The following interview was published in Mag the Weekly, 5th September 2015
Adnan Malik Interview: Construing the Undefined
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
I first met Adnan Malik sometime in the mid 2000’s at Nucleus. He had recently moved back to Pakistan, and was finishing work on a documentary, while I was looking for a lead actor to star in a project of mine. There was an instant camaraderie of sorts between us – like me, Adnan was familiar with the work sensibility of a very different industry. Working here was, for lack of a better word, new.
A few years later, when I had chosen to undertake writing and directing reigns of a television show’s one-off episode, I reached out to Adnan again with the prospect of an acting job. By now, Adnan, formerly known as the younger brother of noted commercial and music video director Saqib Malik, had a standing of his own – he was a well-known VJ of a music channel; his schedule, however, was full.
Years roll by again, and I was helping out a friend set-up an underground racing motion picture – this was a few years before the current revitalization of the Pakistani film industry – and Adnan was one of few select candidates I was backing (along with a very young Danish Taimoor, and Ali Kazmi, who had just married and was moving abroad). The producer friend and I had a long detailed discussion at Adnan’s place, a nice, comfy loft in Clifton (if my memory serves me right). Mismanagement doomed that particular film after I left.
This interview then, long delayed as it is, owing to both our schedules, would be our first “real” collaboration of sorts, since we first met. Although long in the making, let me clarify one thing: there is nothing sensational here. Adnan is still as I remember him – a pretty decent, down-to-Earth guy, whose only pursuit seems to be of excellence in work.
The quest has led him through a gradual progression of sorts – from a documentary filmmaker, to a television host, to a music video and commercial director, a producer for Coke Studio, and now an actor.
Adnan’s filmmaking spark is a little different than others: “(It was when) I watched Monsoon Wedding, two days back to back in cinemas (when I was in the U.S.). My gora friends had never seen a film that sort of represented my culture – even though it was an Indian film, the cultural representation was very similar – and when they came out, I didn’t have to explain things to them, such was the power of cinema in telling stories”.
“That was the film that did it for me”, Adnan continues. “That was a moment I realized that a film can represent culture and tell the story from a certain perpective similar to my own. That’s the type of work I’ve always wanted to do. Make a film that transcends borders and is connected at a human level”
In my conversations with Adnan, I’ve often felt his inclination to make independent cinema – films that don’t generally have bigger budgets, but rather better characters.
“Mainstream cinema (often) caters to the lowest common denominator and the intelligence level (too) is often very low” he says. “Storytelling is very important to me, there are mainstream films that have excellent storytelling, but I think the alternative or the arthouse or independent cinema (whatever one may call it) has more interesting storytelling”
Although Adnan has been approached often for roles, he’s been very selective of acting roles.
“Acting wise I was waiting for the right thing to come along. At the end of the day, the (show, Sadqe Tumharay) had the right formula – good actors, a good director, a good production house. It was the script that jumped out at me. It had its own spirit – its own life; had I delivered (the lines) straight, they would have still been impactful”, Adnan tells me.
“As an actor, I would like to do a role that’s impactful. It really depends on the role the part plays. Kaam accha karna hai yaar!” he exclaims. One can easily hear the sincerity in his voice.
“When I came back, there wasn’t much happening. Maximum effort, for minimum attention. People told me to try out modelling and commercials, and I went into that direction for a few years, but then I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to do, which is why I stopped and set-up my production company (AMP), and at the same time Coke Studio (which he is associate producing segments and the behind the scenes for) happened.”
“They’re just facets of the same thing” Adnan elaborates later in the conversation on his current direction. “Whether you’re infront of the camera, or behind it, you’re still telling stories. Now you don’t have to be so defined that you can only direct or act. Now I am at a place where I would want to do two three acting projects a year, and keep up my direction (work), and ultimately go towards narrative stuff, like films – hopefully, both acting and directing side.”
Has it been difficult being Saqib Malik’s younger brother, I ask: “Again, it was very beneficial to have Saqib established (in the industry), but he’s always told me, and I’ve always believed, that one has to do things on his own strength. In a way it was nice having him as a guiding light, but I’ve always faced challenges on my own” Adnan says. “We have a thirteen year difference between us. Different inspirations. Different approaches”, he elaborates.
“I just followed my heart. I think when your neeyat is saaf, that’s when things come to you. When you’re confused, that’s when things don’t work out”
As a filmmaker whose chief interst had been motion pictures, I wanted to know what his plans are for Pakistani films.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a while. For so long there was no point making films because there was no outlet. Things are now settling down, (in fact), everything I’ve said in my documentary is sort of coming true”
Very few people know (outside the industry, that is) that Adnan had made one of the few influential documentaries about Pakistani Cinema. The documentary – Bhuli Hui Hoon Daastaan – came at a time when Bollywood movies had yet to make their way back to Pakistani cinema screens.
“The next few years is a good time to make new films, and to watch and observe (how well they do at the box office)” Adnan continues. “It’s very doable now. In the next two, three years I would love to have made something or acted in a couple of films – Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, George Cloony, Farhan Akhtar, they have been doing it for years”, he tells me.
I interject, that these actors, are directors who cast themselves in their movies.
“I don’t know if I want to direct myself in a movie” Adnan clarifies, with a sly hint in his voice. “I think that might be too much. I am two very different people when directing or acting. Let’s see”
The published copy looks like this: