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Age is just a number!

Written by Omair Alavi

Being over 40 doesn’t seem to be a major issue for actors these days; some feel it’s an advantage!

Being over 40 doesn’t seem to be a major issue for actors these days; some feel it’s an advantage!

They say ‘Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional’, but had the person who said that seen some of the current Pakistani actors, he or she might have changed it to simply ‘Growing old is optional!’. Thanks to modern-day fitness regimes, special diets and some help from Mother Nature, many celebrities in their forties are giving tough competition to young folks in the same business.

Be it the wonderful Ahsan Khan who seemed to defy age in Fraud, or the youthful Fawad Khan who doesn’t look a day older than 30, the majority of the A-list actors in Pakistan have celebrated their 40th birthday. While that might be troublesome for actresses in the country or in the neighboring country, it isn’t a problem for the leading men, a few of whom believe that crossing 40 is good for them.

Gone are the days when actors were cast because of their looks (and age, of course!) and once you crossed forty, you were either cast as the older brother, the father, or someone in an unrelated supporting role. Talented actors who played leading men in their heydays including Farhan Ali Agha, Shabbir Jan, and more recently Sohail Sameer were relegated to character roles, despite being popular as leading men. While Farhan Ali Agha and Shabbir Jan who played the hero in the 90s and 2000s are in their early fifties, Sohail Sameer isn’t even forty-two yet he gets to play fatherly roles, most recently as in Kaala Doriya which is currently on air.

It took the might of Humayun Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui, and others to stop that cycle, but now that they are over 50, one has stopped appearing on TV whereas the other has moved on to ‘fatherly’ roles. When they appeared together in Mere Paas Tum Ho three years back they played grown-up men who fought over a relatively younger Ayeza Khan, and many didn’t mind that since they played someone closer to their actual age.

Unlike the West where Clint Eastwood in his nineties continues to play the leading man, 80-year-old Harrison Ford still gets top billing and sixty-six-year-old Tom Hanks still commands the respect he did in the 1990s, Pakistani celebrities need to go the Tom Cruise way, or the oldies way. They need to look good to play the leading men, and no amount of experience can make the producer change his mind, except when that person is the one pumping the money.

However, not all actors have the luxury of becoming producers, hence they defy age to stay afloat. Besides the aforementioned Ahsan Khan and Fawad Khan, there is the multifaceted Faysal Quraishi, the forever young Sami Khan, the talented Junaid Khan, the gifted Syed Jibran, and even the 90s heartthrob Moammar Rana who are in their 40s and still giving the younger lot a run for their money.

While Moammar Rana continues to work in limited Urdu and unlimited Punjabi flicks, Fawad Khan played the title role in The Legend of Maula Jatt, which has become the most successful Pakistani film of all time. On the other hand, Syed Jibran won the audience’s heart as the ‘brotherly’ Vicky bhai in his film debut Ghabrana Nahi Hai last year as did Junaid Khan in Kahay Dil Jidhar, which came a few months earlier. Unlike Moammar and Fawad, Jibran and Junaid are busy working on TV as well, and while Jibran’s character was the most loathed in Darrar – where he dated three younger actresses simultaneously – Junaid’s charming personality helps him play the lover boy easily, who is usually on the right side, unlike his contemporaries who love the challenge of crossing over to the dark side.

Add to that list those actors who are working on TV yet don’t look above 40 and two names appear from nowhere – Adeel Husain and Bilal Ashraf. While Adeel Husain has been part of the TV industry for more than a decade, Bilal Ashraf will be making his debut on the smaller screen after dazzling the audience in the cinema. Their presence on TV is a welcome change for the audience since they choose their projects very carefully, and that seems to be one of the reasons why their screen age doesn’t exceed their real age.

Then there are the forever young Ahsan Khan and Sami Khan who can pass for any kind of character be it a lover boy or a younger man, thanks to their powerful genes, their ability to adapt to any kind of character, and the strict diet and fitness regime they follow. The duo seems to be following the path set by their predecessor Faysal Quraishi who looks good in every character he plays, no matter who is cast opposite him.

