In a white superman tee shirt and faded blue denims, Ali Kazmi does indeed look like a rockstar and he is one. Every now and then, he does let lose at the Basement Cafe on their Thursday night jam sessions, but other than that, his ability to rock is in the closet along with his wardrobe, that has style savvy written all over it.
Despite being known as the son of Rahat Kazmi and Sahira Kazmi, Ali is very much his own person, and a very crazy (in a good way) one at that. He is very down-to-earth and is a complete joker who swings from one place to another at a constant pace, and that is lightening speed!
VJ/model/actor/singer – all packaged in one, Ali Kazmi is a comic and entertainer at heart. This 24-year-old definitely likes to go with the flow but as he’s growing up, he is trying to be responsible. Lounging on his drawing room sofa – which is surrounded by pictures of the Kazmi family, a CD rack on both ends of the room, paintings and small artifacts and ashtrays – Ali is polite enough to ask if his dog can be let in. They’re both family dogs (Coco and Michkin). He prefers them to cats. “I love dogs. I have nothing against cats. These days, a lot of guys have cats because cats have attitude you know so they think it’s cool or something.”
People who act cool never are, and no one knows that better than Ali Kazmi.He smokes a cigarette and mimics his father’s signature soft, Urdu accent a conversation that Rahat has with Sahira – “‘SK (that’s Sahira), dekhiye agar aap dekhaingi Alfred Hitchcock ko. Wah, kya movie banatey hain. Ab sochnay ki baat hai.” And then Ali lapses into the crisp English that is quintessentially Rahat. “It’s just so amazing the way he puts together a story. The man is just a genius,” and then switches back to Urdu again “Aaj kal logon ko dekhiye, na un ko angrezi aati hai or na un ko Urdu aati hai.” Ali cracks into a wicked smile. He knows he’s just given a great performance.
“My dad’s like a dictionary and I always make fun of that. Kuch bhi hoga, abba ko pata hoga,” he says and you realise that with all the talk of being under your parents’ shadow, Ali stands out because he has been brought up by two very strong individuals.
In an interview he talks about work, life and more…
Are you an aspiring musician?
AK: I sing for the heck of it, when I jam with friends. It’s always been a fun thing for me. I love singing and I love music. My father loves classical music and my mom loves old folk songs and old rock, so I’ve grown up with a lot of musical influences. Everybody is a bathroom singer, na? I play a bit of the guitar, self taught. If I ever have the platform I just do it. I’m not releasing an album though.
Did you always want to be an actor?
AK: I always knew that I wanted to do some form of acting. But as a kid I wanted to be an engineer. I had science subjects in ‘A’ Levels but then I realised that it was boring. Acting is my passion.
Being the son of Rahat Kazmi and Sahira Kazmi must have its advantages.
AK: It has its advantages. I have had great tutoring from my parents. One of the biggest things an actor does is observing; observing different people react differently to every situation, every emotion and everything around them. How shy people get angry and how commanding and forceful people get angry. They’re both very different from each other. My parents have taught me that. When I went into the industry, I wasn’t a stranger to it. A lot of people still don’t know what the fundamentals are. They don’t possess that knowledge so I have had that advantage.
Any downside to being known as their son?
AK: Well, shuru mein, main kisi ko apna naam nahie bata tha. In the early days people used to say, “You look a lot like Mr Kazmi. Have you ever met him? I was like ‘uh… yes, no’ and then somebody would come and say he’s joking. There is a lot of pressure because I have two successful parents who have made it in this field even though it was a different time with only one channel and less competition but still it was huge and still is. So the pressure is to succeed and not become just another actor. I have to be at par with them. Then, there is always that thing in people’s mind that he got the part because he’s Rahat and Sahira Kazmi’s kid. But I have enough talent, so I’m not worried.
What was your first acting job like?
AK: My first major acting job was in a long play called Zikar Hai Kai Saal Ka. My mom directed it and my dad was in it. I was 14-15 years old. That was a lot of pressure. But it went through with flying colours. Mashallah everybody loved it and thought that I was good.
Have you ever done theatre?
AK: Yes, I’ve also done a lot of theatre. Back in my school and college days I used to be part of the drama club. I’ve even co-directed plays at school.
Do you prefer television acting or theatre?
