‘Critical to understand the world and the craft in order to create films that make a difference in society’
By Rhys Gonsalves
MIR Sarwar, an actor from the valley who made his Bollywood debut in Kabir Khan’s ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, is now making a name for himself in the industry.
He has given notable performances in his roles in movies and web series and is not only doing Hindi movies but also Marathi movies, as his film ‘Ravrambha’ is set to hit theatres on May 12th.
Mir Sarwar spoke briefly with Kashmir Observer about his journey and experiences in the Bollywood film industry.
What prompted you to relocate to Mumbai and pursue a career as an actor? What was the influence?
Mumbai is, of course, the final destination for anyone who wants to become an actor so that they can be a part of movies and web series. I initially spent the majority of my time in Delhi. I did my theatre, modelling, and basic training there, and I worked in theatres for many years. I was a sportsman in Kashmir, which helped me in other fields. After 5-6 years in theatre, I saved up some money and planned to relocate to Mumbai but for various reasons, I was unable to do so. But after a while, I moved to Mumbai and began visiting the city for film purposes.
What do you think about becoming an actor/filmmaker and in order to create art? How important is formal education?
Every field requires some level of expertise, whether obtained through doing, assisting, or being a part of groups. It all depends on your situation. Everyone comes from a different background. Nobody can plan things in advance, and some people are fortunate in that their family is stable and willing to assist them financially, especially financially, and they accept their journey and career choice. The majority of people are not so fortunate. Many societies do not accept or support filmmaking and acting as a profession. Things have changed in recent years, but this was not always the case. It is essential to study and rely on education. Never rely on just one thing in life. Complete your education, whatever you’re doing in life, and if you want to get into this field, there are many institutions you can join in many cities, and if you’re really serious about it and your family is supportive, it’s a blessing, especially financially. Just chase your dreams, nothing can stop you. “Acchi niyat se aage badho toh uparwala bhi saath deta hai!”
What films did you watch growing up, and where/how did you watch them in Kashmir?
There was only Doordarshan when I was a kid, and we didn’t have any say over what kind of movies we watched. But I’ve always liked sensible movies. And I’ve always enjoyed watching Bollywood films as well as other films from my childhood. I recall an incident in 1996, when I used to travel for sports events and championships. I used to read all the magazines, and on Filmfare, there was a list of films that had come out that year. There were 120 films released that year, and I saw them all in the theatre. I used to always extend my stay in a particular city or Jammu. So I can watch all the movies, and most of the theatres in Jammu are nearby. I remember there used to be three or four shows a day, and I used to dash from one cinema hall to the next to catch the film on time. To save money, I did not take the bus or an auto rickshaw. That was my obsession. And as I grew older, I began to watch world cinema, including French, Iranian, and other films, as well as Bollywood and Hollywood classics. It is critical to understand the world and the craft in order to create films that can make a difference in society. Tell the world your story as an actor and filmmaker. It is beneficial to learn the craft, to develop your own basic idea that you believe in, and then to hire professionals in each department so that you can do justice to the story.
How has Mumbai so far treated you?
Mumbai has been extremely kind to me, and it is the best city in terms of the acting and filmmaking professions. There are no obstacles if you have talent and potential. Nobody can stop you, and there is no bias in Mumbai. If you have the talent and the dedication. If you are dedicated to your craft, there will be no obstacles. There is no impediment, and no one can stop you. And, yes, you must work very hard to make contacts. You can only do that if you know some people and have met them. In terms of acting, auditions are the best way to get work. It takes some time. It doesn’t happen in a day, a month, or even many months. It can take years at times, but all you have to do is hang in there.
What are your thoughts? What were your initial challenges as a Kashmiri when you first moved to Mumbai?
Every city has its own set of challenges, and moving to Mumbai was no exception. I also went to those auditions and fest receptions, got appreciated, and got some work. It’s a long, never-ending process, and you keep learning until the end. And yes, I always advise young people to work on their skills, work on their language, body language, and accent, and learn some new things. You have mobile phones, so record your voice, listen to it, and correct it. Create funny reels, scenes, and auditions, then upload them to YouTube and share them with your teachers. Every city has a teacher, every city has a theatre group, and every city has an institute, large or small. If you’re an actor, it’s always a good idea to join a theatre group. If you want to start singing, go to some masters. “Guru har cheez mein zaroori hota hai!” So, whatever field you want to pursue, all you have to do is read more and watch more good stuff. The internet is the greatest invention of our time. You can search and google. It has benefits and drawbacks. You can harness its power. There’s a lot to learn on the internet, so watch some good stuff.
What is your ambition as an actor? What are your goals as an actor? Is there a specific genre you want to work in, or a specific director with whom you want to work?
As an actor, all I need to do is explore all of the possibilities where I can demonstrate my versatility and work with all of the great directors. Because whoever is directing a film has worked extremely hard for many years and has a unique set of skills. So all I want to do is work with all the talented directors and filmmakers so that I can learn the craft and apply everything I’ve learned from them in my films. Because I am also an independent filmmaker, and we make independent films in Jammu and Kashmir, it will be beneficial for me to incorporate whatever techniques I learn from them into my films and stories. The stories that I want to tell the entire world. It’s always a joy to collaborate with talented filmmakers, and I’d like to work with all of them.
What is your take on Indian cinema, and what role do you believe it plays in changing public perceptions of Kashmir?
Anyone making a film about Kashmir should do their research and not follow the same formula as everyone else. Many films are made on the same subject, with only minor differences, but the central theme remains constant. There are many other aspects to Kashmir. There are also suitable subjects if you are making a film in Kashmir. Aside from that, many people, whether rural or urban. Many people have a negative perception of Kashmir, and when they visit, they return with a completely different perspective. At the very least, someone should do a proper recce to understand the culture and many other things. The issue is that people simply google some information about it and check things online. It is always preferable to visit the location and conduct proper research before writing and producing a film about Kashmir in order to spread understanding. Because people who only watch television channels and debates have a completely different perception and image of Kashmir.
You’ve worked with a lot of experienced actors. What do you learn from working with such actors?
It’s always fun to work with different actors in the industry. And because humans differ in appearance, voice and personality, their acting style differs as well. Everyone has their own individual and unique style of acting, and while they use different techniques to portray, most actors use their own personality traits. Mir Sarwar as a person will be Mir Sarwar in a particular character, but there will be some differences, some mannerisms, some observations, whatever the character requires. I’ve already worked with talented actors and learned a lot from them; I’d like to work with even more in order to continue learning and honing my craft.
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