Hamza Ali Abbasi really needs no introduction. The man has often made headlines for his unfiltered comments and statements which may have drawn the irk of the ‘psuedo elites,’ as he likes to label them, more than just a few times. Nonetheless, his magnetic appeal and intense performances have made him a popular figure and audiences are excited to see their favourite star return to the screen after a break of more than two years.
In this conversation with Pakistan Today, Hamza talks about his upcoming film and why he feels the need to be vocal about his thoughts.
What took you so long to make a comeback? Why the long break?
I am very selective about my work and as I evolve as a person, I want my films and projects to be more than just entertainment. There should be substance, a message or an impact, a positive impact, with a film, and keeping that in mind, I decided to go ahead with this [Parwaaz Hai Junoon] project.
Despite this break, you’ve continued to remain in the news with your political comments and talk show. Where does that come in in the life of an actor?
The fact of the matter is that it is my responsibility and duty as a citizen to speak at every chance I get. If we don’t speak up, how can we expect to communicate and open the floor for discussion? Pakistan is at a sensitive stage and we all need to do our bit to prosper it and to achieve that, we need to let go of our fears. And fear only leaves when your faith in Allah is strong. Izzat, zillat, rizq and maut are in God’s hands and when you leave things in the hands of the higher power, it liberates you.
I did everything that was suicide for an actor: from taking political sides to being vocal about my thoughts, getting involved in controversies but none of that stopped me from succeeding and here I am today doing the best projects there are.
Why Parwaaaz Hai Junoon?
We, as a country, have a lot of achievements, but unfortunately, we have buried ourselves in constant self-criticism.,While and , while that’s a good thing, however because one should correct their faults and shortcomings, it is also important to applaud the milestones you achieve, individually as well as collectively.
I hope when the people watch the film, they feel proud of their country and their airforce. Especially all the overseas Pakistanis who are constantly worried about their country because of what they see on television and media. While all that is mostly true, there is another side to the picture which is not all that bad. For example, the state of women in our country. People abroad are of the belief that women are widely mistreated in Pakistan; they are raped, killed, abducted, abused, harassed etc. And they are. Crimes do happen against women. But at the same time, women are breaking barriers and becoming high achievers. We have so many strong examples of women who have defied the norms and are soaring high.
What role do you play in the film? How did you prepare for it?
I am playing the role of the fighter pilot in the film.
To get in character, I l had to lose some weight to appear leaner and fitter as the officers in the Pakistan Airforce are. I also spent a lot of time with the pilots picking up their mannerisms. However, I don’t prepare too hard for a role because I feel it doesn’t appear natural then.
PHJ is being referred to as a propaganda film in the media. What are your thoughts on that?
The answer to this question lies in how you define propaganda. In my opinion, propaganda is when there are lies, and no existence of reality and Parwaaz Hai Junoon depicts the truth. We haven’t tried to whitewash the airforce, neither have we tried to show a soft image of it in the film. Everything in the movie is taken from reality. It’s a depiction of nothing but blatant facts.
For example, Hania’s character is not there to make the movie look good or to add glamour. It is a fact-based role and not many people know this but the Pakistani airforce has one of the highest ration of female fighter pilots, Maryam Shabbir being the most prominent.
What is your relationship like with the rest of the cast? What were the dynamics on set?
Ahad, Hania, Shaz and Alamdar are beautiful people and I am so glad to have found friends in them; we bonded very well together. The entire team got along wonderfully, including the cadets we interacted with. I am very happy that never once did we have any issues in the entire journey; from the shoots till now, it has been a smooth sailing.
And what about your equation with Hania? Do you think the age difference affected anything?
Hania is extremely mature and because of this not only did we bond very well, we’ve become very good friends also. Everything was easy between us and that reflected on screen.
What was your favourite location to shoot? And most memorable experience?
The film was shot all over Pakistan. Our country’s beauty is mesmerising to say the least and while I can’t single out a single location as a favourite, our shooting schedule at the Sargodha Base schedule was the most memorable. Shooting there made me respect the armed forces even more. The systems in operation there were remarkable. Everything was running smoothly and managing a base of that scale where there are planes flying in and out 24/7 is a tedious job but never once did it falter. It was truly a mind-blowing experience.
The Pakistan Airforce gave us such unprecedented access to different locations all over the country and we felt extremely special shooting at such locations, where members of the airforce themselves had not been to. The officers and cadets kept reminding us that they have to undergo years of training to experience what we did.
PHJ was released after a long wait. Was there any reason why its release was stalled? Did the delay affect the moods?
As far as the delay of the film is concerned, that’s in Allah’s hands – however, I couldn’t be more ecstatic over the fact that my film is being released in Naya Pakistan. The happiness of it being released in Naya Pakistan is surreal, especially given the fact that the film is a patriotic one. I definitely couldn’t have gotten a better package even if I had tried.
What expectations do you have from the film?
Our introduction to the world is unfortunately through news channels. As a consequence, words like terrorism, extremism, racism etc. are casually associated with Pakistan. It is usually the negative things that are highlighted and grab attention.
It is time we show a more positive image of ourselves to the world through our entertainment industry – one that isn’t held synonymous with terrorism and extremism. The most successful example we have of this is of Bollywood. India faces shares similar problems, if not worse but the impression that goes out to the world is through their cinema, which is flooded with singing, dancing, bright colours and their rich culture. And that’s because of their film industry which has painted such a picture.
While we continue to draw inspiration from Bollywood over things such as item numbers, we should really look and observe other aspects as well and implement them to better and further our industry. I really hope that people are proud of our country after watching the film and all negative misconceptions are cleared.