Faran Tahir is an American Pakistani actor, recognisable for his roles as Captain Robau in “Star Trek” and Raza in “Iron Man”. Next year, as he turns 50, he will star in big-budget film about the supernatural creatures Jinns – simply titled ‘Jinn’.
Here, he speaks about his family as an inspiration, how Hollywood’s treatment of Muslims is improving, and tells us why it’s time to talk about Jinns.
DFI: Your parents wrote, directed and acted. Was that important for you and your career?
Tahir: My family’s background in arts had a tremendous impact. Dinner conversation at our house was often about arts. We discussed, critiqued and sometimes argued about plays, movies and books. We talked a lot about the ups and downs of it, the unpredictability, how to cope with all that, and yet keep your core intact. These were priceless lessons.
DFI: We recently celebrated mythology for a fortnight. You’ve acted in “Iron Man”, “Star Trek” and now “Jinn”…
Tahir: I have always been interested in mythology. It shows how rich human imagination has been from the beginning. I always loved mythological movies whether they were about Arabian Nights or Greek mythology. I do however, feel that we, as Muslims in the arts, can do more to promote that side of our culture.
DFI: Is that where “Jinn” comes in?
Tahir: On one level, “Jinn” is an attempt to debunk the image of Hollywood’s depiction as the blue (genie) in a bottle. It re-introduces the topic as we in the East understand it…The role was offered to me and I thought that it had interesting layer I could explore.
DFI: When’s the release date?
Tahir: We are hoping…within the next 12 months.
DFI: What’s the toughest part of cracking Hollywood?
Tahir: It is a very tough business. You need to equip yourself with as many tools as you can. One always should take a deep look at where your talents will be utilised best, and then go for it. We can’t get discouraged by the potholes and rocks on the way. Keep your eyes on the prize. There is no one moment that defines your career. It is the entire journey.
DFI: How have things changed since you started out?
Tahir: I got my first TV role at the age of 19 in Pakistan. I was visiting for summer and was offered it. As for the international industry, things are changing gradually. There is a larger talent pool from our part of the world in all branches of the industry. Help is all around.
DFI: ‘We have to get away from other people defining us, and start defining ourselves’ you said in 2010. Has progress been made?
Tahir: There is progress. Storylines are getting better. There is better dialogue between actors, directors, writers and producers on how to have a more respectful and accurate depiction of Muslims.
I just finished a movie titled “The Tomb” with Stallone and Schwarzenegger. My character is one of the leads who happens to be Muslim. There was tremendous give-and-take in how to create a more accurate yet fun portrayal. Look out for it!
DFI: What three things are you looking forward to in life?
Tahir: Peace, peace, peace. Personal, social, political.
DFI: What’s your one piece of advice for those trying to get in the industry?
Tahir: Never let go of your dreams. Do not compromise your talent or your values. Give respect and demand nothing less. Equip yourself with the tools to turn as many negatives into positives as you can. I guess that was more advice than what was asked for!