As the year 2009 draws to its close, Instep raises the curtain on the few good men and women who are going to take the big-screen plunge - at a time when Lollywood isn't exactly considered a wise career move. But these film-firsts have their reasons. They are the kind of stuff cinema is made of: they are great-lookers, they boast the right attitude and, if that is not enough, have the native intelligence to pick and choose the best from the available lot. Some of them are stars already, while others have stars in their eyes. Over to this fresh crop of actors that has the promise to change the face of Lollywood – for the better.
Mahira Khan Askari
Her endearing, girl-next-door looks, a warm smile and a sophisticated demeanour have won alabaster-skinned Mahira Khan a huge fan following, especially among the youth. But this former MTV VJ didn't know one of her fans was Shoaib Mansoor, her own favourite film maker. Today, she is part of Mansoor's underproduction movie as one of the main leads. It should be interesting to see her act and, of course, sing songs on the big screen.
Role model: Many, but if I had to name one - Guru Dutt!
The kind of film role(s) I'd be best suited to: Not really sure what roles I'd be best suited for, but I'd like to be able to do diverse ones. InshAllah!
One film role I feel I could perform better: Oh man! I don't even know if I can perform well yet. But there are so many roles that I look at and think wow - such as the one played by Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose. I think she was brilliant!
One actor I am dying to work with: Woody Harrelson
One director I'd give an arm and a leg to work with: There are many I admire - Shoaib Mansoor, Anwer Maqsood, Woody Allen and so many more. Of course, I wish Guru Dutt was alive
One actor I think I'd make the best onscreen pair with, and why? Johnny Depp! Do I need to explain why?!
My best feature, according to me: How can anyone really answer this?!
For a 21-year-old (her official age!) married Pakistani TV actress to have bagged a big-banner Bollywood film, opposite one of the top five Khans, is a potential headline-grabber. But this isn't exactly why Humaima Abbasi makes it to our list of film debutants. There is more dope on this petite and pretty girl who is now signed on by our very own cinematic genius, Shoaib Mansoor, for his next, due to be released in June 2010. Trust Humaima not to spill any beans just yet, but we know for a fact that it's going to be a dream role for her - she plays a tawaif and, incidentally, one of her all-time favourite screen characters is Devdas's Chandramukhi!
Role model: I admire Madhuri for being extremely beautiful and a complete film heroine. I also love Kajol for being such a natural, and Angelina Jolie for being so gorgeous and sexy
The kind of film role(s) I'd be best suited to: Roles that are dance-based and also have a lot of margin for performance. Also young, bubbly characters
One film role I feel I could perform better: Kareena's in Jab We Met
One actor I am dying to work with: Amitabh Bachhan. I don't know if I'd ever get a chance to work with him
One director I'd give an arm and a leg to work with: Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He makes such grand films and his leading ladies look out-of-this-world
One actor I think I'd make the best onscreen pair with, and why? Shahid Kapoor! He'd look my age. Also, Akshay Kumar; he's very hot! (From among the locals) Shamoon and I share a great chemistry onscreen; we'd be a perfect pair for a romantic flick. Azzfar Rehman's young appeal and comic timing matches mine, so we'd be a great couple in a comedy. Lastly, I must mention Humayun Saeed; people have loved us together onscreen
My best feature, according to me: My smile, definitely! It gets me big, fat paycheques! (laughs)
If there was something that forced Saeeda Mehrbano to rechristen herself as Jay and consider Lollywood after a Pink Ladoos in North America, it was her passion to try different kinds of cinema. While an offer from Yash Raj camp also fell in her kitty, Juggan (Hence J!) savvily put it aside post-26/11 in favour of local fare. A well-known TV show host and actress, today she is committed to Shaan's next home production as the leading lady.
Role model: Meryl Streep, Shabana Azmi and Babra Sharif
The kind of film role(s) I'd be best suited to: As an actor one should be able to play any kind of role. That's my belief
One film role I feel I could perform better: Angelina Jolie's in Gia
One actor I am dying to work with: Meryl Streep
One director I'd give an arm and a leg to work with: Bilal Lashari. In fact, I've worked with him already and simply loved it
One actor I think I'd make the best onscreen pair with, and why? Shaan. He is the king of our film industry. It's like if you're in India, you'd want to be paired with Shahrukh Khan
My best feature, according to me: My personality
It took this 24-year-old, light-eyed handsome hunk a couple of years in modeling before he was picked up by Reema for her second directorial venture, Kitni Haseen Hai Zindagi. Though he always wanted to do films, Nabeel was savvy enough not to jump the gun. Kitni… was a project where Reema had an author-backed role and Moammar Rana as her leading man; so, where would he fit in? Nabeel says he sought the advice of a lot of his friends in the industry, till he was game for it. Later, he was so motivated that he even quit his job at a local bank and started preparing for the film assignment. He took dance classes and also worked on his diction and acting skills before he was ready to face the camera. 2010 shall see him romance the queen bee as well as Araida, another newcomer in Lollywood from Kazakhistan. He is especially excited about the the film's title song which is picturised on Reema and himself.
