SHAHWAR ALI – LEAVING BHOPAL BEHIND BUT NOT HIS TEHZEEB
Posted by Vivek on September 3, 2013 | No Comments
His is that classic story of the small town guy who feels he has achieved his goals and then a whole new world suddenly opens up for him. Shahwar Ali, was not unhappy in Bhopal, he aspired to have a steady job and play hockey, until 1998, Mr India contest happened. India had found its newest supermodel. Lacking the conventional hero looks was not an issue, since the Hindi film industry was changing, and this hunk ,now combines a successful film career with modeling. Here we get to know more about Shahwar who continues to be the down-to earth guy from Bhopal, at heart:
From Bhopal begins the journey?
Yes, I come from very humble background, but where the emphasis was on simplicity and respect for people. I had aspired to play Hockey for India and was working in a hotel in Bhopal at Rs 5000 a month. Growing up in Bhopal, the thought of being an actor or a model, never even once occurred to me. That environment was very different than a place like Mumbai, at least back then. It was in 1999 and a friend of mine took my picture and sent it for the Mr India contest. I got selected, showed up in Delhi and then in Kolkutta, where I made it to the top 5 and also got the award for the best physique. I also got Rs 25000 in cash for all this and it got me very excited. It was big money for a small town guy. There I met the who’s who of the Fashion industry back then. But I returned to Bhopal, since I was not sure if I should leave my steady job, my family and back then we had this big fear of the unknown and the unknown was the world of modeling and the world of Mumbai. Then I compared the Rs 25000 I had earned to my job amount and decided to take a shot. Showed up in Mumbai, lived in a Paying Guest accomodation for a few months and got my portfolio made, a very average one, since I did not know any better and moreover I did not have the money to make a good portfolio. I distributed my pictures all over Mumbai and I got called for the Kingfisher show, in Bangalore. After this show there was no looking back, and work kept coming to me. The highlights included winning awards for the best model and getting the in house model assignment for Calvin Klein, in London. The next 6-7 years went getting more recognition and accolades for my modeling career.
People who know you say you are still the simple guy who has that fine culture in him?
I would attribute that to my upbringing and my parents. My move from Bhopal, I think, made the average guy and gal from Bhopal so much more confident. Bhopal has changed a lot today, to what it was when I left. The confidence level is very high and there is that belief, that if Shahwar can do it, so can we and we have, many boys and girls who show up for Modelling and Television and with the full encouragement of their parents. When they look at me, they also get a belief that it is a respectable career, since they have seen me work and get the success. So in a way I think, I have taken away this fear of big, bad Mumbai away from them. And talking about simplicity, the people whom I grew up with, they have changed and are more conscious about their interactions with me, than me with them. I keep telling them is that I am still the same guy who left Bhopal, but they appear to be more in awe now.
Now that you have established yourself in films, is it good bye to modeling?
No, never, I love the high of walking on the ramp and am still the show stopper-celebrity, for all my friends who want me to do so. It is more of going back to my roots and my old friendships, are all from the modeling days, so as long as the body is fit and as long as I am asked, I will do the fashion shows, that is what made me, who I am today.
Compare the environment in modeling and films, for a working professional?
Very different. In films, you have to work very hard. Before I joined the film industry, the general consensus was that models cannot act, plus here the competition was with trained theater actors, etc. Also modeling makes you lazy, it is easy money and then the parties after the show, so it is not that models cannot act, they are now willing to put in the effort to learn the new craft. Of course if the effort is put then models can be successful actors, as John, Priyanka and Arjun have proved. But the effort is tremendous. On my part I joined theater, worked on my diction, took acting tips, the whole nine yards.
The one thing that differentiates you from most of the model aspirants, is your fantastic command over Hindi and now you have taken the same command of a language to Telegu and Kannada?
Actually more than Hindi, Urdu, with a mix of Hindi, was the language growing up in Bhopal. It was also something that sounded very refined. But over and above that I have worked hard further on my own to make the diction even better. As far as Telegu, I still cannot speak the language, but I get the script over at least 15-20 days before and work with a language coach, so that once I am on set, it flows very easily. When I was first offered a Telegu movie, I had the same apprehensions of the language but having a super director to guide you through the process and your own desire to learn has made the journey seamless.
Currently no, for the simple reason that movies are keeping me busy. Television is a medium I respect a lot but it requires a long time commitment. If such a time does come that movies are not coming my way, then definitely Television would be something I would love to do, not because they are inferior to movies, but because it would then become a full time job for me, as it is for the people who work very hard in that line.