After all, the smartest thing to do when you find yourself ascending the ranks within your industry is to strike while the iron is hot. We would imagine that Ahmed is currently fielding millions of phone calls, is pelted with flowers when he walks out his doors, Karan Johar is desperately trying to get in touch, and he will definitely be
the next face of Pakistan’s #1 anti-dandruff shampoo/soda/telco.
Or, he may find that with another accomplishment behind him, which has built both his artistic credibility and opened new doors for him, he can sit back, relax, and reflect for a bit.
“I’m more about working on myself,” Ahmed had said prior to the GNH release. He was commenting on the interview circuit that inevitably accompanies any new release, especially the cinematic kind. He noted that though he is, “by default socially awkward and stays away from [the press and public eye]”, when it comes to promoting his work, he is of course, always open to talking about it.
“But,” he said, “I’m becoming more comfortable in my skin, and better at talking about whatever, whenever.”
Being socially awkward though can’t always fly when we are constantly connected – when you are a public figure with social media presence, your adoring public might want to hear from you more often than once a week, which is how Ahmed spaces out his posts.
And this summer, Zahid Ahmed has also had the unique experience of being part of Pakistani cinema’s big comeback post Covid-19. As he headlined one of four major releases over Eid ul Fitr, the actor charmed us on, and off the big screen.
Onscreen, Ahmed is an accomplished actor who keeps adding to his repertoire by never shying away from the offbeat role, though he plays the bad guy with heart of gold to perfection.
It isn’t surprising when he turns up on a screen in a completely unexpected avatar either. Any fan of local television will tell you that here is a chameleon-like actor, up to every challenge. We wouldn’t say never, but it is rare to see a younger actor set aside handsome masculinity to play a character that appears more gender-fluid. When playing a character such as the one Ahmed plays in Ishq Zahe Naseeb, for example, an actor can expect to gain a ton of creative cred, but perhaps lose out on street cred with the audience, or risk being typecast by the industry.
Luckily for the industry, acting is Zahid Ahmed’s passion, so he will work his way through any and every type of character. And, the industry and his audience can spot the passion, as well as his skill.
“Acting has definitely been my dream,” he says, “my singular passion, so what do you do when the dream is fulfilled and the passion realized?
“Now that I no longer have to worry about where the next job is coming from, I have the time to sit back, and reflect on who I am and who I want to be.”
Though young, popular, and intelligent, Ahmed prefers to speak and work about and with concepts that speak to him.
You will not see him expressing opinions about every Twitter trend, nor will you see him hop on the wagon carrying expected celebrity behavior.
“I’ve done that many, many moons ago and found that it wasn’t for me,” he says when referring to the glamorous side of celebrity culture.
“When there is something I believe in, something I practice, I will speak about it openly, and fondly.”
He presents a series of videos he did the previous year as an example about how he developed an affinity for praying.
“We were sent to this world as a test, don’t you agree?” he asks. “We are tested through everything, our parents, our partners, children, our livelihoods and money.
Once you realize the world is temporary and your only purpose is to look within and see how you can evolve, other things tend to fade into the background.”
For Ahmed, though, his work as an actor is what hasn’t faded into the background. He has held several different jobs during his decade-long career, and finds that acting is what sustains him, not just as a person earning their living, but as an individual who chooses to only practice what he believes in.
“It’s where my potential is fully utilized,” he says.
It is a place which forces him to look beyond the immediate to make the kind of choices that ring true for his authentic self.
“Look, I won’t say there are no male-centric stories on TV. I would say that yes, stories centering around female protagonists appeal to the market at large and so creating those stories is just good economic sense.
“And in any story, if there’s a heroine, there will be a hero, and if not, there’s a villain. So, if compelled for economic reasons to take what is offered, actors still have a choice.”
Ahmed himself, though, finds himself comfortable enough to do only projects he connects to, both artistically and financially.
“The more your celebrity increases, the more you’re able to enjoy the perks,” he says. “I do commercials and voice over work, and I am okay. I get to spend more time with my family, and focus on what’s really important.”
What’s really important to Zahid Ahmed is to recognize the complexity of life and to understand it, though it won’t necessarily make us instantly wise. We won’t solve the problem of the great beyond or what it will take to achieve world peace, but Ahmed has done his work and is convinced that introspection and evolution is what we should aim for.
“Imagine a world where someone has mastered their anger. They will be less likely to toss a bomb. That’s the kind of ripple effect that would make a larger difference in the world,” he says.
His self-assuredness sets Ahmed on the road to always changing, and going for the unusual option. The star currently has a pilot he would like to see take off, a TV series along the lines of Black Mirror.
“I love horror,” he says. And over the years from theater to GNH, he believes he has the directorial know-how to orchestrate and lead a shoot, and can direct costars too.