Ali Tahir stands in the league of those finicky actors who you don’t happen to see each time you flip channels. His meticulous choice of roles and the consequent finesse in their performance has earned him many applauds. And even so he almost loathes being remembered by his sit-com, “Teen bata Teen” only, there’s no doubt about the fact that his remarkable performance in it, earned him the best acclaims. In Chambaili, he has managed to move scores of people with his act as Sarmad, the head of the family, who returns from the US only to end up on street for a protest.
1) How did you find your role in Chambeli, especially as opposed to that of Musa?
Ali: The special part about my role is that it does not depict a big-bang revolutionist, like Musa’s . It’s something, which many might be able to relate to- a US returned Pakistani, acquainted with living in safe surrounds, ending up on street protesting in a dharna upon his return. Musa, by the virtue of the script is in fact a strong role, beautifully depicted by Ehtisham. However, the beauty of my role is the small details and quirks of a common man- his laconic comments and little things that he says are what middle-class crowd can easily relate with.
2) Were you hoping to earn critical acclaim or commercial success when you took up this role?
Ali: Frankly, I didn’t rationalize my choice whether I’m seeking critical acclaim or commercial success. All I wanted was the film to do well, to be watched and liked since it was my first film. Also, I was sure this film was meant to do good because it has a powerful story. Unlike in India, where entertainment alone could make a flick successful like Rowdy Rathore and alike, in Pakistan, a good plot and story rules and is the key ingredient to make a film successful. And so, critical acclaim and commercial success follows naturally.
3) To what extent would you support claims that draw parallels between Chambaili and Rang de Basanti?
Ali: Well, if you look at the macro facts – it may appear that there is a striking similarity between the two, but those who have watched the film know that they are based in different premises. There’s not much that relates the two in any way. Since, I worked on it, I can safely claim I found no traces of Rang de Basanti in Chambaili
4) If you have a chance to recast, who would you choose or rather Not choose for your role, other than yourself?
Ali: (After a long pause and giggles) Umm..this might get me into a lot of trouble but…perhaps Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun- I would not choose for the role . Why- I’d not like to comment. Perhaps, Fawad Khan would have been a great choice but he doesn’t fit that age profile of 35-40 years. But I must say, 90% cast was totally appropriate.
5) Wouldn’t it be better if you were shown to have a softer or rather romantic side to your role?
Ali: Hazaaron khwahishen aisee ke har khwahish pe dum niklay..Perhaps it would have made my role well rounded. Initially it was under-consideration to bring in my wife in that role. But there were time constraints and certain other things because of which it couldn’t be brought about.
6) How do you think Chameli fits the political backdrop it has been released in, considering elections are so close?
Ali: The timings Chambeli got released in are perfect –days away from elections. It will infuse in people that spirit to bring about the much-needed revolution and give them the courage to withstand whatever comes in way of it. The film has made people cry out of emotions, moved them tremendously and hence it has proved to be the much needed impetus we needed for change.
7) Any fallout you’d like to point out in the film?
Ali: No fallout as such. Only one thing I would like to add is this film required heavy budget and Shahzad is no millionaire. There were places, I must say, where it could have been better if we had extra budget like a mass protest scene and other technical areas, which we could not bring on-screen because of budget constraints.
8) Chambeli, it has been claimed, has left less room for characterization hence people’s estrangement with the characters?
Ali: A lot of people have raised a point that we jumped directly to action and that there was less build-up before the landing to the gist. However, I’d like to make a point, if we had shown more of prelude, it would have resulted a slow movie and not an action-packed political one- that it was required to be. Also, there were several scenes we had to cut like Mr. Ghulam Mohiuddin’s and Umair and Mahira’s, which could have made it smoother but there were time constraints and we had to finish the film within that time-frame only so..
9) Your career in the sit-com opposed to that in a serious film, how do you like the transition?
(Quite irked at the question) I might have gotten initial acclaim from sit-com teen batta teen but I’ve done some great serious and complex roles ever since and so there has never been a transition. In fact, I was doing a serious play when I was approached for Teen-batta teen and luckily it worked out just perfect.
11) Tell us the crisps-n spices of the movie or about you?
Ali: Loved working for Shahazad and we would spend nights together because some scenes required us to be there for 22- 24 hours. A lot of times when I’d be posing with my fans on sets, Ehtisham would cross us right before the clicks. And so with lots of laughter and naughtiness the time spent was a perfectly memorable one.