“Ali Rehman’s presence is compelling. You cannot help but notice him. His ability to entertain at such a high level makes it clear that acting was what he was born to do. But talent is not everything; it has to be honed. Rehman started from the bottom, which is the best place from where to start learning.”
It was his humility that struck me most of all. Humility is a hallmark of success, for successful people do not need to showoff. Listening to him talk about his journey as an actor, it became clear just how passionate he is about his craft.
Being the natural showman that he is, I was not surprised when he told me that he always wanted to be a movie star.
“Ever since I was little boy I dreamed of being an actor. I believe it came from my love for comic books and Superman; to this day I still have Superman merchandise.”
Ali began with theater. He started with school plays in Islamabad, but it was during his college years when he got noticed at a poetry recitation. He was asked to audition for three roles, and as luck would have it, he got all three.
“Theater is where I began honing my skills. Through theater I acquired confidence, which was very important for me as I initially suffered from stage fright. I was extremely shy growing up, which could have hindered my progress, but when I found theater, I got over it. When I think about it, theater not only laid the groundwork for me as an actor, it taught me important life skills; I learnt how to present myself, how to deal with everyday situations, how to be creative, and not to be afraid to express my creativity to the world. I owe a great deal to theater, and I plan on returning to the stage soon.”
After theatre for a few years, Ali Rehman acted in his first film Slackistan. Once again he was noticed, and the television offers started to come in.
“I entered the television industry at an interesting time. In the early 2000s, the industry did not have the best reputation. There was very little quality present, which is why I did not want to act in dramas at that point. Over time however, we began creating dramas of high quality. When I was approached to do my first Urdu play, I was still slightly unsure. Then my good friend Osman Khalid Butt who was already in the industry convinced me to take the plunge. That is when I decided to read the script and go for it.”
Rehman’s debut in the drama serial Rishtay Kuch Adhooray Se on Hum TV turned out to be a tremendous success. It earned him a Hum Award for Best Television Sensation Male at the 2nd Hum Awards. Extremely satisfied with his debut, he believes it gave him the confidence to go further.
“The response that I received for my first drama serial was terrific, especially because I was very nervous. I did not expect the set-up to be so professional. Remember, I am a boy from Islamabad. We do not have an industry here. In Islamabad, we are used to making short films, indie projects with very little money. When I went to Karachi, it was a real eye opener. I realised that this is a huge business, with lots of money involved. It is a sink or swim situation, so you have no choice but to constantly bring your best if you want to succeed.”
“My second drama, Muhabbat Ab Nahi Hugi was a fun script, which was shot in Islamabad. I was so pleased that the drama turned out to be a big hit, and of course being nominated was also satisfying.”
Two mainstream dramas had clearly given Ali Rehman the ability to feel in command on screen. However, it was his third drama he says that taught him the most.
“Diyar-e-Dil, my third drama was by far the most challenging, in the sense that it was the heaviest on-screen play I have done. It required a lot of dedication. The fact that I was working with top actors and technicians really put the pressure on, which made me work harder. This was my toughest, but most cherished drama.”
Ali moved to his first big film Janaan, a 2016 Pakistani romantic comedy. It was an Islamabad production, co-produced by Imran Kazmi, and written by Osman Khalid Butt.
“The fact that my closest friends were a part of this project made it extra special. Not only are Osman Khalid Butt and Imran Kazmi my friends, they are fantastic to work with, and I have a deep appreciation for their work.”
The major driving force for Ali to do this film was because it was a story about a progressive Pashtun family. Being a Pathan himself, Ali felt strongly about this script.
“It didn’t fit the Pashtun stereotype, thus it was important for me to be a part of this narrative. Pashtuns are not highlighted in a positive manner, which is why we needed a film that projected them in a positive light on a commercial scale.”
Ali Rehman’s latest role in the new hit Pakistani comedy, Parchi (Released on January 5th 2018 in Pakistan) turned out to be a tremendous success. The fact that it released after the holidays was a big risk. In the UK, Parchi didn’t release till the 2nd of February, and only got selected screens. Despite the challenges, Parchi has made almost Rs. 12 crores.
“I am so glad that against all odds, Parchi turned out to be a super hit. I am so pleased to have been involved in the first successful film of the year.”
There is no doubt that Ali Rehman will continue to garner praise and triumphs. His natural ability to be in command on stage and screen gives him a serious edge. It is his unshakeable sense of belief and drive that will keep moving him forward. That is the secret of his success. There is a lot more to look forward to from this unique entertainer.
By ALI GAUHAR