“I am very dark in person”
Mohsin Abbas Haider completes over a decade in the industry this year. While it wasn’t until Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza’s Na Maloom Afraad (2013) that Haider rose to prominence, he has been a part of broadcasts like the 4 Man Show and BNN that spun on the political happenings of Pakistan.
“I was actually waiting to be credited for something substantial again,” he says, relieved at the success of Na Maloom Afraad. “I had a great start on television with Muqabil but for cinema I needed a huge film, and maybe that’s why I worked this hard on my role.”
While NMA 2 is undoubtedly a potential hit, it comes out during a time when local cinema is going through a dry spell. Despite there being no major critical or commercial success this year, Mohsin seems hopeful. “I think we also lost a lot of audience when Indian films got banned and it got worse because of the kind of films we’ve been making,” he goes into the depth of the matter. “For some reason I’m not able to point my finger at what went wrong; either the audience has higher standards now or they’re tuned to a different kind of cinema. However, at least I know that people
“I for one have become very selective about the films I take up,” he continued. “I get at least one call daily from somebody who’s making a film, which means everyone’s trying their hand at it, but they don’t realize it’s a risky business.”
Speaking of substandard content, Mohsin starred alongside Ushna Shah and Mohib Mirza in Jawad Bashir’s forgettable 2016 release, Teri Meri Love Story (TMLS). “I don’t regret doing it,” he says in his defense. “I feel ‘regret’ is a big word. But I do wish that the promotion or execution (of the film) could’ve been done better.”
Fast forward to the present and the second instalment of the NMA franchise not only sees Mohsin come back as Moon, but Fahad Mustafa, Javed Sheikh and Urwa Hocane also return in their respective characters, while Hania Amir and Nayyar Ejaz join the cast. Before going any further, Haider shared how the team had evolved from when he last collaborated three years ago.
“I think we’ve all matured as artists and maybe that’s why we were able to wind up the shoot really quick. Nabeel and Fizza had their homework done before we flew to Cape Town,” he said of the cast and crew’s progress. “Most of our crew was from there only and the shoot was professional and prompt.”
Having shot outside of Pakistan for the very first time, Mohsin says he was at ease shooting in South Africa, where he also got to flaunt his newly toned and ripped physique. Was it necessary for his character to beef up?
“Moon, the character that I play, has gone international. He owns a club, his wardrobe has changed, as has his hairstyle, so it was actually the character’s demand,” he sustained. “There’s only one song where I’m shirtless and that is actually because it’s a situation; you’ll understand when you watch the film for yourself. If I was asked to do it just for the sake of it, I never would have. But if I’m tasked something and I know it’s worth the determination, I go after it.”
A realist at heart, Mohsin also continues to feature in the satirical talk show, Mazaaq Raat, despite being accused of over-exposure. To him, Mazaaq Raat sustains his household and saves him from complete dependence on cinema. “I remember the first music video that I put out, giving it my all financially; it failed to generate revenues and because of that only, no matter what people say, Mazaaq Raat is my bread and butter,” he says with a hint of pride.
“After having done a film and Coke Studio, people from within the industry suggested I should leave Mazaaq Raat, but I’m very happy working on that set. I see people waiting for their payments for months and I can’t afford to do that,” he adds, pragmatically. “I’ve struggled my way up and I know how difficult it is to earn a hefty salary. Even Atif asked me when he came to the show if I’m happy with the job and I think I am. There’s an emotional attachment to the show as well. I just hope that the part where I perform before breaks is discontinued.”
Known for being the industry’s funnyman, Mohsin has often been stereotyped as a humorist. “My fans expect me to entertain them when they meet me, but I am very dark in person so I fail to live up to their expectations,” he professed.
“People haven’t seen my serious side, reflected in my Coke Studio single, ‘Uddi Jaa’ and my serial, Muqabil to some extent,” he continued. “I feel the actor inside me belongs to theatre; it’s someone who craves art cinema and hopes to work in biopics like Shah. There’s so much more to be done and achieved, as a writer, musician and actor. I feel the journey has just begun.”