From a rebel to a dilettante turned performing artist, Faraz Khan’s journey proves that ‘all those who wander are, indeed, not lost’. Zeenab Aneez brings you the story.
We met actor-director Faraz Khan on a day that was unusually rainy for this time of the year. He had spent most of the day at a workshop with the actors of ‘The Open Couple’ who he has directed in his own, absurd version of the Dario Fo classic.
With a role in the critically acclaimed Ship of Theseus, a supporting role in the recently released Shaadi Ke Side Effects and more interesting projects in the pipeline, it is a good time to be Faraz Khan the actor. But with the nomination for best director at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) for ‘The Open Couple’ which bagged three more nominations, looks like it’s an even better time to be Faraz Khan the director.
With a day to go for the award ceremony and performance, Faraz and the rest of the team are busy prepping for the performance in Delhi. The phone rings intermittently as we speak, the reason Faraz reveals to us towards the end of this interview was an issue with sourcing the ‘pot’ in Delhi - anyone who has watched ‘The Open Couple’ will remember the commode that made up the centrepiece of the set.
“The Delhi team has a strong suspicion the one they got might have been used,” he informs us casually. Just another day in theatre production!
“I feel very honoured about the nomination,” says Faraz about the attention The Open Couple has received from META, “ because to me, the stage is a sacred place. It’s where we create our culture.” Faraz’s journey to where he is now is nothing but straightforward but ‘straightforward’ seems to be a word the actor seems to avoid at all costs, be it in his personal or professional life. Although he is from Hyderabad, Faraz spent his childhood in Saudi Arabia, returning to Hyderabad in 1991 after the Gulf War broke out only to leave to London a decade later. The decision to go to London, seems a turning point in the life of the young Faraz who spent most of his later years in Hyderabad rebelling against family pressure andan education system he didn’t quite understand. Fill “ My motive at that time was to get out of here where I had family telling me what to do and what time to get home in the evenings,” he recalls. However once he got to London, he realised that life was not
“ When I got to London at the age of 21, I knew nothing and no one but I felt like that was the way to grow because you put yourself out there and when you take risks like that, the universe rewards it somehow,” he says. “But i got there and realised life is difficult, the world is a nasty place and you have to make a living, who knew! Here your family looks after you but when th ey do they also take from you some liberties so it’s important to go travel, meet people and see things.”
Once in London, Faraz experimented with a lot of jobs, as a way to survive and as a way to learn. Although he originally went to pursue a degree in information systems, he realised he didn’t have the interest for it. Deciding not to waste his time or money, he decided to explore other options. “I did a lot of odd jobs including marketing- selling everything from gas electric stoves to insurance to people who didn’t need it. I had phases where I was making enough money to just get by and others when I was making about 2000 pounds a week,” says Faraz. During this time, he had his first brush with the world of literature and performing arts and was instantly drawn to the versatility of the field. “I had a few good friends who came from the literature and arts background so we would go watch plays and films and then discuss them but it was only at the age of 25 that I started to invest my time in these things. Until then, I didn’t know my Scorsese from my Coppola.” The following years saw Faraz attend a number of workshops and obtain a degree from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) where he had the freedom to set his own pace and structure.
His first attempt at direction was a short film which he now dismisses as terrible and inconsequential. The experience though, left Faraz asking a lot of questions. “But it was something that had to be done,” he says, “You need to get these big ideas out of your system.” Following this, with a little encouragement from Vaishali Bisht, Faraz decided to study theatre as a performer. “I wanted to understand drama. What is story? What are the components of a story? How do you work with performers? Studying as a performer also gave me the opportunity to work with different directors and I was able to pick up a lot of techniques and tools from them,” says Faraz.
It was also while he was studying theatre that the idea to stage The Open Couple came to mind. “When I read the text, I got a lot of interesting ideas and wanted to do it but it happened only last year when I was in Hyderabad on work. Vaishali and I were chatting and we thought it had been a while since we did some good theatre but I was quite adamant that I didn’t want to act in it; I wanted to focus n staying outside and directing.”
Around the same time, Faraz also began to take his first steps towards an acting career in film. Patiala House, his first big ‘blockbuster’ film saw him play the role of Akshay Kumar’s brother but stardom is not really what Faraz is going for. Last year, he got noticed in Ship of Theseus, a project he was happy to be a part of. “I’m trying to work with interesting minds. Anand Gandhi, for instance is a great thinker and a visionary but not many people saw Ship of Theseus. I played a small role in Shaadi Ke side effects and I received so many calls from friends and family!” says Faraz. His quest for interesting scripts and unconventional roles has resulted in a few roles in independent international films like the German The Girl with an Indian Emerald and English Everywhere and nowhere. “Everyone says that Indian films are at a transition phase and that the audience is changing and I understand that, but not fast enough for me,” he says.
When it comes to acting, Faraz likes to keep it simple. Although in college, he read a lot of books on acting and drama, including Strasberg and Stanislavsky, his personal philosophy comes down to that of David Mamet’s. “He says that acting is basically courage. Just stand straight, read the lines, let the text suggest to you what the character wants and do it truthfully,” explains Faraz, who admits to have gone through his fair share of intellectualisation when it comes to acting. “Acting is a craft but it’s got to be invisible, like good embroidery where all the effort is hidden at the back. If you can see my technique, then I have failed.”
Is he thinking of going back to London soon? “Yes, there are a few people there that I want to work with but the wisdom here in Bollywood is that if you take a break, you have to start from scratch when you are back,” he points out. His future projects include ‘Girls’ directed by debutant Megha Ramaswamy. “It’s an interesting project, not your run of the mill story,” says Faraz who admits that’s his first check when it comes to picking a script. “That in itself may not make a great movie but at least it is not a regular film,” he clarifies. This and another television series , where he plays a ‘geeky scientist’ in the pipeline and continued adventures on the stage, all the “dilly dallying” certainly seems to have paid off for Faraz.