The suave Pakistani on his upcoming film, ‘Kapoor & Sons’ , and how romance is what truly drives him
Just uttering Fawad Khan’s name is enough to have hard-nosed journalists at The Hindu office heaving many ardent sighs. It leads to instant, long conversations about the secret of his charm, especially among women. Apparently, not since Shah Rukh Khan in Fauji has someone sent them swooning before a TV show. Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Ke Liye (2007) might have first introduced Fawad Khan to India, but the TV soap Zindagi Gulzar Hai saw him blossom into a universal heartthrob. To such an extent, that now, in Shakun Batra’s sophomore film, Kapoor & Sons, his presence is more keenly awaited than that of even the Indian superstars.
At the Dharma Productions office, I point out to Karan Johar how only women journalists seem to have queued up to interview Fawad. “But isn’t that normal?” he says. Friends in Pakistan claim he is equally popular among men in the country, and is a huge gay icon too. Why does the whole world seem to be in love with him? What is there beyond the obvious good looks and the well-mannered ways? Khan claims it shocks and amazes him. “I haven’t done anything to earn it. I have the gift of the gab, can talk and perform, but so can others,” he says. “I can only attribute it to the fact that somebody up there likes me, it’s remote-controlled by God.”
Family man image
A lot has to do with his nice, committed, squeaky-clean family man image. “There’s a strong bond I feel with my wife. It’s not that I haven’t come across other attractive people in my life, but no one else was willing to put up with me,” he says, smiling. The actor married Sadaf Khan, his childhood sweetheart, after eight long years of courtship. “He has a good head on his sculpted shoulders,” is how a Pakistani admirer describes him; courteous, polite, Mr Nice and Clean, no scandals, no gossip, sensitive… other adjectives roll on. “He is surely not your average good-looking wax mannequin. He has brains and is rather articulate. You can have good, mindful discussions with him on politics, society, music and more,” adds the Pakistani source. Our conversation at Dharma proves it.
Khan is effortlessly good-looking in black T-shirt, jeans and red shoes. He has an allergy and is sniffing away, with a box of tissues and Otrivin helpfully laid out on the table. Few men can look charming with the sniffles and antihistamine-induced droopy eyes. Khan does. Without a doubt.
He chooses one word to describe himself: romantic. “Old-world romance underlines my relationships, even with my son and the dog,” he says. He thinks Kapoor & Sons will enhance this image even further, that too in a unique way. “The romantic interactions are very limited, but the character is very sensitive. It is not romantic in a brooding way, which is quite a relief..”
Kapoor & Sons is a film he claims to have said yes to last January after having read the script overnight in his hotel room. “That’s my criteria for going ahead and doing a film: if I am able to read the script in one sitting I will pick up the film.” The role is poles apart from his last outing in Bollywood, Khoobsurat, and the performance, he feels has turned out more nuanced and real, something he feels a lot more satisfied about.
Tell him about how the controversial role is supposed to have been nixed by many a top star before he picked it up and he confesses being utterly shocked. “It is so nicely layered. I would call it any actor’s wet dream,” he says. He found the film itself very dignified and decent, with nothing that could put the audience off. “It will put a smile on everyone’s face,” he says. But what of the dysfunctional element? “It’s not as though it’s a family of cannibals,” he says. It’s about the usual fights and insecurities one would have faced growing up in a middle-class family. What struck Khan was the “dynamic equilibrium”. It wasn’t just about respecting one’s elders and loving the youngsters but about parents befriending their children. A man of little expectations, as he calls himself, he would let the film do all the talking but is also utmost confident that it is a “repeat watch film”.
The journey to fame
The star began his stint in showbiz with music. He played guitar and drums, and was the lead singer of a band called Entity Paradigm. Khan feels music and television have been the foremost modes of artistic expression in Pakistan. Cinema flourishing in the country in the 1970s, but with the closure of hundreds of cinema halls since then, the only visual medium left was PTV.
“It brought out so many talented people to the foreground,” he says. Music for him is something that binds India and Pakistan. Ask him about the comparison between Coke Studio India and Coke Studio Pakistan and how the latter steals a march, and he patiently explains how there is a rawness and a folk strain in Coke Studio Pakistan. “The X factor, or charm, is how it remains true to its roots,” he says, adding that he is big fan of Coke Studio India, specially Clinton Cerejo and his ‘ Madari ’ and ‘ Mauje Naina ’.
Pakistani cinema may not be in the greatest of shape, but Khan likes the fact that you can’t put a signature to it, “unlike Iranian cinema.” He feels that signature brings in a certain monotony. But as an actor, he likes variety, something which keeps the performer in him alive. He claims to be choosy about his roles but also to being lazy. “I enjoy time off work more,” he says.
Coming up next is Karan Johar’s own film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, where he is cast opposite Aishwarya Rai, with Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma in other key roles.
Back home in Pakistan, he begins work on a biopic on one of Pakistan’s earliest pop stars, Alamgir. Khan is visibly excited about the project as he tells you about how Alamgir, a Bengali hailing from East Pakistan, was in Pakistan at the time of the Bangladesh War and the fall of Dhaka. “There was no way he could go back home and had to build his life from scratch in Pakistan. It’s a true-blue rags-to-riches story,” he says, one that shows Alamgir age through the decades: 70s, 80s, 90s to the present day.
At home in Mumbai
Khan is also happy with his Bollywood innings at the moment. Early offers he received around 2008, in the aftermath of Khuda Ke Liye, went nowhere because of the Mumbai attacks. Zindagi Gulzar Hai opened up a new chapter. Now he feels at home in Mumbai. He likes the sense of familiarity, love and appreciation. It’s like a home away from home. The family and roots are still back in Lahore. He doesn’t like travelling with the whole paraphernalia, nor does he want to set up shop here permanently. “Seth ko apni dukaan aur karobar ghar se chalana chahiye (A businessman should run his business from home turf),” he says, though he does have some “able representatives” handling him for Bollywood.
But what about the bureaucracy and red-tapism, the constant visa and work permit issues? Do they ever come in the way? He is matter-of-fact about them: “The entire world functions on passport and visa system. There’s nothing to take offence from. I am subjected to a certain protocol but I don’t mind it at all.”
Calm and equanimity
There is this larger calm and equanimity about him; he looks like the kind of guy who wouldn’t get ruffled by anything. Khan attributes his lack of paranoia to the fact that he doesn’t have a political bone in his body. He confesses to being blissfully unaware of current affairs and also likes to maintain a distance from social media, where anyone’s words can get misconstrued. “I believe in silence than words,” he says. And he hates politics for breeding hate. “It brings in a lot of baggage and fear which is the last thing I need as an artiste,” he says.
All that Khan needs is romance, loads of it.
2015 Kashmir Despatch