Ashir Azeem is a Pakistani writer and actor, who rose to instant and immense in the 90s, with a smash hit drama ‘Dhuwan’. It involved a group of friends who formed a vigilante force by night and had professional lives by day. After which he left the media world to focus on his own career as a civil servant. In the last few years his contribution to Pakistani cinema was a hit film by the name of ‘Maalik’, which in the footsteps of his drama, focuses on the nature of corruption in Pakistani society, had good dialogues and had enough action to keep the scenes interesting and cinematically appealing.
This interview was originally done for an online magazine, which does not exist anymore. So I’m putting this interview for everyone to read.
- How are you?
Ans: I am Good
- How was life, growing up for you?
Ans: The best childhood one can have. I grew up in wilderness and mountains deep in Baluchistan. We were not wired to computers or restricted to four walls. Ran with the wild and breathed fresh air. Hence my lifelong love for wide open spaces, nature, animals, human spirit, dignity and undiluted freedom and independence.
- What kind of a family setting did you grow up in? Was it strict or liberal?
Ans: I am eldest of four siblings. I grew up completely unrestricted. We did not live in a joint family so completely unaware of politics and intrigue of any kind.
- How did you develop an interest in films?
Ans: Quite frankly, I don’t know. I guess one thing led to the next. My complete independent nature with no preconceived notions about anything and the desire to experiment with and experience everything has led me to very interesting things in life. Film, being one of those.
- Were you active in school plays? Did that help you grow as an actor?
Ans: Not really. I did do a play or two at school but wasn’t really interested.
- You are a talented writer, so what books do you read? Any favorites?
Ans: I read everything, from technology to philosophy, history, fiction, politics, religions, you name it. But I love physics and astronomy the most.
As far as favorites are concerned, I guess you get to those when you are approaching the finishing line; I have too much stuff to read yet to decide the best.
- You seem to be fond of the army, and often write about characters that are in the military. Where did that come from?
Ans: Military takes you away from the mundane ordinary life to a world of extreme. You experience everything to the limits, Camaraderie, Loyalty, Rage, Courage, Fear, Pain, Endurance, Strength, Discipline, Respect, Dignity, Honor, Compassion the entire spectrum of what makes you tick. It turns you inside and out and shows you what you are made of and capable of. Once you know yourself then you have the choice to do what you wish with it.
I think everyone owes it to themselves to undertake a journey of self discovery. This is why I was in Pakistan Air Force for a few years, I needed to test my limits, to read my owner’s manual.
I enjoy writing about characters that have discovered themselves.
- How are you such a good actor?
Ans: Forget Camera and Light. Forget it’s a movie. Immerse in the situation and go with it. If you want to be a good actor, don’t act, live the role.
- Are there any actors that inspire you?
List is too long and ranges from Hollywood to Bollywood to Lollywood.
- Which movies or dramas do you like?
Ans: Instinct 1999, Saving Private Ryan 1998, Vertical Limit 2000, The Patriot 2000, 3 Idiots 2000 . . . the list goes on and on
- You wrote a drama yourself, Dhuwan, which was a great success. What was experience like? Because it was the first time you wrote a script.
Ans: Close your eyes and write what you see on the screen of your mind. You will end up with the screenplay, dialogues, props, cast, editing sequence, sound etc. Now go on and make it.
- Maalik, your movie is fantastic, what was the best part of being the heart and soul of it?
Ans: Being the heart and soul of it. To be answerable to yourself, have the freedom to do as you please and take responsibility for it. No retreat, No regret, No surrender.
- There is a lot focus of society and its ills in the film, do you believe that movies help in bringing social awareness about things that matter?
Ans: اندر گھر کی ایک دیوار کے، اور کوئ دیوار نھیں، سوچ سے زیادہ ھتھیاروں میں، اور بڑا ھتھیار نہیں. An idea is the most powerful weapon. Today there is a conscious effort to divert focus of society from the real concern to a false sense of happiness and escapism. Not unlike drugs. Maalik focuses on real issues, poverty, access to justice, democracy, role of institutions, rights and responsibilities of citizens etc.
Issues are like disease, the longer they are ignored the worse they get.
- How did the public react to Maalik?
Ans: For me to respond is conflict of interest.
- Where you ever afraid of being as honest as you were in the film?
- As a writer, what is the moral of your movie?
Ans: Take care of your present and future, no one else will do it for you.
- How did you feel when Maalik was banned from cinemas?
Ans: Obviously I felt bad, but I knew I will win. یہ تو چلتی یے تجھے اونچا اڑانے کے لیے
- Do you have any work that we will be seeing in the future? Because we want more.
Ans: Yup. I am already working on finalizing scripts.
- Do you have message for Pakistan and its people?
Ans: I have written and produced Maalik as a message for Pakistan and its people. They should see the film if they want the message.