Maheen Sabeeh
"In a lengthy interview with Instep, Mohib Mirza discusses his love for cinema, the mechanics of television, falling in love and much more"

The first thing I notice upon meeting Mohib Mirza is how tall he is. In a blue shirt and a pair of faded denim, Mirza looks lanky and every bit like a movie star (as he opens the door to his bungalow).
After a quick smoke break and refreshments, we sit down to talk, and it is obvious that Mirza is articulate, passionate and has a story that is full of unwavering resolve. Exuding confidence and charm, Mirza is an actor who continues to push the envelope with every performance. Other actors may generate a lot more headlines but when it comes to skill, Mirza has no rival amongst his contemporaries.

Most of all, he is a decent man who hasn’t allowed stardom to turn him into a monomaniacal superstar or forget his roots and humble upbringing.

These days though, Mirza is in the glare of the spotlight thanks to a little film called Bachaana that pairs him opposite Sanam Saeed and also features Adeel Hashmi in a menacing role.

In the film, Mohib stars as Vicky, a taxi driver in Mauritius whose chance meeting with Alia (Sanam Saeed) resides at the heart of the film. Since its release, Bachaana, directed by Nasir Khan, has opened to mostly decent reviews and though some criticism and controversy has chased the film since the arrival of the first trailer, Mirza is unfazed.
“For so many days, I had been shooting indoors, you know close-ups or against a wall. In Bachaana, the script was light and required us to be outdoors,” says Mirza as we discuss his new film in which he steps away from dark, melancholic undertones in exchange for some comedy. And given the film’s story and light feel, Mirza’s decision to leave excessive dramatics behind was a smart one. “There was no need to be overdramatic or to bring unnecessary intensity. The process of making Bachaana was excellent,” notes Mirza.

Though he has starred in several films post-revival, the kind of professionalism and discipline with which Bachaana’s shoot was conducted was a first for Mirza.
I ask him why the film requires the woman to be saved. Given our television plays and their dedication to regressive ideas, does cinema also need such ideas?

And Mirza shoots back: “It wasn’t like that. In two or three instances, she (Sanam’s character) saves me: I can’t swim, she saves me, she hits the villains with the stick and towards the end of the film, a situation arises where she’s trying to convince the villain to leave me alone rather than me fighting actually.”

Mirza maintains that Sanam’s Alia doesn’t require saving and the comparison to Bajrangi Bhaijaan is uncalled for. “When I read the script and when we shot for the film, I didn’t get a feeling that the woman’s character was weak. Her character was not exposed to the world. Given the circumstances, she does her best.”

As the conversation moves to Mirza’s other projects like the upcoming Shaan Shahid remake of Mahesh Bhatt’s 1982 film, Arth, he reflects on his selection process before signing any project. For him, script is king.
“I wanted to be an actor and for an actor the highest point, the pinnacle is cinema. But when I started out, this revival of cinema hadn’t happened. I wanted that kick and so with lack of decent films, I worked in telefilms.”

With over 90 telefilms to his credit, Mirza’s skill got polished further and his journey into cinema began.
“In Dukhtar, for instance, I was criticized because I seemed heroic. My question is why not? It isn’t reality, it’s a depiction of reality.

Otherwise, what’s the difference between a drama and a film? Let it be larger-than-life because that’s what cinema is.”

From our conversation, it is palpable that for Mirza doing quality work is the only goal. His decision to not star in television serials unlike several of his contemporaries is a calculated one.

“Where is the man? In television today, where is he? The man is either useless or a cheater or some such thing. In society and in life, there are good people and bad. Why is there then no balance when it comes to the character of the man?”

Though a fan of the glorious heydays of PTV serials, Mirza defends the television industry as he says that our serials have improved tremendously.

“Content can improve further but it will take time. The mechanics have changed. There are several channels now. The slot has to be filled so out of 100 serials, maybe 5 or 6 are good.”

Then and now
Mirza’s story is one full of hope. At the age of 17, Mirza told his parents that he wanted to be an actor. Pursuing a degree in commerce required a lot more money that his family could afford, and it prompted him to write a play, which led to his discovery as he was cast in other projects later on.

“The play was successful. We got a story in a leading newspaper and the extra money we earned was spent eating out at fancy restaurants,” laughs Mirza as he reminisces.

The realization that he wanted a career in acting struck Mirza and after that, he never looked back.
I ask him how his family reacted and Mirza says there was always room for the arts at home.
“My father told me that I had to understand the freelance aspect of it and figure out how to live from paycheck to paycheck.”
His father would give him honest feedback, which helped Mirza in honing his craft. As for the performing bug, it’s been a part of Mirza his whole life. “Its what excites me and brings me joy.”

And if you’re wondering about Mirza’s better half, Aamina Shekh, their love story is as endearing as it is real. They met on the sidelines of a TV show called Bachay Man Ke Sachay for Geo TV, which Mohib was hosting and Aamina was producing.
“There was no affair. But I really liked her, a lot. Once or twice, I spoke to her on text messages and from there our relationship took off. I told my parents, and I had to convince her family because I was a struggling actor. And that was it.”
I grill him about how he deals with the success of his wife and he says thoughtfully, “I have absolutely no problem. It is her passion, she’s good at it, and she’s so much better than so many others. I am not here to change her, if I don’t add to her colours and multiply it, what’s the point?”

While on the subject of his wife, Mirza proudly counts her successes and adds, “I’ve done research and no one has been able to rise the way she has and that too in a span of just a few years. The number of commercial campaigns, high profile TV serials – now if I had suppressed her or had said let’s have a baby right now so you can sit at home, she never would’ve been able to explore and excel the way she has.”

As we discuss the cinema’s new wave further, Mirza confesses that he was offered a role in the action-thriller Waar. Why didn’t you do it, I ask him and he responds: “I got an email which had no end. How does the film end? I don’t know. I didn’t know the timeline or ending so it was this reason.”

A believer in the power of cinema, Mirza maintains that there is room for all kinds of films. Whether action or romance, the real deal is the ability to tell a story.
As the interview comes to a close, Mirza notes that cinema, his ultimate passion and joy, needs more time before it can have a unique identity.

“Our people are accustomed to watching Bollywood films. We dance at their songs at mehndis and parties and they are part of our reality. Pakistani cinema is still in the process of finding itself. I go to cinema because I want to hear a story. This movement (making films) is important. The lines will get defined as time passes and more movies are made.”

Courtesy: Instep on Sunday (The News International)

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