Getting Candid With The Stars Of Superstar

You’re probably living under a rock if you haven’t heard about the Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf starrer, Superstar, that is releasing this Eid Ul Adha. The highly anticipated movie has everyone buzzing, and from the looks of it, we can already tell this will be on our list of favourite movies this year!

We had the opportunity to speak to the people behind the magic, that is Superstar and get the inside scoop on the inner makings of the movie. Read on to find out what the director, scriptwriter/music director and the stars have to say about it!

Mahira Khan

1. What about your character Noor makes her stand out from the other roles that you have played?

I have never played an actor before, or a struggling artist. In fact it has been a while since I have acted in a love story. Noor, is a girl who believes in herself, and while I have played that kind of girl before, I haven’t played a girl who’s a dreamer like her.

2. The movie focuses on the rise to fame of a girl from humble beginnings who dreams of being a star. Tell us about the biggest obstacle you had to face in your pathway to success?

I guess the biggest obstacle was that people wanted me to be a certain way, different to how I am. I guess that is where Noor and I are very similar, we are both our own people.

3. What piece of advice would you give to people who aspire to be superstars?

Well, I don’t think anyone should aspire to be a superstar. They should aspire to be actors, and they should believe in themselves and work hard in whatever they do.

4. Up until now you’ve been very controlled in your career. But now we see a more confident, fearless Mahira in Superstar. For instance, though you’ve done many dance numbers before like Shakar Wandan and Ballay Ballay, you’ve never done anything like Noori. What made you do it now?

Well, because the role required it. My other films haven’t required a song like Noori, but this movie did. That being said I do believe I have become more comfortable with dancing and have come into my own more.

5. In light of recent controversies, in your opinion what is the lifespan of a Pakistani film actress? Why is it that female actors in both Hollywood and Bollywood are not bound by their age, but we are insistent on putting limitations on our actors?

I disagree with what you have said, that was just one person’s opinion. One person versus a whole entire industry. Right from the beginning, whether it’s been Bushra Ansari or Marina Khan, they’ve all been acting, playing leading or supporting actors. In Pakistan in particular, we don’t bound our actors by age, in fact I would say we are much better off than other industries.

6. There’s no denying you are the biggest female Superstar in Pakistan, and though you always rise above your films (even the ones that don’t do well at the box office), do you feel a sense of pressure when it comes to Superstar? How important is it for you as an actor to deliver a hit?

Yes, I do feel the pressure. I really do hope for everyone concerned the movie turns out to be a hit.

7. Parey Hut Love was offered to you as well. Why did you feel Superstar was the right movie for you at this point in your career?

It was never about choosing one film for the other. My reasons for opting out of Parey Hut Love were completely different. Superstar was a film I liked for years, and it was a promise I made that whenever it would happen I would do it.

8. How does it feel to be a superstar?

I wouldn’t be able to tell you, cause I don’t see myself as a superstar.

Bilal Ashraf

1. We’re seeing a whole new uninhibited Bilal in Superstar. In the second half of the trailer Sameer is at an impasse where he’s hopelessly yearning for his lost love. What is the creative process behind emoting at that level? How much of it is method acting and merely following the script?

Superstar has been a great journey for me, in terms of learning a lot about myself as an actor and what it entails. I have done theatre, and I believe, emoting is not the mere job of the singular actor on screen. It’s how your relationship is with your co-stars, with the main person behind the magic being the director. There was a lot of work that Sunil (Shankar) helped me with in the theatrical aspect. Additionally I did numerous acting workshops with Momina Duraid our producer, and Ehteshamuddin our director. This helped me bring Sameer Khan come to life. Moreover, the comfort levels with my co-stars, Mahira and Baig sahib and Jawed Shaikh sahib, also made the process a lot easier, and seamless. Given that, I do not think there is a singular method as such. Different methods are required by different scenes, so while one may do one thing for a particular scene, it may not work for another. Having said that, there was of course a lot of groundwork, and hard work that I put in to play Sameer Khan.

2. Mahira has made her transition from dramas to the silver screen. Do you see yourself acting in Pakistani dramas?

I am pretty much the only Pakistani actor who has exclusively done films without any background in dramas. But I’ve always said that if I get a phenomenal script, why not?

3. What’s an important lesson you learnt from being on the sets of Superstar? Something that nurtured you as a person or you as an actor?

