It is disconcerting meeting Mohib Mirza for the first time: I half expect a menacing glare, a leery smile, a scowl or a disheveled appearance at the very least since his characters have been those of a wife-beating psycho in serials Dil-i-Nadan and Mera Saeein and that of a frustrated lower-middle class individual in telefilms Tum Aurat Main Mard and Aasman Choo Le. He belies all such impressions.
Mirza ushers me into his house situated in a leafy neighbourhood on a typical breezy Karachi afternoon. He is tall and brawny, cocoa-gorgeous of the kind that harks back to Waheed Murad and Ajay Devgan. Inside, the interior boasts of large, burgundy sofas with a HD TV as the ivory net curtains sheath large windows to filter the harsh sun. Exceedingly polite, he offers refreshments with his face breaking into a broad smile as I accept his offer.
Settled down, I try to figure out why his hostile characters have resonated more despite a range of positive roles Mirza has performed in a career span of 11 years. “I have this angry young man look and then I don’t have a typical pretty boy face.
Also, I admit that these roles are easier for me to play. With widespread anger and frustration building up in Pakistan, writers often pen such characters and I accept them.” Mirza is not off the mark when he states that misery is escalating especially due to inflation, poor governance and economic disparity, and his roles are a mere reflection of the social unrest.
Contrary to this popular villainous image, Mirza did not make his debut in such a manner. The son of a beautician mother and HR manager father, he formed an informal theatre group, Darwaza, along with some friends. Veteran theatre couple Sania Saeed and Shahid Shafaat saw his work and recommended him to actor Nida Kazmi whose mother (director Sahira Kazmi) was auditioning for the PTV serial Zaibunnisa in 1999. He played the quiet, understanding fiancé (Aamir) of the protagonist’s sister who insists on completing her medical education before they get hitched. Aamir says to his fiancée that if she wants to work later he would support her decision.
Coincidentally, Mirza has echoed a similar consideration to his wife’s career, model and television actress Aamina Sheikh. “I met her when she was working for a channel, and it took me about six meetings to convince her father that I was indeed the right person for her,” he recalls. They have now been married for six years.
Mirza lived his early days in Nazimabad while studying for his B.Com degree, and like most young men found himself at the crossroads while trying to figure out his career goal. “A long conversation with a friend led me to conclude that theatre was my passion.” When asked as to when he finally decided to make acting his life-long profession, he said, “When I signed up for my third TV play for the series, Lipton Ka Hamsafar, that’s when I knew, even though my father cautioned me about the unsteady income. But my parents have largely been supportive.”
The choice came on time as during the early 2000s, the then President Musharraf was touting the opening of airwaves as a sign of his enlightened moderation policy; several private television channels were given licenses. While most ventured into news, several opted for infotainment of which dramas formed the bulk. Soon actors, who earlier used to pursue this as a pastime, could now adopt it as their regular job with attractive remuneration.
Mirza’s volume of work has been prolific — 51 telefilms, 13 drama serials, 23 commercials, six music videos, 20 shows as hosts and countless voiceovers. This reveals two distinctive traits about him: stamina and diversity.
“He has a lot of energy,” says Syed Ali Raza, director of Aasman Choo Le.
“He is a versatile actor,” says Fizza Ali Meerza, who directed him in Ishrat Bajee, a provocative comic take on annoying crass losers which became a massive cult hit. “He would improvise in every episode and played different types of characters such as a policeman, blood-cancer patient and gym trainer.”
The year 2009 was a memorable for Mirza as he won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award for the film Insha-Allah at the International Filmmaker Festival 2009 in Kent, England. “Mirza brought elegance to the table when I was auditioning for Insha-Allah. He was asking questions about the character and I felt he cared about the film and what I wanted to achieve,” says director Khurrum Mahmood. A year later, Mirza was nominated for best television actor at the 9th Lux Style Awards in Dil-i-Nadan, for his portrayal of a womaniser.
Currently he is busy with a number of projects comprising a tele-film, commercials and on-air serials such as Zip Bus Chup Raho, Tootay Huay Parr and Roag. “In Zip… I portray a helpful, mature man named Ra’ed who is the next-door neighbour of a single mother and her two spoilt teenage kids. Ra’ed was supposed to take on negativity after a couple of episodes but the writer realised that the abrupt change in his personality wouldn’t make sense to the viewers.”
Roag sees him acting with Faisal Qureshi for the first time, in which they play two brothers with opposite worldviews, creating an interesting dynamic between them.
In Tootay Huay Parr, he is part of a love triangle in a typical romantic role.
His future television projects include the drama serial Khota Sikka and Canebaaz (con-man), a tele-film about a card shuffler with a conscience.
After the interview, even though his director keeps calling him on his cellphone to get to work, Mohib calmly waits while I track down my car. The exercise takes a good 10 minutes and then he walks me to my car and thanks me profusely, leaving me with the impression that he is the proverbial good guy.