Live: When you started your career, we saw you as an actor, singer, TV host; you introduced Bhangra Rap to Pakistani music. Now, you’re hosting a sports-based show on PTV. How would you sum up your journey?
Fakhr-e-Alam: Basically, entertainment was my core strength. I was known as an entertainer in my family also and I used to entertain them through jokes, stories. Basically, all of this is storytelling; you tell a story through acting, you’re expressing a story or some energy while singing as well as hosting. You tell a story while hosting also.
As far as sports is concerned, I’ve played a lot of cricket in my youth: for Government College Lahore, for Lahore city, in the under-19 camp, and when a national team camp was established under Imran Khan at Qaddafi Stadium, I used to be called from the local club nearby as an extra bowler for practices. So I’ve had some history with cricket. In 2015, I was invited by an international channel to host a sports show for them and that’s where the journey began. So, now whenever I get some time, I host sports shows on and off.
Live: What did you enjoy the most and feel mentally relaxed at: sports, music, hosting?
Fakhr-e-Alam: What comes naturally to me is hosting. Then I’ve enjoyed music the most after that; the concerts that I used to play back in the day, going on stage, performing for thousands of people who are singing along or swaying has its own charm. But what’s closest to my heart is acting.
Live: Any acting project that made you really popular?
Fakhr-e-Alam: I did two films and for the first one – Very Good Duniya, Very Bad Log — I received the National Award for best actor. Then I did a Bollywood film, called Sarhad Paar, with Sanjay Dutt. Then later I received offers on and off, but in the last 8 to 10 years I’ve declined numerous offers mainly because of my non-availability. Just recently, I did a sitcom for ARY, then an Eid play, then a Ramzan play for Geo. I have two scripts right now but the problem is time; you need to dedicate time for this.
Live: Do you think our film industry has entered a new phase and a specific era replete with Gujjars, jihad, goons has passed, and that there is some social and entertainment element in our films?
Fakhr-e-Alam: Absolutely. We have started making modern films. The screen looks fresh because of fresh faces; the old traditions of filmmaking aren’t adopted anymore. You’ll see the old Gujjar culture reflected in Maula Jatt soon, but it’ll be presented in a new way.
Live: Since you host a show on PTV Sports, what role do you think has the Pakistani news industry played in promotion of cricket?
Fakhr-e-Alam: It’s entirely media’s role. But let’s not forget that cricket is popular in our country any way. Our national sport is hockey, but everyone, including the media, has forgotten hockey. We used to be great at squash, but the media has forgotten that sport also. Since there is money, commercialism, advertisement associated with cricket that is why the media hasn’t forgotten it otherwise the media won’t take too long to forget cricket also.
Live: You think the media can be held responsible for promoting as well as ignoring something?
Fakhr-e-Alam: Absolutely. If all the political talk shows are discontinued today, almost all of the country’s problems would be solved. But if you want rating, masala, advertisement then you can continue with them. You’ll run whatever gets you rating and that will reflect the society and you’ll see all those things happening in society. So, the media has a sensitive and responsible role, especially when you’re talking about the fifth or fourth generation warfare taking place. So, the media now isn’t just a TV box; there’s a lot attached to it, so the media has a responsibility on it. The media can make people forget something as well as promote it. Since they get rating, advertisement because of something, they’ll prop it up.
Live: We see many people sitting as analysts on your shows, including cricketers, who’re commenting on the basis of their experiences. Do you think these analyses and comments help shape public opinion and we observe the team’s performance through those opinions? And how fair are these analyses?
Fakhr-e-Alam: You need to realise that every cricketer or analyst has his/her own perspective. For example, if I’m talking about the condition of the pitch then Rashid Latif, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohsin Hassan Khan will all have their own opinions on it. If all of the analysts say that it’s easy to bat on a certain pitch but the ball will swing in the first 10 overs then as a presenter your job is to see that if everyone has a common perception then this represents a common analysis that could be true. For the rest of the analyses I’ll quote the phrase: “Jitne moo utnee baatein.” So, no matter how many analysts you speak to they’ll have a different opinion about every match.
