From climate to government, everything has changed during the last 15 years. However, the one thing that has remained constant is the love of audiences from around the world for the Humsafar actor, Fawad Khan who has reclaimed his position as the most bankable actor in the country. While he keeps gathering feathers in his cap, his latest flick has become the first film from Pakistan to enter the Rs. 200 crore club.
He have debuted with Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye in 2007, but Fawad Khan was already a sellable commodity. He started his career as a singer in the late 1990s and then joined hands with Ahmed Ali Butt’s music band to create Entity Paradigm (EP). In between, he made his acting debut with Jutt and Bond and since then, there has been no stopping. Turning producer through his home production Neelofar brought his career to a full circle, but the 41-year-old hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Maybe that is because of his ability to pick the right projects. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to crack the enigma that is Fawad Khan.
Phase I – The start: How Jutt and Bond helped form EP!
Born on 29th November 1981 in Karachi, Fawad Khan spent his early years abroad with his family and returned to Pakistan in his early teens. In those days, pop music and rock music were the rages and everyone who had a talent for music was part of the music scene. Like most talented youngsters, Fawad was also part of that scene and was quite popular in the underground circuit in Lahore as a rock singer. Call it fate but his dashing debonair personality caught the attention of the makers of the TV show Jutt and Bond, and he was cast as Bond, in Ahmed Ali Butt’s Jutt.
Not even Fawad knew that one day, two decades later to be exact, the ‘other’ role would make him the most popular actor in the country.
‘When I was doing Jutt and Bond, I was learning the ropes of acting, as I was entering the field. It never entered my mind that one day I would be playing the role of ‘Jutt’ anywhere, be it in a film or a TV. Had that Fawad Khan met this Fawad Khan, he might have got the shock of his life because those two are poles apart.’ The actor told BOLD while discussing his early years in the industry.
It was only after the success of the title track of Jutt and Bond that Fawad and Ahmed joined hands with Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan aka Zulfi to come up with Entity Paradigm (EP), a music band that went on to reach the final of the inaugural Pepsi Battle of the Bands in 2002. At that time, many compared Fawad Khan to Hollywood star Tom Cruise because of his boyish looks but when pop icon Zoheb Hassan said the same thing in the grand finale of the Pepsi Battle of the Bands, everybody started noticing the resemblance.
Did that resemblance factor in Fawad’s success, that’s one of the many questions that only Fawad can answer. However, when asked about his ability to switch between singing and acting, all he could do was unleash his million-dollar smile, and thank his fans.
Phase II – The rise: TV, Film, and Bollywood!
As if Fawad Khan wasn’t popular enough, director Shoaib Mansoor cast him as a rockstar turned religious fanatic in his directorial debut Khuda Kay Liye alongside Shaan Shahid and Iman Ali. Despite the presence of veterans like Naeem Tahir, Seemi Raheel, and of course Shaan in the cast, Fawad Khan impressed all with his brilliant portrayal of a confused youngster. Since the film industry was going through a transition fifteen years back, Fawad chose to return to TV to continue his acting ambitions, and for the next five years, he was amongst the most popular actors in the country, thanks to Dastaan, Akbari Asghari, Humsafar, and Zindagi Gulzar Hai in which he played the romantic lead to perfection.
Be it a character based around the time of partition (Dastaan) or one inspired by a classic Urdu novel (Mirat ul Uroos), Fawad was at ease playing the main lead. However, Humsafar gave his career the once-in-a-lifetime boost every actor desired and propelled him to stardom. Not many knew that it was Humayun Saeed who was supposed to play Ashar, but since he had some health issues, he asked Fawad to fill in, who was working in Humayun’s production Akbari Asghari and agreed to listen to his senior.
And as they say, the rest is history. No one else would have been able to do justice to Ashar’s character, which is today considered to be the blueprint for good husbands. After all, who wouldn’t love the person who stood against his mother and defended his innocent wife on national TV? He carried the ideal lover boy persona in Zindagi Gulzar Hai which made him popular across the world, including India which was unable to resist the charms of the new ‘Khan’ on the block.
Enters Shashanka Ghosh’s Khoobsurat remake where Sonam Kapoor was paired opposite Fawad Khan, giving the ‘Disney princess’ her ‘Prince Charming’, considering the film was co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures India. Not only was Fawad able to carry himself well in that flick, but he also managed to bag more films, including Kapoor and Sons, and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil opposite Alia Bhatt and Siddharth Malhotra (Kapoor and Sons) and Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil).
Fawad Khan was just brilliant in all three films, in Khoobsurat he played a royal prince who falls for a clumsy physiotherapist who enters their household to look after the father, in Kapoor and Sons he played a writer who not only became popular because of his brother’s novel but was also a closeted gay. Although his role wasn’t a major one in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, he stood his ground as the third member of the love triangle that also featured Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor and stole the show whenever he shared the frame with either of them.
These films helped him cement his place in the Bollywood industry which was looking for a suitable replacement for the three Khans – Aamir, Salman, and Shah Rukh. When they had the replacement in sight, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) and the Film Producers Guild of India banned Pakistani artists from working in the country due to Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Uri Attack. Bollywood’s loss was Pakistan’s gain as Fawad returned to Lahore and planned his next move, which was going to be bigger, better, and more bombastic than anything he had done before.
