This article was originally published in Express Tribune Life and Style.
DUBAI: Shahroz Sabzwari has been around for quite a while now. Even though he has always been pegged as a ‘star’ kid, Shahroz has spent enough time in the industry to prove his own mettle as an actor. We recently saw him in the commercially unsuccessful film Chain Aye Nabut in the very successful television play Teri Raza in which he essays a negative role. The Express Tribune (ET) caught up with this talented actor to talk about nepotism, negative roles and his inherently positive outlook on his life.
ET: Did you always want to be an actor? Were you also nudged in the direction?
Shahroz Sabzwari (SS): For the longest time I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I’m not very outgoing but I’m also not an introvert – I take my sweet time in getting comfortable in a social situation. I used to be scared of acting. Whenever I used to visit the sets with Papa (Behroz Sabzwari), I used to think ‘Oh God, this is so much anxiety.’ People used to say, ‘Shahroz will be an actor – even their names are similar. He will carry his father’s legacy.’ I always liked actors but I was always very afraid of acting. I was studying law and realised it wasn’t my cup of tea.
I went to England’s London Academy of Film and Media and that’s when I relaxed a little. I had great teachers and realised I can really channel my energies into acting. They helped me realise that and I am very happy.
ET: How much of an impact did your father have on your career?
SS: He has always been an inspiration – him, Javed Mamu (Javed Sheikh), Saleem Mamu (Saleem Sheikh) – we grew up watching them and the way they lived their lives. When you’re a child and see all these people asking your parents for autographs, you ask yourself, ‘what’s going on?’ and you tend to let it get to your head. But that’s where the parents come in; they teach you how to be grounded and humble. That’s when my dad taught me that all of this is because of the grace of the Almighty – and can go away any moment. He was the one who sent me to London to study and specifically said that I should be capable enough to take land my roles instead of people saying that I got the role because of my father. He played a major role in shaping my life, that too, in a very positive way.
ET: What do you have to say on the claims of nepotism and the pros and cons of being labelled as ‘Behroz Sabzwari’s son?’
SS: If Imran Khan or Wasim Akram’s children pursued cricket, people would watch them with a lot of interest. If Wasim’s son is a fast-paced batsman and a lefty, people will ask, ‘when will this guy bowl?’ If he performs well, he automatically becomes a star so you can’t really run away from the label of nepotism. But I encourage people not to see it in a negative way, especially if an actor’s son comes forward through merit and by going through the entire process.
I have been working for 20 years; I did my first drama when I was 11 and I am 30 years old right now. I’ve worked with so many directors and when they gave me strong roles, I performed. Had I not been able to do a good job, you wouldn’t have been interviewing me right now. I would have been a ‘nobody.’ Right now, I’m fighting my own war. Now, no one can go to my father and say, ‘We cast your son and now our drama is a flop.’ I have my own name to live up to and there’s a different pressure on me now because I’m married to Syra and she is a brand in herself. I’m generally very positive about life and people, so I try not to take a lot of pressure but it can get frustrating sometimes.
ET: How do you see ‘Chain Aye Na’ now? The film didn’t do well at the box office at all.
SS: Javed Mamu’s first film was a flop; it was called Dhamaaka and then Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna came which made him a star. So for me, Chain Aye Na was like Dhamaaka and then Teri Raza came which has done wonders for me. I’m currently doing another movie with an ensemble cast.
ET: ‘Teri Raza’ had a negative role and your fans haven’t seen you in such an avatar. Do you think you disappointed them? Was it difficult to play Rameez?
SS: My fan base doesn’t thrive on my looks; they see me as an actor which is why they get so hyped. The ‘cute’ Shahroz is old, Karachi High was a long time ago and it’s been done. My fans loved Rameez and playing that character was a lot of work, especially when you’re acting opposite people like Sanam Baloch and Sarmad Khoosat. There was a lot of fighting, shouting and arguing that Rameez had to do. It drained me and I would get headaches but I enjoyed doing it.
I wanted to play this role without a beard to kill the stereotype. I wanted to tell people that a person with a clean-cut, chiselled look can also entrap a girl – that’s the layer I added to the character. This boy Rameez, grooms himself to fit the looks of a ‘good guy’ but the way that he has been nurtured, and his outlook on life, is not very positive. He is a bad person who falls in love with a girl but isn’t very keen on maintaining a good relationship.
ET: How do you see the industry in the next ten years? What would be your dream role, film-wise?
SS: I think in the next five years, the Pakistani industry would make a film that would really convince the world that ‘we’ve arrived’. Look at Parchi, Rangreza and Punjab Nahin Jaungi – they have all been amazing and I’m sure we’ll get better. My dream role can’t be one role because I believe that’s the death of an actor but I want to play Howard Hughes, which was Leonardo DiCaprio’s role from The Aviator.
ET: Who are your inspirations?
SS: My father and Marlon Brando. I’ve studied all of Brando’s films and read all of his books. I tried to channel his role from A Streetcar Named Desire in Teri Raza’s Rameez. Brando plays this passionate guy who also has a little rawness to him as well.
ET: What are your upcoming plays and projects?
SS: Zard Zamanon Ka Savera and Begaangi are on air currently. I’m working with Meera’s sister, Shahista. She is a lawyer and has worked in Dublin. I was intrigued that I was going to work with Meera’s sister as I’ve seen Meera in Javed Mamu’s films. This story is based on nawabsand Usman Peerzada is a part of the film as well, so you can imagine that it will be a beautiful play.