I’ve learnt a lot that has aided my growth, and not just in my capacity as an actor but on an individual level as well. I have learnt a lot about life, I have learnt how to be positive, how to relax even with work mounting before you. My physical transformation for Superstar, helped me a lot emotionally and physically. I started believing in things I didn’t before. When you’re surrounded by positive energy, only good things happen. So yes, to answer your question it did change me for the better.

4. It is your first time working with Mahira. Walk us through the process that led to such seamless chemistry on screen?

I feel chemistry is something that is either there or not. I think working in the theatre, really helped me and Mahira become more comfortable with each other. Mahira and I didn’t really know each other all that well while shooting the film, it is only in the promotions of the film that I have gotten to know who she is better. And as Mahira puts it, chemistry is a lot about respecting the other person, trusting each other and being comfortable in each others company.

5. You have a background of VFX and animations. Do you see yourself pursuing that in the future?

Well, if I am producing a film that requires it, I would most likely oversee it and add touch ups. But I don’t think I see myself behind the screen, doing visual effects myself.

6. You’re also a producer. If you had all the money in the world, what kind of movie would you like to produce? 

I’d love to work on an action film. In Pakistan I’d love to work with the extremely talented director das Ibrahim. I have done a commercial with him before but I’d love to do a film. Action is in a whole league of its own and I would love his insights.

7. You have a degree in Finance from a well-known University in the US. Why did you then choose to be an actor? It’s an unstable career, despite the lows, what keeps you going and motivates you to continue acting?

What motivates me is the love I receive from the people who watch me, and I feel that I owe them to do better. Look, life is unstable but that doesn’t mean you give up, and acting is something I enjoy. Yes, I never wanted to be an actor it just happened, but now that I am in it I am working on it to become better.

8. What are some similarities between you and your character Sameer? And what qualities of Noor would you look for in your own partner?

I like Noor’s honesty and straightforwardness. As far as Sameer goes, his romantic side is very similar to how I am. Art imitates life right?

Azaan Sami Khan

1. We hear the story of Superstar is all yours. What was the inspiration behind it?

I grew up in the film industry, so for my first screenplay, I wanted to write something that was close to me. Superstar is kind of my interpretation of the lives of the people in the industry. So, I wanted that to reflect in the writing.

2.  Like you said, Both your parents are in the entertainment industry, did any of your life experiences growing up, inspire your writing in superstar? What inspires a writer’s storytelling the most in your opinion? Is it your own life or what you’ve seen?

A lot of people influenced it. If I watch Superstar today, I don’t think I can write something like this again. It came from a very innocent place. It has been three years now and I know more about the industry today. So if I were to write it now, then it would perhaps be more mature than it is, and have a different level of expertise. Though what is special about Superstar is that it retains a certain innocence, which came from my viewpoint as a 21 or 22 year old.

3. As Superstar is your first ever screenplay, what was it like handing the reigns to the director Ehteshamuddin? What was your relationship like, did you think he did well in giving your words life?

I was very scared initially, given his immense talent and seniority. I wasn’t sure how much of the script he would retain, but I was prepared to let go of the reigns and allow him space to work. After coming to the first couple of days of shoot I decided to sit the others out, and distance myself from the process. But I got a call from Ehtisham bhai, when he noticed my absence and asked me to come back to shoot. This has been a very collaborative process. He genuinely wanted me to be there and has done exemplary work in making my vision come to life. I loved working with him and can’t wait to work with him again.

4. The Pakistani film industry is an emerging medium. Critics cite concerns that the industry falls short in meaningful viewer engagement by relying on easy scripts and humour, while neglecting meaningful storytelling techniques. What more would you like to see in the movie industry?

I am someone who strongly believes in commercial cinemas, but I do believe in time we will learn to tackle certain stories, and send across messages through storytelling. Despite our film industry having experienced a shut down and still being fairly new, I can safely say, our films are doing extremely well – and with time we will continue to learn and evolve.

5. Throughout the 90s and in the 2000’s the Pakistani music scene was booming. Then we saw a lull. However, now we see a revival of Pakistani music, the most recent examples of which are the soundtracks of Parey Hut Love and Superstar. People have been crediting this revival to you! How does that feel? How else do you feel you’d like to contribute?