AK: Television acting is more fulfilling at the end of the day because your work is out there on record. It’s also more lucrative. It makes you feel that you’ve achieved something because I pay for everything myself (including my college tuition fees) now so it’s important that way. Plus, media is booming these days. Everybody is on television and/or watching it so it’s easier to reach more people. I want to make people happy and appreciate good television. The one thing I don’t enjoy watching or do is soaps.
AK: Because honestly, we’re trying to copy the Indians too much. I once watched this Indian soap on some channel. There was this woman who was supposed to be an evil bitch and she comes in a room five times, totally decked up, with ten zooms on her face and then this cat like ‘vaaaaan’ is played. I was like that’s not a play man, that’s crap. It’s too overdone and I don’t like that. Drama should be more close to life. But theatre is also my love. You get your response right there. You get butterflies in your stomach every time. It’s fun and exhilarating
How is it working with your parents?
AK: If my mom is working with me as opposed to someone else, she’d keep on a tighter rope, give me more daant. My dad is also critical about what I do. Sometimes he would say, “Son, what are you doing?” And at the same time, tell me how to do it right and guide me.
Have you always been this comfortable in front of the camera?
AK: It felt like home. When I was a kid, I used to sit with my mom when she used to be editing so I knew what was being done. Obviously one would get nervous. I mean it’s your mom right? They’re supportive but they also don’t want you to do a mediocre job. That trains you well. Even today I give 100 percent in anything I do.
You’re also studying as well as working? Have the two ever clashed and is it easy?
AK: Sometimes it’s tough. When I have exams, I don’t work as much or take a week or two away from work so I can go to class and have a regular schedule. I will hopefully graduate this year. It’s a BBA in Marketing degree.
AK: I think it’s a great field to be in. It’s a challenge. I’m a people person, you know. I enjoy meeting people and exchanging fresh ideas.
What’s your relationship with your parents and sister like?
AK: Great. I’ve lived with my grandparents and my parents. My nani passed away last year so I’d like to give her my love. We don’t have a big family. It’s always been my sister, our parents, my grandfather and me. I have two uncles from my mom’s side, both of whom live abroad. It’s a tight family. Neither my sister nor me have ever felt that we’re being neglected or ignored in any way. Their schedules never took away from us. They gave us everything and were always supportive about everything.
My sister (Nida) is six years older than me. We used to fight like crazy. She’s pulled half my hair out. We used to play pranks on each other but now she’s like my second mother. She’s very responsible. She’s been married for two years. Ironically, you hate the brother in law because he takes your sister away but I love him and I’m happy for both of them. She’s not too far away. It’s sad sometimes because it’s lonely. And if anything happens, I have no one to blame it on (laughs).
Are you more like your father or mother?
AK: Yaar that is a real toss up. I’m an exact mixture of both. My sister is more like my mom. My sense of humour and chilled out attitude comes from my mother. My dad always taught me that it’s not about reading books (he read a lot and I mean a lot!), it’s about having knowledge and asking questions. The day you stop asking questions, you’re dead. That whole fact thing I have, learning new things and exploring new ideas – I’ve learned from my dad. Another thing that my father has taught me is being patient.
How do you unwind after a long day?
AK: I like to give a shout out to all my friends. They keep me sane or insane, which is more fun. I have friends who’ve been with me for a decade now. I like partying with my friends over the weekend. I love dancing. But I’ve realized that, as I’m growing older, I prefer sitting with a close group of friends and just chilling, watching a movie or talking.
You’re always energetic and happy. Were you always like this?
AK: Yaar, I’ve always been a happy person. Life’s been great. I really think you should enjoy life. There are times when I want to be alone but I’m not a moody person. I do think that you need that alone time. Being energetic comes from my parents. They are tireless people. They’re more active than I am so that’s where it comes from. My nickname by the way is Energizer Bunny.
AK: You know that batteries commercial, where there is this bunny who’s always going on and on. So I’m that. I wish there were 48 hours in a day.
AK: I would like to give a message to everybody out there. Just enjoy life, keep smiling and seriously if you ever fall off the horse of life, always get up and ride of into the sunset. And I want to give a shout to all my friends, family and Nani and to my special someone out there. Take care and I love you all.
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