Role model: Salman Khan and Al Pacino
The kind of film role(s) I'd be best suited to: All kinds. I believe I am quite a versatile performer!
One film role I feel I could perform better: Salman Khan in Wanted
One actor I am dying to work with: Lots of them
One director I'd give an arm and a leg to work with: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
One actress I think I'd make the best onscreen pair with, and why? Sonam Kapoor. She's stylish and sophisticated
My best feature, according to me: My eyes and my lips
After wooing TV audiences on both sides of the border with his 'Begum' avatar, Ali Saleem is now tipped to wow his fans in his first big-screen outing - Reema's Kitni Haseen Hai Zindagi - though it could have been a film opposite Konkana Sen Sharma that Ali came close to signing prior to Mumbai's 26/11. But he has no regrets. A self-confessed film buff, Ali promises his act in Kitni… is going to be worth a dekho. For starters, he is cleverly pitched opposite the comedian from the other side of the border, Johnny Lever, and our very own Afzal Khan (Rambo). Catch him lipsynch and shake a leg on a brand-new Abrar ul Haq ditty!
Role model: So many actually. To say only one name would be unjustified, because I've watched the great works of some of the great film people around the world
The kind of film role(s) I'd be best suited to: This is something I'd like my audiences to decide. I've just done my first film. But, obviously, as an actor I'd like to experiment as much as I can
One film role I feel I could perform better: Nathan Lane's role in Birdcage
One actor I am dying to work with: Sridevi. I've been a great fan of hers all my life!
One director I'd give an arm and a leg to work with: Karan Johar, Yash Chopra and a lot of other mainstream film makers
One actress I think I'd make the best onscreen pair with, and why? I was looking forward to working with Konkana Sen Sharma, because she's a great actress. But the project was shelved
My best feature, according to me: My eyes
One of the three winners of this year's popular reality TV show, Hero Bannay Ki Tarang, Naveed Raza alone has the spunk to declare that he is Mills & Boon material. Decidedly the best bet on the show, this passionate actor found instant takers in Lollywood, chiefly Syed Noor - Tarang's main judge who is committed to casting the three boys in his next home production. As part of the deal, the boys will get an all-expenses-paid training at Noor's freshly built performing arts academy in Lahore before they move on to shoot their first scenes in March 2010. Naveed is also due on a short, "international film" (to quote his words), titled The Face of Prophet. "It's a BBC Asia project," he says, gushingly.
Role model: Waheed Murad
The kind of film role(s) I'd be best suited to: Light, romantic. Also villainous characters as well as stark tragic roles
One film role I feel I could perform better: Shahrukh Khan in Devdas
One actor I am dying to work with: Kareena Kapoor. From among the locals, it'd be Resham
One director I'd give an arm and a leg to work with: Yash Chopra. Also Syed Noor
One actress I think I'd make the best onscreen pair with, and why? Saadia Khan who's a model and also a friend (winks)
My best feature, according to me: My eyes and my smile
Undoubtedly one of the most stylish - as well as handsome – actors on our television, Shamoon Abbasi is now going to give silver screen a try in Syed Faisal Bokhari's Bhai Log, where he has an action-laden role. The transition, he says, wasn't difficult, especially since he has often played such characters on TV. But it would definitely be interesting to watch Shamoon share screen space with stalwarts like Momi Rana, Jawed Sheikh, Nadeem, Babar Ali and Saima and yet leave an impact.
Role model: I admire and learn from a lot of actors. Tom Hanks is a great inspiration, Al Pacino impresses me with his intensity, K K Menon for making acting look so damn effortless. etc
The kind of film role(s) I'd be best suited to: Action packed roles. I believe they have several shades to them
One film role I feel I could perform better: Most Hollywood films have such perfect casting that I cannot imagine anyone else in an actor's place. But if I must pick one, I'd say Traitor's Omar (played by Saïd Taghmaoui)
One actor I am dying to work with: Again, lots of them. I'd love to be cast with Amitabh Bachhan
One director I'd give an arm and a leg to work with: Not one but two - Ram Gopal Verma and Mani Ratnam
One actress I think I'd make the best onscreen pair with, and why? Priyanka Chopra. She's so smart and versatile; she can look convincing opposite a Shahid Kapoor as well as a Sanjay Dutt
My best feature, according to me: My eyes. I think they are quite expressive and help me emote well
Those who missed it
In 2006, Ali Zafar famously gave cinema a miss when he opted out of Shoaib Mansoor's Khuda Kay Liye, the only movie he had signed and also shot a few reels for. In 2008, he cagily went to Mumbai and completed his first Bollywood film (Ali's closely guarded secret, rumouredly a spoof on Osama bin Laden's life and times) that is yet to see the light of the day. But it could well be his silver screen debut. Lollywood, it seems, can wait.
Imran Abbas has long been twittering about a film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali that eventually went to Hritik Roshan(?). Let's see if his "new project with Kareena Kapoor" will have a different fate. Again, there is no project with him back home.