It means a lot hearing that. But I don’t see myself as the person responsible, if I did I would have a massive head, and would probably start making bad music. People often ask me if my music is anything like my fathers, but I don’t see it like that. I see it as a legacy, and if you see it as a legacy then you hold it to a standard. For me the standard is what matters. So it’s important to me that if my song plays, it should stand at par with any song, whether it’s from India or the West.

6. In movies we often see songs, for the sake of it. The song often has nothing to do with the scene. Does Superstar break that archetype?

Yes, with Superstar you will 100% see that difference. For a lot of the scenes with Superstar, the song came first. With some movies if you take certain songs out, and replace them with another, it would make no difference to the story – you can’t do that with Superstar. The songs are an integral part of the storytelling. Regardless of the movie’s genre (it could be a straight up masala film), you should feel that the movie demanded that certain song. The problem rises when you add a song in a movie just because you think it’ll sell. That is when you become a sell-out which has no long term benefits.

6. What do you want people to go home feeling after watching Superstar? A lesson or any kind of message?

The love story. For a long time, we haven’t shown a straight up love story. The second thing I would like people to take is that, we dream dreams, we achieve them but we don’t think about what’s will happen after that. I was at a business conference in London, and the speaker asked everyone what their ultimate goal was. People were quick with their answers ranging from the house they’d want to buy, to the billions they wanted to earn. But what he said after that really stuck with me. He said, I have all of that and after a while it’ll all become boring. You’ll want something else. There is a price to every dream, and even if you really want something and achieve it, what you had before could have been better.

7. What’s your favourite song from the movie?

Bekaraan is close to my heart, I wrote it for my daughter. In Dinon is my first song ever composed, so that is also very special to me, it is a melody I’ve lived with all my life. Since I was about 7 or 8 its been with me and I wanted to include it somehow. It is showered throughout the film.

8. People are very curious if you want to follow your mother’s footsteps to becoming an actor, are there any future plans for an upcoming acting debut?

Yes, I am working on a movie, with the same production house. I am nervous to step into this whole new avenue. Being an actor requires many more hours than behind the scenes, but I am excited to see how that whole experience will pan out.

M. Ehteshamuddin

1. The Pakistani film industry is an emerging medium. Critics cite concerns that the industry falls short in meaningful viewer engagement by relying on easy scripts and humour, while neglecting meaningful storytelling techniques. What more would you like to see in the movie industry?

Every story has something special to tell. It doesn’t have to be about social taboos for a story to be good. A story is only universal if you focus on human emotions. Superstar is a film where a lot of young people in Pakistan will learn that dreams do come true if you hope. The journey of hoping and dreaming is what perfectly describes Superstar.

2. You have directed several dramas but this is your first time directing a movie. How is working on a film different from working in dramas? Which medium of storytelling do you prefer?

It is widely different in terms of the scale of course, but otherwise, I am a storyteller, I can tell a story verbally, on the radio, in a film or drama. The medium doesn’t really matter, it is the story. If you can make the audience feel what you intended to, where they are transfixed into the world you have created, then your work is well done.

3. You’ve directed Mahira before in Sadqay Tumhare. What changes do you see in her as an actor? How was it different directing her as Noor?

Naturally, the more you act and work at something the more you learn and grow. Both Mahira and I have matured our craft since the last time we worked. I see a lot of change in her, in terms of discipline. She’s become more focused. She has lived the character of Noor, and that experience has shaped into seamless acting which you will see in the film.

4. Tell us about your first time experience working with Bilal? It seems like his role has a lot more meat in it this time than in his previous work. Is this a fair assessment? What can we expect?

Bilal initially wasn’t on board, he came after I joined the film. The best quality about Bilal is that despite the criticism he receives he takes it in a positive way. He wants to do better and that is a quality that I find remarkable. He trained with acting coaches and tenaciously worked to improve his skills as an actor.

5. People say film is a director’s medium while TV is an actor’s medium. How far do you agree?

Though the director plays an important role in dramas as well, I feel there is some truth to this. Dramas are more stretched out than films, where in the latter the whole story has to be compressed in mere two hours. In that short time, the director creates a world for their audience where they feel they know the character intimately. They know what the characters know, feel what the characters feel. The whole story is driven by the directors vision, as the actors can’t see while they are performing. It is the job of the director to focus on the details and see if everything falls into his grand vision.

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