In addition to acting on stage and in film and television, Yasir Hussain is a screenwriter, playwright and talk show host. He is seen as a jack of all trades among the entertainment fraternity, with great potential for the future. Dawn spoke to Mr Hussain about his work while he was in town for the Islamabad run of Naach Na Jaane.
Q. Which medium of the performing arts brings out the best in an actor: theatre, television or film?
A. The answer is theatre, by all means. The artist gets a response then and there while he or she is performing the act… first hand and live.
In the entertainment industry, all over the world, nothing can be as close to reality as theatre and I really believe it’s a true form of art. Having said that, theatre is also one of the most difficult entertainment arts.
In an hour and a half, it makes an artist work the equivalent of a full-day television shoot. It keeps everyone on their toes, making the mind work on the same pace while delivering the reaction to the action then and there. So there is so much mental and physical effort that it drains all your day’s energy.
Q. Is there anything you learn from a theatre performance that you can apply to television?
A. No, I cannot. It can be applied to film, because in my opinion the dynamics of film and theatre are somewhat similar. Film is a big screen and so is the stage, giving the performer room to move on a wider canvas.
Secondly, both mediums are loud and only those with a quest for entertainment will make so much effort to get out of their comfort zones, spend money on a ticket and time to be entertained.
Television, on the other hand, is a separate ball game altogether. A performer moves around in a very limited space with cameras and lights with total focus on the eyes, lips and facial expressions; body language does not play a big role for the television screen, like [it does] for theatre.
Q. What makes you say yes to a role?
A. If the script is interesting in terms of my character and I have not done the same kind of role before, I definitely go for it. The Bollywood icon and legend Rishi Kapoor once said that a true actor should not think too much. He should just focus on his character and not be concerned about the production or the direction of the film.
Q. Is working on a new script easier or an adaptation?
A. I have performed in two Anwar Maqsood adaptations, Moeen Akhtar sahib’s character in Half Plate and Saleem Nasir’s in Angan Tehra - both on stage. It was much easier because I had watched both the characters very closely many times before performing so yes, references are a big help. On the contrary, for a fresh script, one has to build the character from ground zero.
Q. Why is there so much monotony in television shows these days?
A. Today, one writer is writing five serials at a time with 30 episodes each. So please do the maths and it will answer your question.
When a person is narrating 30 hours of a story in one serial, how can the viewers expect the other four serials to offer different stories being written by the same person? This is called brain drain; it is humanly not possible to come up with so many different concepts, ideas, dialogues and scenes.
Q. How can you as a representative of the next generation bring a positive change to the industry?
A. We should keep trying. I have written two films so far, Lahore say Agaye and Karachi say Lahore and through these two films I tried to set a new trend of ‘road movies’ in this new age of cinema.
Both the films were comedies, showcasing a positive image of Pakistan through a girl who starts her journey from Karachi driving to Lahore and moving onward [through the] beautiful landscape of our urban and rural areas, interacting with people from different shades of society through breathtaking cinematography.
This is what we should be showing to the world. I once offered a gora traveler to visit Pakistan and the reply was, ‘Only when all the countries of the world are done with and there is no other place to go.’
The state needs to give support to the entertainment industry. It’s a pity that when an artist applies for an identity card, there is no column for him or her,it comes under ‘others’.If our government is not accepting the medium of entertainment as a separate profession, it means we are on our own.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2019