Meet Ismail Bashey, an Indian/American Actor who recently had the chance to work with Pakistani actors and directors for Pakistani drama series;”Ishq, Junoon, Dewangi” and “The Ghost” for Hum TV. Ismail has an impressive work resumé; he has worked in countless American shows like The Sopranos, Law and Order, CSI Miami, Boston Legal, Alias, Close to Home etc. In an exclusive interview with The Saturday Post Ismail tells us how he started his acting career, his experiences working with Pakistani directors and his plans for the future:
Please introduce yourself to our readers:
Hello to all the readers of Saturday Post. I am Ismail Bashey and I am excited to be doing this interview for The Saturday Post. I would like to say that I am completely bowled over by the positive response of the Pakistani audiences on my performances in Ishq Junoon Deewangee and The Ghost. Thank you for all your love and blessings that you have bestowed upon me. I am deeply touched by your generosity.
Tell us where you grew up, your family and education:
I was born in Mumbai (Bombay) India into a family of strong academics. Most members of my family are either doctors or lawyers. I chose to go on the road less traveled by my family. In fact I am pretty sure that I am the only one who is as actor in the family. My grandparents came from Iran so I am Persian (Iranian) by heritage and I do speak Farsi (Persian) fluently.
How and when did you get into acting? Did you go to an acting school to get trained?
I have always been drawn towards the arts and was actively involved with drama in school and so being an actor was a calling that came naturally to me and it was the only thing I felt strongly passionate about. I have trained extensively at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute for Acting in New York City. It is an excellent program that has produced some of the major talents of this industry such as Al Pacino, Angelina Joile, Alec Baldwin to name a few.
You have appeared in many films and TV shows tell us what projects you have worked on, and what roles have you played?
I have worked on many interesting Film and TV projects ranging from Independent Features (Wings of Hope, Little Senegal, The Tic Code) to guest starring on TV shows such as The Sopranos, Law and Order, CSI Miami, Boston Legal, Alias, Close to Home etc. I have played a variety of roles ranging from the lead protagonist to doctors, scientists, family man, etc. It is ironic that I come from a family of doctors and I play one on TV quite often.
You won Best Actor award for the movie “Wings of Hope” at the Cineview International Film Festival, tell us in detail about that.
Wings of Hope was an independent feature film, which dealt with a lot of social issues within the South Asian community in the US. I played the lead character Ravi who is a troubled man dealing with the loss of his mother and a deteriorating relationship with his father (played by Roshan Seth). And somewhere along the line the character gets into a chronic drug/alcohol problem that lands him in jail, nearly destroying him and all that he loves and cares about. The film had a stellar cast, which included Suresh Oberoi, Deepti Naval, Sheetal Sheth and Purva Bedi. It won great accolades at many film festivals and was critically well received by the audiences all over. I won the Best Actor award for it at the Cinevue International Film Festival.
Tell us how you ended up working for Pakistani Directors? Which Directors did you work with and what projects did you work on?
I had the opportunity to meet with acclaimed Pakistani director Mehreen Jabbar when I used to live in NY and we briefly discussed the possibility of working together on one of her future projects and left it at that. Then I heard from her a year later saying that the project is finally happening and she wanted me to be a part of it. By then I had moved to Los Angeles and was completing a new project there. But I really wanted to work with her and so she flew me down to NY and I ended up doing her tele-drama for HUM TV called Pehchaan. It was produced by Humayun Saeed and had Sonia Rehman and Deepti Gupta in the cast. I had such an amazing experience working with Mehreen that we did 3 more TV projects for Hum TV over the next couple of years.
Then Hum TV approached me for their new project called The Ghost (written by Umera Ahmed) which was filmed in Scotland and had Sania Saeed, Faysal Rehman and Sameena Peerzada in it. This time I worked with director Babar Javed who has become one of the most successful TV directors in Pakistan.
A year later I was asked by Hum TV and director Babar Javed to be a part of their latest TV Drama Ishq Junoon Deewangee. It was filmed in Mauritius and Cape Town, South Africa. It was a real special project and I loved playing the character of Behram Umer in it. It gave me the opportunity to work with talented Pakistani actors like Humayun Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui and Humaima Abbassi.
Did you face any challenges while working with the Pakistani Media?
There are many differences in working on a Pakistani project as compared to a Hollywood project. One major problem is budget constraints, which affect the entire production in a trickle down effect. Due to a small budget they have to film with a much smaller crew when filming in other countries outside Pakistan. That does slow down the process sometimes. The other challenge I had was getting the scripts at the very last minute. When we work on a Hollywood Production the script is given way ahead of time and actors have the luxury of time to prepare and work on the character. But when the scripts are given a day before or at the last minute then all one can do is to learn the lines and deliver them to the best of one’s ability. There isn’t any time to work and develop the character and other aspects of the role.
The biggest challenge for me was the Urdu language. I grew up in Mumbai and spoke Hindi and not Urdu. So I was very conscious of speaking Urdu in front of the Pakistani actors and crew. I had to work twice as hard in making sure that I sounded correct in my pronunciation of certain words and the rhythm of my sentences were correct. That’s why I am always pleasantly surprised and pleased when the Pakistani fans tell me that they loved my Urdu dialogue delivery in my performance.
What projects are you currently working on? And what plans do you have for the future?
I am currently working on a couple of guest starring roles on TV here in Los Angeles. I have a feature film that I am scheduled to start filming early next year. It is a project that I am really excited about. And I am in negotiations to start a new Pakistani drama next year with another channel and production company.
Have you had the chance to work in Bollywood? If yes what roles?
I have worked in Bollywood on TV only. I have played the lead character on 2 major TV serials for Zee TV (Mausam and Dollar Bahu). I also have appeared on several TV commercials in India.
What advice would you like to give to our readers who would like to follow in your footsteps and take up acting
I would tell all your readers who are aspiring to be actors that it is a very tough profession and the journey is full of rejection. So make sure that you go in with the right attitude, training and with passion for your art. Be professional about your work and make the most of every opportunity that you are given to shine as an actor. The most important factor is to be truthful in your performance.
Lastly your message to the readers of The Saturday Post: Follow your heart and dreams and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, as I always believe that “A dream, dreamed enough, becomes”.