MOST men would love to be called a sex symbol. Not Fawad Khan. For the actor, being judged for his looks is the most uncomfortable aspect of being a celebrity.
Ask him what it's like to be a sex symbol and the normally well-spoken actor trips over his words.
"I think it's fashionable to call any actor a sex symbol today. I feel very flattered but also embarrassed. I consider myself a gentleman… I am flattered… it is nice… but I am embarrassed. Can we talk about something else please," he begs with a nervous laugh.
His wife Sadaf takes his heartthrob status "very well".
"She just says, 'if that's the case then I am lucky'.
Her attitude is that 'I am glad that people are jealous of me because of who I am married to'. She takes it very well.
But I have to say that initially when this started, there were times when there was some degree of possessiveness. I am also very possessive when it comes to her. So, yes, we had that tug of war in the initial days but it is overshadowed by our intense love for each other.
We've been together since I was 17 so our relationship has been through everything."
Fawad first found cross-border fame with his TV show Zindagi Gulzar Hai and then came sleeper hit Khoobsurat opposite Sonam Kapoor. And the Pakistani import is still coming to terms with his popularity in India. He is back on screen this month in Shakun Batra's dysfunctional family drama Kapoor & Sons.
"I loved the script as soon as I read it. I picked it up and read it at one go and immediately called Shakun to tell him that I want to do the film."
The fact that Kapoor & Sons is a Dharma Production and his co-stars include Rishi Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt also had something to do with Fawad's eagerness to be a part of the film.
"If I am being honest then, I do qualify for the role but the team that I am going to work with is a little more important than the role. In 95 per cent of the work that I have done, I have cherished the team that I am working with more than the role.
As an actor, I think the 'perfect' role… or the most exciting role of my career is yet to come. Until that happens, the team that I work with will continue to be important."
Fawad is happy to have had a chance to work with the cast and crew of the film. "Working on Kapoor & Sons was a lot of fun. The energy was great and the cast and crew all got along really well, like a family. Sid, Alia and Shakun are fantastic people to work and hang out with.
This is my second time working with Ratna Patak and as always it's a pleasure.
Although it's my first experience working with Rajat Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor, I feel like I share an old camaraderie with them.
Karan is an extremely genuine and warm person. Having seen his work on Koffee With Karan one can very well see his sharp sense of humour but, in person, believe me when I say it's an experience on another level. With that wit comes a sharp eye and a sensibility that makes his production house what it is today."
The trend of Pakistani artistes finding work and recognition in India started with musicians in the '90s and now includes actors. Fawad explains it simply as going where he finds work that satisfies him.
"The workplace has become a small space and you have actors, director, musicians and even film technicians travelling all over the world. Bollywood employs Australian make-up artists and Polish cinematographers while actors from here work in the US and UK. When I work in India, on a very micro-level I am an ambassador of the people of Pakistan."
Growing up in Pakistan, the 34-year-old was a die-hard fan of Bollywood.
"I loved the films from the '80s and '90s. I know people might think that I am extremely tasteless after reading this but I like the films from that period.
I associate my childhood with that era. The videos of films that I have kept are Mr India, Satte Pe Satta, Do Aur Do Paanch, Akhari Raasta, Kaala Pathar and Woh Saat Din… they were mostly Amitabh Bachchan films. I associate Bollywood more with that era rather than today," he says with a laugh.
Sleeping on set
In the past, Fawad has been candid about being an "accidental actor".
"I started acting only because I didn't want to go to college. I wasn't really serious about acting. I remember I used to sleep on the set and someone would wake me up 10 minutes before each shot. I didn't take myself seriously as an actor until about 2008 and that too when I realised that the audience is reacting to me. But even now, my expectations are always minimal."
While the success of Khoobsurat has propped him up in Bollywood, Fawad is "nervous because I want to carry forward the legacy that I have created in Pakistan to India".
"Having said that, I have always believed that where there is a rise, there will be a fall. I know that if there is failure, it would be temporary. I am prepared for it… but to some degree I am also unprepared. My wife and I always talk about what else there is to do in life in case I fail at what I am currently doing. It is very healthy for an actor to have a couple of flops."
In his next film, Karan Johar's romantic-drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Fawad will play a Pakistani DJ.
"It's not really a cameo… I shot for about 15 to 20 days. My character becomes the reason for conflict for a lead character in the film. It's a brand new look for me. I have never played anyone like him before so it was fun."
The film, which is scheduled to release this Deepavali, stars Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma.
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