Ahad Raza Mir worked with Sajal Aly in Dhoop Ki Deewar before they were actually married.
The Pakistani show Dhoop Ki Deewar released in India recently. Despite all the tough circumstances, the Pakistani TV series made it to India through the OTT platform Zee5. Furthermore, it has been received well all across.
OTTplay exclusively caught up with the lead actor of the show Ahad Raza Mir to discuss what the show and its Indian release meant for him. Ahad also spoke about his future plans and what working opposite his yet-to-be-wife Sajal Aly felt like.
Excerpts from the interview...
What made you select Dhoop Ki Deewar and what was your first reaction when you read the script?
It's a good question. When I first got the script, I loved the story. I thought it was a very important story that needs to be told on both sides. I obviously had a few apprehensions because there's a bit of tension when you choose such a subject matter, even as an actor. You think about whether you should do the show or not. Sometimes you find it risky but I don't shy away from risks like this and I connected with the story because I felt it needs to be told. Obviously I loved the script. Umera Ahmed wrote a beautiful story and I thought that if I want to be a part of this, the real reason besides selfishly as an actor wanting to do this show is because it's just an amazing character. Besides that, I wanted to be a part of something that is a part of the solution to some of the issues we have. I was hoping that if in some way I can add to the message of peace and compassion, then why not? This was the first logical step for me.
Did you expect the show to release in India and what was your first reaction when you got to know that it is releasing in India?
There were a few issues at the time of its release which is too bad. I'm of the opinion that people need to actually watch creative content and analyze it deeply before making a judgement. It's important to give creative work a chance and properly analyze it before making decisions. I was very happy when it finally released and people got to see it and understand the message we were trying to give the audiences. They realized that the story wasn't really about the preconceived notions that people had. It's a story about two families.
What kind of reactions have you received from your Indian fans?
It's amazing. I've been following the numbers and people's comments on Twitter and Instagram. It's been quite overwhelming. One of the big worries I had before taking on the role is, because this role required a lot of honesty and realism in its performance, I did a lot of research and was hoping that I was honest to playing an Indian. Although we are so similar, we always have our differences. So I was hoping to have picked up the nuances and I think people appreciated the work. It was nice to see that people were mostly writing positive comments about the show and its characters.
What went into your preparations? Were you comfortable talking in Hindi or needed a coach for that?
There's two ways to look at it. The first one is the research in terms of when you look at the subject matter - which comes down to the Pakistan-India issue we have sometimes. Young boys and girls who are left orphaned, it's sad to say but there's a lot of research material on them. A lot of people have lost their fathers in things like these.
The other side, whether it is speaking in Hindi or picking up the Indian nuances, the research was a lot of fun - trying to understand how people talk and the tones and rhythms in speaking. It was a beautiful experience to pick those things out. Hindi was a little tough because there were certain words I had never used before. I got to learn more about the Hindu religion and so many different things. It was a challenge but fun at the same time because I got to learn something new.
Did you also happen to read the book the show is inspired from?
I didn't read it because I wanted to have my own fresh take on what we were doing. So, I haven't read it yet. However, I hope that I get to. It started out as a children's book at the time.
How was it working with Sajal Aly who is also your wife?
The funny part is we weren't married when we shot this show. I don't actually have any scenes with her either. We never shot together. It was an interesting space because you have to connect with somebody who is also another actor but they're just not there, not even in voice at times. That was an interesting experience.
What is next for you? Is anything going to be released in India?
I'm looking for a project that we could look forward to possibly next year.
You have been in Canada but came back to work in Pakistani cinema. Why not continue there and get closer to the Hollywood dream?
It was around 2015-16. Hollywood was vastly different back then. People with a different skin colour have to face some issues there. You are usually typecast in a role and that wasn't something that I was interested in. While I did get a theatre opportunity there, I also thought that Pakistan was my home advantage so it began with 'let's try it out'. At this point, I was in Canada my whole life, did not speak Urdu. With the level of Urdu or Hindi I speak today, if you met me 4-5 years ago, it was bad. That was a big challenge but now things are changing. They are very different. There's a big acceptance in colour and every other thing. Take theatre for example. That has always been very colour-blind in Canada. Now it's translating in the films and TV world which is good for everyone at the end of the day. The transition is in progress for me too.