prince Saleem.

"In those days, even commer-cial theatre was good. It wasn't anything like today's cheap plays which have sleazy dances."
Firdaus says that he occasion-ally dabbles in radio plays, but he regrets the fact that there isn't quality work coming out from TV.
"I see people making trash in the name of plays. Everybody is trying to make money. When one tries to save money, one has to make all sorts of compromis-es. When you compromise in the performing arts, the standard automatically goes down."
It's no wonder then that Firdaus has set up his own production company, 'Baaz Visions'. Presently, he is occupied in the production side, but nothing can keep the actor in him away for long.

"I am not out of acting," he declares. "I am doing Abid Ali's Saaiban Sheeshey Ka, along with Pagal, Ehmaq, Bewaqoof by Munnu Bhai. I am also acting in my own drama, Mere Khwab Raiia Raiza, which we have prepared for PTV's forthcoming drama festival."

But, ask him if he has become less ambi-tious over time, and he booms,

"No way! It's not a matter of being ambitious, it's a matter of getting the right opportunities. Today, whenever I get a good opportunity, I still work with my heart and soul.

I'd even go to the extent of saying that I have become more ambitious today, as an actor. But it's sad that there aren't any good roles being written. Earlier, there used to be a kind of competition among actors." His tone changes into one of nostalgia. "We'd work all day and all night thinking about how to improve on our part. Even today, when I gel a role I try my best to make sure that it does not resemble any of my previous perfor-mances."

Firdaus is about to launch his forthcoming comedy serial Tamashey Ka Tamasha, which is written by a new writer.
"We've been trying for the last eight months to purchase time from PTV, to launch our production. The present MD has made a commitment to us, saying we deserve it. Hopefully, the play will go on air sometime next January."
Talking about the state of private produc-(ions he says, "Things are not good in Lahore, as far as private TV productions are concerned. Everything has been shifted to Karachi, which is unfair to Punjab."
Happily married with four children, Firdaus looks forward to making it big with his very own production company, while also making some money — something he's never worried about before.

"I am a self-taught actor. When Peshawar TV Centre did its first play, I was part of it. This was in 1975. Then I shifted to Lahore. I had to face some real tough times here. There were times when I didn't eat because I had no money. I've had to literally slog my way through. I know the real taste of success!"



Source :