Everyone watches Zindagi Gulzaar Hai for Sanam Saeed and Fawad Khan. They watch it for Umera Ahmed’s powerful dialogues and Sultana Siddiqi’s version of romance. But the young man acting as a secondary character, was the real find! Munawar was an actual student back when he shot ZGH and fast forward six years, Munawar is now a mainstream actor, producer and recently won the Most Versatile Actor Award at Masala! Awards held in Dubai.
Munawar arrived in Dubai in style, he smiled often, laughed easily and cracked plenty of jokes as we traveled from the airport to the hotel where he wanted to ‘jog’ to freshen up before the awards. “Jog?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. Most people would just want to lie down and relax before they have to attend a big event but not Munawar. He’s too wired and wants to get a long jog to pump himself up. I still don’t buy it. But when we meet at the awards he has gotten in six kilometers worth of a run, he tells me grinning. It’s impossible not to believe him.
Munawar has tons of this quality: a believability. There is a childlike vulnerability to him that allows you to smile with him. He speaks with a grin, like he knows a very funny joke that you want to listen in on– and you know he’ll tell you.
“I would say that I have always been a very creative child,” he tells when I ask him about his childhood and if he always wanted to be an actor. “I was into model making, I would make remote control planes, model ships. I used to write a lot, I was a debator. I was a good student. But I was also heavily inclined towards the arts. My parents pushed me to pursue a ‘proper’ degree. I went to IBA, got a degree in finance. While I was in IBA, I was getting a lot of modeling and hosting assignments that footed a lot of bills and gave me pocket money also. Everyone loved me. I was a rich kid. Sab ko party karaata tha! When we graduated I worked with a German venture capitalist company and my parents were very happy. But a few months into that I started getting offers from television. And I thought of taking those risks. Usually I don’t take a lot of risks. I take calculated risks generally, which is an oxymoron I think. I thought about it. I was young. I had just graduated. It was six years ago and I was very fresh.”
Munawar’s film this year, Saat Din Mohabbat In, was a moderate box office success but he starred opposite Mahira Khan, who was previously his costar in Ho Mann Jahan. 7DMI was either absolutely loved or absolutely hated by critics, how did he feel about that?
“When I signed on to the film, I always knew it was an off beat film,” he answers. “That’s what attracted me towards it and that’s what attracted Mahira towards it as well. I loved Meenu and Farjad’s earlier work, Zinda Bhaag. I picked up the film because I thought I’m young, I can take risks, it was calculated because it was a good cast. It’s a very filmy story by the way, of how Mahira and I told each other we were doing the film. Mahira and I were in New York at the time. She asked me, “Are you gonna do it?” and I crossed the road and I yelled back, “Yeah”.” Munawar laughs nostalgically and it doesn’t seem like he’s too hung up on how some people didn’t take to it kindly. “It was a layered film; and I do feel it wasn’t executed the way it was written on paper but there are a number of factors that go into that. We’re an industry in our infancy stages in terms of the infrastructure. A lot goes into filmmaking apart from just the script or the directors,” he rationalizes.
Munawar’s team with Asim Raza will return with the upcoming Parey Hat Love co-starring Maya Ali, Zara Noor Abbas and a small appearance by none other than Mahira Khan herself. Given this guy’s tenacity and talent, we’re hoping this will be a good one.