Ahmed Ali Butt: Funny, Fabulous and Forward Thinking
As you reflect on your career over the past ten years or so, what gives you the most satisfaction?
Its been 20 years or since I began my career as a teenager. I’ve worked very hard but I’ve got a long way to go before I can actually commit to being fully satisfied with my body of work. I have been blessed to work with great people, but have always kept a student approach towards my work — always learning, and always trying to improve my breadth. As an artist the most satisfying feeling is not just to be recognised, but also to be
respected for one’s work.
When did you realise that you were definitely Mr Funny Bones? Were your childhood or teenage friends impressed with your sense of humour?
As far as I can remember, I would mimic people — all of us, my brothers and I, were given a musical education and encouraged to display our talents, but it has to be said that my father was the real entertainer in our family. I’m sure, I got my sense of humour from him! He could command attention in a room and make people laugh effortlessly, getting them forget their worries — for me that was inspirational! I was never a shy kid as I would sing and act in school plays, and was often the class entertainer! This is how my journey towards becoming Mr Funny Bones began!
What was the most fun part of launching into an acting career with friends — reference Jutt and Bond?
Any comic or unforgettable incident you would like to relate? I joined theatre long before I began my career on television — when we created Jutt and Bond, we were all fresh from the theatre and didn’t have any idea about how the industry worked. We were just excited and enthusiastic about
bringing something different to the table! We wanted to change up how comedy was done at the time — I remember on my first day of shooting Jutt and Bond, I was supposed to ride a horse like Maula Jutt and I didn’t know how to ride and fell very hard during the shoot! That shot is still in the
main title shoot of Jutt and Bond. It was a crazy, yet most precious time for all of us and bonded us as friends for life.
You have a few films under your belt now as a supporting actor? Which has been your favourite so far?
Both my first films have been huge hits in the history of our entertainment industry! I don’t think it would be fair to compare them, as they both are worlds apart but JPNA (Jawani Phir Nahin Aani) will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first film.
Who is your most loved co-star; the person who inspires you to be better than you already are, and the person who challenges your preconceived notions and allows you to think outside the box?
Nadeem Baig, has been a great teacher — although he doesn’t know that — but I have learned a lot from him about working on the big screen. Similarly Humayun Saeed is one of the few actors who has always given chance to new talent. He has never been insecure about any actor or actress. That’s what you call a true senior actor! Not like some other ‘so-called’senior film stars who never give chance to anyone and criticise everyone who is successful.
In your family, who has been the most supportive person regarding your career? Is that support consistent and since you have the opportunity of this space, how would you like to thank them here?
My parents always made sure we received a proper education even though they never stopped us from pursuing the arts and music. When I joined the theater, my brother Mustafa was the one who treated me like a star! He produced plays, sold tickets and got sponsors, and what not, just
to make me act. He is, to this day, a huge support. When my work picked up, my wife took over that responsibility and has been a rock of support. She is a perfect mixture of east and west, traditional and modern, always interested in religion, politics and household matters, yet very business minded — a great companion, always helping me at home and work. Not only does she hold the fort while I am away on shoots, she makes sure that I don’t slack off and get lazy. She takes care of everything from my wardrobe to my daily calendar, and above all, she is responsible for making me quit
What kind of films did you grow up watching? Is there anything or anyone from your youth or childhood as your comic role-model or all round inspiration?
My house was always filled with the music and films of my grandmother Noor Jehan and my grandfather Shaukat Hussain Rizvi — it seems that my entire youth was all about absorbing their work. They were my childhood role-models, along with my mother, who is still my biggest inspiration. She was one in a million in every field and I miss her wisdom the most.
Relate a funny incident from a film set which you find unforgettable to date?
I was asked to jump from the 42nd floor of a skyscraper by my director on the first day shoot of JPNA in Bangkok. I didn’t want him to know that I had a height phobia and was trying to be professional but I was almost about to cry. It was extremely scary, yet fun and memorable.
How close were you to your mother Zille Huma? What, in your view, was the most beautiful and inspirational aspect of her personality?
No one can replace a mother. I was very close to her — we all were but both my parents left us too soon. Nothing can prepare you for this loss! I think that is the curse of life that one has to live, learn and pass on one day. Ask anyone who knew my mother and they will tell you that the real reason for her fame was her beautiful heart. She gave so much to family and friends and was known for her hospitality. To this day, people come up to us and praise a dinner they had at our house; or how she gave charity; or how she helped some family member; or supported a friend; and so on. This
was definitely the most beautiful and inspirational aspect of her personality. I wish to be half of what my mother was.
What is it that you miss about her the most?
So many times I feel she will call from the other room. I can’t point out just one thing — there is a long list because for me she was an angel.
Your brothers are also creatively talented? Who are you close to? Do you support each other and follow each other’s work?
Yes we are all creative and doing what we love. Ali is in the PR and food business, Mustafa works in theatre and food; and my youngest brother Kuki is
a great actor and photographer. We are very close; always supportive of each others work and talent; and very lucky to have each other especially after
What do you think are the three most important ingredients for a successful modern-day marriage? Do you and Fatima follow this recipe?
I don’t think there is any particular formula — both partners can be worlds apart and still make it work or be identical and still fall apart. Marriage is
an ongoing process and you change and grow together as a unit. Firstly, Fatima always makes sure that family comes first no matter what which is obviously very important to remember. Secondly, Fatima and I are good friends; we talk about everything — in fact, she is better at being a friend than I am! Thirdly, we both agree that one must retain one’s individuality, give space and respect each others boundaries and opinions, interests and alone time. My advice: Don’t try to change the other person, but accept each other as is so that both can be happy from the inside, while helping each other fly higher in life. Leave your egos at the door! Laugh together! Don’t take things too seriously! Be willing to sacrifice, work and learn together! These are what we do to be a happy couple.
Tell us the two best things about being a father?
Being a father always reminds one of one’s parents as one sees reflections of them in one’s child. The fact that someone so small can control every inch of your being is just miraculous. One of the happiest days of my life is, when I held my son Azaan in my arms. That feeling is still overwhelming!
Where do you think Pakistan’s film industry stands now? What would you like to see different and differently?
Let me say the usual; we’ve come a long way, still have a long road ahead and there will always be good and bad films. I am only concerned with the
fact that I contribute to this industry in a positive and productive manner. Even if my film flops, I am happy to learn from my failure rather than justify it. Pakistani audiences can easily tell now if a film is good or bad — that’s literally what makes a hit or a flop! Instead of competing with each other unhealthily, we should focus on bringing new technology, new ideas and new talent. New age Pakistani cinema has a bright future ahead!
If you were asked to perform a role of your choosing, in a film of your choice, what would that be?
I would love to remake the Pakistani film Rangeela by Rangeela sahib.
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