Live: But if we talk about the ethics of the game, then do such entertaining shows fulfil those ethics?
Fakhr-e-Alam: They aren’t sports shows, but entertainment shows where they talk about sports also. We can’t consider them sports shows. If you say Har Lamha Purjosh is a sports show then no it’s an entertainment show. There’s entertainment, politics, cricket, mimicry, comedy, all of that in it. But there is a sports show on ARY News that is solely about sports; you won’t find comedians or politicians on that show.
Live: We have heard people say that during a match, nobody listens to analysis; the focus is on the match only. Such analytical transmissions during matches aren’t considered effective. What do you think?
Fakhr-e-Alam: I personally think people listen to analysis only before or after a match. Nobody listens to analysis during the half-hour break between two innings. People take a break during that time. And during Pakistan’s match, especially if it’s stuck at a crucial moment, then you should forget that anyone will watch anything else. No matter how big a press conference the biggest politician is doing, if it’s an India-Pakistan match, everyone will be glued to the match even if all the biggest politicians are announcing something major.
Live: If you’re given an opportunity to host a political show, will you do it?
Fakhr-e-Alam: The thing is I know a lot of facts about a lot of politicians; I know most of them personally. It won’t suit me if I do such a show because none of them will be able to lie while sitting on my show, and I’ll become really stern. I have seen and listened to a lot of stuff about a lot of these politicians. And I’m talking about all the parties, not just one particular party, so doing a political show with me will be quite dangerous. So I don’t think I can do such a show.
Live: You were also the chairman of Sindh film censor board. What changes do you think were you able to bring about in the film industry?
Fakhr-e-Alam: The censor board is not supposed to bring about changes in films. They have a simple job; there’s a censor board and there’s a law – Sindh Motion Pictures Act 2012 – under which you have to ensure that you’re certifying a film correctly. It’s not a difficult job. While I was there I did my job voluntarily, did not take a salary or benefits from the government. So when I was asked to do it, I said I pay for a ticket to watch films any way, so if I just have to watch and certify them I’ll do it, not a problem.
But during the three years I spent there, I removed red-tapism for local and foreign film importers that they earlier had to face in government offices; I kept bureaucrats in check, automated the system. I made the process of censorship smooth and did away with the lengthy procedure. Right before I resigned I was in the process of making it all online so one didn’t even have to visit government offices.
Live: What was the reason for your resignation?
Fakhr-e-Alam: I resigned after the murder of Amjad Sabri in protest against the ineptitude and incapability of the government. I thought I couldn’t work for a government that was not serious, especially about protecting its own people.
Live: You went on a solo world tour, which was named ‘Mission Parwaz’. How was that experience and how did it come to your mind?
Fakhr-e-Alam: I wanted to become a pilot when I was a child. When I received a licence in 2015 I thought I should do something with it. When I researched I found out that there were only 170 people who have undertaken solo flights around the world. This is called circumnavigation. I found out that no Pakistani had done that yet and there was only one Muslim who did it in 1984, he was the Qatari crown prince at that time. So I thought I should give this a shot. So in order to make myself and Pakistan a part of history in the field of aviation, I went ahead. So now, every Pakistani and I can say that the first Pakistani to have flown and toured the world in a single-engine aircraft is Fakhr-e-Alam. This is something that has become part of history now.
Live: This has actually made you Fakhr-e-Alam. Though you have contributed to various fields, but this is an interesting aspect of your life. Any message for Live Pakistan magazine?
Fakhr-e-Alam: I’d just like to say that whatever Live magazine is doing is also a very important angle that you highlight various aspects of the media. And it’s very important for the print industry to be there besides the electronic media. It plays a very important role because what you see on TV at one point may not be there in the next news cycle. So whatever is written in print remains part of history and you can always refer to it later. So, Live magazine is playing an important role in connecting various media and can be used for the betterment of the media industry. So, best of luck to all of you.