Phase III – The Calm before the Storm!
Good things come to those who wait, and Fawad waited for the project of his dreams. He did play cameos in Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 (which was later edited out because no one wanted to watch an imperfect Fawad) and Parey Hut Love but that wasn’t enough for his fans. They wanted him back as the Fawad Khan they knew, and for that, he stayed in touch with his fandom through TV commercials. From selling real estate to deodorant, from being part of the confectionary products to selling cars, Fawad Khan was there. He spent his time well, spent a few seasons as a judge with the same Pepsi Battle of the Bands that brought him to the fore, and even sang the anthem for the Pakistan Super League’s fourth edition, but that big thing was still missing.
Until director Bilal Lashari offered him the role in his retelling of the legendary character. But Fawad doesn’t have fond memories from the initial days of the film’s shoot since it landed him in the hospital.
‘To play the character, I had to physically transform from a 78-kilogram guy to a proper bulky Jatt, and that wasn’t the issue because I have been there and done that in the past. I had less experience of gaining weight than losing it so after gaining 20 kilograms in 1 and a half months and performing action stunts with the help of the international action team, my kidneys stopped working and I had to end up in a hospital bed. The situation would have been different with any other actor but since I am a type 1 diabetic, the preexisting condition didn’t do me any favors. It made me understand that gaining weight is easier than losing it (smiles) and I am still in the process of taking it down to where I was.’
Fawad Khan also added that his performance in Bilal Lashari’s epic was helped by two factors – not working with Hamza Ali Abbasi, and reuniting with Mahira Khan and Humaima Malik.
‘Hamza and I didn’t know each other too well before the film, we have always been very cordial with one another. However, we became good friends during the shoot and now we are good friends because we spent a lot of time together during the making of the film. His character is one of my favorite characters in the film and the reason why I managed to do well on screen was because of him, since I try to feed off others’ energy, and Hamza was super energetic.’
‘While not knowing Hamza helped me in playing the protagonist, knowing the ladies (Mahira Khan and Humaima Malik) helped me work well with them since I had worked before with Mahira (in Humsafar) and Humaima (in Akbari Asghari). We were all playing different characters from what we had played on TV, and the comfort level with them helped the final product.’
He also mentioned that since he wasn’t fluent in the Punjabi language, he hadn’t seen the original Maula Jutt, which was released even before he was born.
‘To be honest, I hadn’t watched the original Maula Jutt because I didn’t understand the Punjabi language, which I had to learn to play the title role. As you have seen, Nasir Adeeb’s script is more poetic than prose and that’s why I had to grasp the language, understand it and deliver it as per the director’s instructions. Thankfully I was able to do justice with it, otherwise, I wouldn’t have forgiven myself, considering I am the harshest critic of my work.’
He also said that comparing his performance to the late Sultan Rahi’s would be unfair because Sultan Rahi and Mustafa Qureshi are legends, and it is highly unlikely to displace them from their positions. They did a film when technology wasn’t around and even then, came up with a masterpiece that is still relevant after five decades.’
Phase IV – The massive return!
After enthralling audiences in this part of the world, it was about time that Fawad Khan went international and that happened when director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy chose him to play the grandfather of the character that goes on to become Ms. Marvel, in the Ms. Marvel series. Despite being made to walk with a limp, and partnered with a ravishing Mehwish Hayat, Fawad Khan was on top of his game in the Disney Plus series. He not only looked fit for the part but was also used as an attraction for the fans who missed him dearly on the screen.
That wasn’t the only comeback vehicle he chose for his return; he was also part of Tapmad’s Barwaan Khiladi where he played the Cricket coach to Danial Zafar’s character. Sporting a beard and donning a tracksuit, Fawad Khan looked perfect as a coach and was one of the reasons why the audience subscribed to the OTT platform which was not doing well till then.
When asked about the 15-year gap between his two major film releases, Fawad Khan said that since the film industry was in the developing phase, he chose to work elsewhere until the time was right to work in a Pakistani film.
‘I wasn’t away from the scene due to some planning, it just happened. When I did Khuda Kay Liye in 2007, the film industry was trying to find its feet, and that’s why I took a break from films and returned to TV. I did some good projects on the smaller screen which helped me enter films in India, which is why I was missing from the action when the second wave of revival hit the Pakistan film industry. I was busy in India for some time – not that long – but came back in 2016, after which I kept myself busy with different projects, most notably the recent movie of which the shooting commenced in 2017.’
Two of his films – Neelofar and Money Back Guarantee – are ready for release and might be screened in a cinema near you before you know it.
‘It might seem odd but I shot Money Back Guarantee in the second half of 2018 and began my home production Neelofar at the start of 2019. It features me and Mahira Khan in the lead and I am quite excited about it since it is my first project as a producer. As for my absence, well COVID-19 is to be blamed for that because cinemas shut down temporarily for two years, which caused a delay in the release of my films. It would be better if you blame fate instead of me (laughs) because I was up for the challenge. I don’t think I have any fault in that, all I can say is ‘Better late than never.’