Pakistani actor Mohib Mirza on his new film Ishrat Made in China

He talks about the multiple hats he wore while shooting for his latest project, slated to release in UAE soon.

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Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

By Sadiq Saleem

Published: Fri 11 Mar 2022, 2:26 PM

With Mohib Mirza, what you see is what you get. He is not someone who would get daunted by other’s opinions and has always listened to his heart.

This dedication was on display right from his college days when he co-founded a theatre troupe, Dramaybaaz. The love for presenting his art to the public has not faded ever since. He first tasted success with his sitcom Ishrat Baji where he played a loser who just wouldn’t accept that fact about himself.

Over the years, Mohib went from strength to strength, and with his good looks and acting skills, found a place in people’s hearts. A bankable star from Pakistan, he is also the proud recipient of the PISA Jury award for the Best Actor on TV 2021 for his role in Dushman-e-Jaan.

Currently he is basking in the love that has been showered upon him for his latest film Ishrat Made in China which seems to be an ode to the original Ishrat that he played about seventeen years ago. Life has truly come full circle for him.

City Times caught up with the talented star from Pakistan to hear more about the masala entertainer which he has been working on both prior to and during the pandemic.

Ishrat Made in China has a powerful cast with Sanam Saeed and Sara Loren playing the leading ladies while Hassan Sheheryar, Ali Kazmi and Mani play pivotal roles. But was it easier to bring the cast on board, especially around the time when the Pakistani film industry was still struggling to get a strong foothold and cinemas are lull?

Mohib’s reply to that was very reassuring. He said, “When you have something in your head, it’s in a very different form compared to when you bring it all on paper. Which is why, I clearly communicated what I wanted to show on screen. I am not the kind of director who would keep his vision a secret. I worked on the screenplay and dialogues for long before I engaged them. So, I wouldn’t call it one man’s vision.

“Ishrat was a dream that I saw but along the way it was owned by everyone who came on board. The whole team worked with an agenda that they wanted to bring a unique experience to the audience.”

He added, “The entire cast had access to the full script, hence they were aware of the full picture. I believe it’s important for everyone to know where they are heading. Even during the shoot we had live iPads on which everyone could look at the scenes being shot. There have been instances where we have changed certain elements in the film because of a star’s feedback. I tried to keep the experience as inclusive as possible.”

Times have changed drastically since Ishrat Baji was aired on television. We asked him if the character would strike a chord with today’s generation. Mohib was confident that it would.

He shared, “A lot of people think that it’s a sequel to the sitcom. It’s not! But yes, the underlying idea remains the same, that you will not succeed in anything unless you put your heart and soul in it. God only helps those who help themselves. Any person who has gone through a tough time to achieve something in life will see his or her reflection in the protagonist. The production value is very modern and the VFX presented by Sharp Images and Bridge Animation are something that have never been seen before in Pakistan. I believe our nation has an inherent love for humour and the jokes in the film are very desi at heart. So, it’s something that audiences from every age group will enjoy.”

We have seen that despite the perfect plot and star cast, films in the recent past have not been able to recover their cost. But Mohib doesn’t mix the box office results with the pleasures of making a film. He says, “Box office results are not always aligned with how good or bad a film is; especially in the context of Pakistani cinema. I don’t think any distribution or production house can predetermine the performance of the film.

“Too much of a calculation spoils the entire experience of creating art. As artists, our responsibility is to do our job with utmost honesty. If everyone brings the pressure of box office at work, it will hinder the creative process on the set.”

He further explained that “there is no right or wrong in the process of filmmaking. Every creator is bringing something on the table according to his sensibilities, sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn’t. My two cents would be that one should be aware of the current trends in the movie business, state of one own’s country and one must also keep in mind the taste of international audiences. This is the closest you can get to bidding for success.”

Sanam Saeed, his partner in real life, plays his love interest in the film. We wanted to know if he always had Sanam in his mind for the role of Akhtar. We were surprised to hear that Sanam gave an audition like everyone else.

He shares, “We tested her for the role of Akhtar as well as for Jia, the Chinese girl who helps Ishrat realize his full potential. The cast had no idea that we were testing them off-camera as well. They were made to wait extra hours for make-up, food and so on just to test their patience level. The film has been shot outside Pakistan and I wanted team players with me. So as soon as they cleared the litmus test, Ishrat’s army was ready and how!”

Was he experiencing any sort of nervousness before the release?

He calmly responds, “As we speak, I am juggling with many thoughts as of now, but I am surely not thinking about the outcome of the film. It is for the public to decide. We have to finalise the process of releasing the film internationally and on OTT as well. It will soon be screened in the UAE, and we are in touch with the distributors already. I am looking forward to hearing from my peers on how to improve my skills be it as an actor or as a director.

“A few weeks ago, I lost my father, and I am very sad that he is not with me to watch my dream coming to life; but I have learnt this during the past few years especially during Covid that at the end of the day what really matters is that you should be around your loved ones. One must work towards that aspect more.”

Ishrat Made in China is already playing in cinemas in Pakistan after an encouraging response at the premiere. The movie is slated to release across the UAE and can also be watched on the Mintrio OTT platform soon.

Sadiq Saleem is a UAE-based entertainment writer and can be contacted on his Insta-handle @sadiqidas

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