I am thankful that I am being offered custom-made characters – Faysal Quraishi

The way people like Faysal Quraishi are going, getting a meaty role for a youngster seems more like a dream than a possibility, and the newer actors will have to work extra hard to make a name for themselves, or ‘wait’ for their turn. That’s what nearly every actor in his 40s today had to do when they made their TV debut, and it is that experience that makes them so valuable today.

Faysal Quraishi believes that at a time when he is nearing 50, the reason he is able to survive as a leading man is playing someone closer to his actual age. ‘I usually play someone who is in his 40s which helps because it is closer to my real age. In dramas like Haiwan, Farq, and Muqaddar, I even said yes to characters in their 50s because it was easily manageable unlike playing a 30-year-old which would seem odd today.’

The Bashar Momin actor added that since he is being offered characters that are custom-made for him, all he can do is be thankful to the producers, and his fans who approve of his experimentation. After all, he is way past the ‘Maa Maa main matric main pass hogaya’ stage and he has no issues about growing old if he is growing up in the process.

Forty is a milestone that is to be accepted in its own style. – Syed Jibran

Syed Jibran has done more negative roles in recent years than positive ones, but that has nothing to do with his age, he says. In Ranjha Ranjha Kardi the character he played was young, in love with the leading lady, and had he stayed on the right path might have ended up with her. Similarly, Vicky bhai in Ghabrana Nahi Hai was a youngster who went to all lengths to win over his cousin (played by Saba Qamar) who wasn’t interested in him. But in the end, it was his character who was cheered out of the cinema for his heroic actions.

When asked about the phenomenon of aging, the talented actor said that aging is a phenomenon that has to be experienced by everyone no matter what. ‘Everybody ages but beauty is how you accept to age and mold yourself accordingly with grace and class. Certain things suit you when you are a teenager but you have to let them go when you get to your twenties and then the thirties come with their own set of etiquettes. Similarly, forty is another milestone that is to be accepted in its own style.’

The Khudgarz actor went on to add that those actors who are able to ‘look’ their characters are the ones that are remembered once the show they are part of ends. ‘As an actor, we defy all logic regarding age, as we are chameleons who transform into various characters of different ages throughout our journey. Age, therefore, is not a hindrance but is directly related to our fitness and health. The longevity of our career is thus directly proportional to how we maintain ourselves rather than how old we are.’

As a seasoned and mature actor, Jibran believes the margin to perform is greater than being a teenager or a young man. ‘We have the option to dive into the younger version of ours and at the same time, we can jump up into the more mature category as well, so the options are twofold being in the 40s. The 30s and the 50s are available to explore thus giving us an age bracket of 30 years to experiment.’

TV needs mature heroes, making the situation ideal for us! Junaid Khan

If you didn’t know that Michael J. Fox was 34 when he played teenager Marty McFly in Back to the Future, Ralph Macchio was 28 when he played Daniel LaRusso for the last time in The Karate Kid III or Aamir Khan was 44 when he was cast in 3 Idiots, you need to improve your knowledge about actors. They were successful because they fitted the character and duped the audience into believing that they were as old as their characters, even if they weren’t.

Singer-turned-actor Junaid Khan may not look like a youngster but he doesn’t look his age either, because of the fact that he hasn’t been overexposed in front of the camera like his contemporaries. He believes that being in his 40s is a blessing for him since it gives him the edge over the younger generation who have no clue how a middle-aged man would feel in certain situations.

‘Films or digital might be the medium where the hero has to be young to attract the audience but TV is a more mature medium in the country, where the stories revolve around men than boys. That’s why I feel that actors in their 40s have more scope on TV than in films because they can easily play a character in their 30s because they have been there recently or in their 50s because they are moving towards that slowly.’

He went on to explain that when a person is in their 40s, the process of aging sort of slows down, which helps especially when you are an actor. If the actor looks the part, then he can play the character easily, convincingly, and without the fear of looking odd.’

About the author

Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi is a highly regarded journalist, critic, and commentator, specializing in news, sports, showbiz, film, blogs, articles, drama, reviews, and PTV drama. With extensive experience and a keen eye for storytelling, he captivates audiences with his insightful analysis and compelling presentations. His expertise and contributions have made him a prominent figure in the media and entertainment industry.