By: Tahir Rasheed
No one can dispute the fact that the Pakistani showbiz industry is highly divided and fragmented, where uniting  artistes even for their own common cause is a headache – as Rahat Kazmi and company found out the hard way in the last month. It is downright unimaginable to except to find people who can work on different sides of the seismic divides, along the many fault lines that cut across the showbiz world. When finally one catches up with somebody who has done so consistently, one stops to wonder and listens carefully.

“In Pakistan not many people have had the opportunity of working with such a larger diverse set of people as I have, over the years,” says Rashid Sami, television and theatre actor turned TV producer. “I have worked at different stages of my career, with people who in some instances would not even acknowledge each other of brought face to face. I consider my self lucky in that respect because I have absorbed some thing from this vast, largely unhomogeneous groups of people, each one of whom has had an entirely different approach to life and work.” One look at his resume and one actually begins to see his point of  view.

His introduction to showbiz was in 1987, although according to his own admission, he was “a born actor, who liked to intimate and pretend to be somebody else even at a youngish age.” His break came when he was asked to model in a fashion show organised by Teejays in 1987 to celebrate 40 years fashion in Pakistan. That stage appearance gave him the courage to approach Sahira Kazmi whom he had known for some time, to try him out in her productions. His beak came with Tapish in 1989. That performance introduced him to TV-land and also got him a nod of approval from Rahat Kazmi.

Rahat Kazmi at the point was trying to pump some life into the comatose theatre scene in Karachi. Rashid’s chance came in an adaptation of There’s a girl in my soup called Kuch such achha, kuchh jhoot bura. A trickle of theatre assignments then started coming his way. Amongst them was the celebrated Jinne Lahore nahin waikhia by the Tehrik-i-Niswan, followed by Anjie and yahan se shehar ko dekho with the same theatre group. He also acted in Anjum Ayaz’s Sifar ki taraf.

His performance on stage were also complemented by his appearances on TV. Nijaat with Sahira, French Toast with Ghazanfar and Yasir and Karavan with Jamal Shah. He also has a host of long plays to his credit including Aurat and his personal favourite, Hameed Kashmiri’s Haft Asmaan. And then of course came the World Cup Cultural Shows. “The shows were, in my opinion a landmark in the performance industry because of the scale of undertaking. The performances had to be choreographed and then modified according to the requirements of the location, there being no facilities available to host something like this in a proper performance area. The performance aside I owe lots of memories and also some creative ideas and of course encouragement to the World Cup experience. And of course some very good friends.”

Arshad Mahmood and Nighat Chaudhary are but just two of the very good friends that he made during the events and has continued to draw from their experience and been able to benefit from their understanding of the showbiz industry. “I am also lucky to have been able to learn from other great teachers. Ghazanfar for one, country to popularized perception has always been willing to give and to teach and I have always relied on for guidance. Sahira and Rahat of course have been good friends and advisors on matters of showbiz and also life in general. And Khalid Ahmed’s influence in my life has been more as a teaching institution, a school – I have basically learnt that art of acting from him.”

It is probably the guidance of such people that has given Rashid the courage to venture forth into TV productions. “ I had always wanted to create as it was an expression of my innate desire to communicate. I consider it to be the ultimate challenge. I have already produces two programmes and am currently trying to market them. The first one is a collection of short comedy skits, anchored by Arshad Mahmood. I have invested a lot of time and resources in these projects and hope to see them on air on day. Currently I am working on a third project – a serialized adaptation of a famous English novel – which can go over more than 200 episodes. This project takes up a lot of my time nowadays.”

That however is not the only thing that keeps him busy all day long. Rashid hails from Baltistan – in the northern part of the country – and is currently trying to receive his regional newspaper from there and also jumpstart his political career. All of that will probably mean that his acting career will have to take a backseat by Rashid is determined to keep his connection with showbiz alive.

“Acting has given me enough for me not to think of quitting. It has moulded my thinking, exposed me to different people and broadened my horizons. I may want to branch out into politics but my acting and particularly production will always remain my vocation and passion in life.”