One of Pakistan’s biggest film stars, Bilal Ashraf, talks to us about all things lockdown, the social responsibility that public figures have during these times and what all he has been up to in the kitchen.
OW: How is the lockdown going for you?
Bilal: It’s going well. Like you said, making the most of it. But to be honest, it’s not so bad. Alhamdulilah, I have been wanting to spend time with family, take some time off, chill, relax and here it is. I have all this time now.
OW: What have been the positives for you that have emerged from this challenging and disturbing time.
Bilal: To be honest, if we want to spend negative stuff, we can find negative stuff out of anything and everything. We need to be positive even generally in life. I mean, pandemic, no pandemic. Which I think has been my approach in my career which has really helped me as well.
So, I have been positive. I have been spending a lot of time cooking, I have been spending time with family, I am researching on a story that I have been wanting to work on a for a long time. I have been training, cleaning, and we have not been going out of the house, but we have been speaking to friends, hanging out, and really just self-reflecting. The one thing I have realised is that we take a lot of things for granted. And we shouldn’t. Honestly. The smallest thing.
OW: The current situation we have found ourselves in, is hard for everyone, of course, but as a public figure, do you feel like there’s an extra need, almost like a responsibility, that you’ve felt that you’ve had to share messages of support or motivation on your social media for people who follow you and look up to you?
Bilal: Well, I think, one very big part of having some following, big or small, is that you need to give back. And I think it’s not about pressure – for me I felt no pressure, I felt responsible, because it is my responsibility, if I can even give a good safety message to one person, and it actually saves their lives, I will feel good about it.
COVID really works like this ‘like, share, subscribe’ situation. If you can impact one life, you’re impacting a lot of lives. So I feel it is extremely important to share the message to be safe, and I do feel socially responsible to convey that message to educate the masses, because Pakistan is a place where the literacy rate is not that high and people don’t listen because they’re not well informed. If you can reach out to them, at least on your own platforms, why not? And I think pretty much all the celebrities, at least who I am friends with, feel the same way. We have all spoken about it and we have been trying to educate people and save lives, honestly.
OW: You have all done a great job! We have been lucky to have had an opportunity to witness a lot of interesting conversations – whether it has been public figures, speaking between themselves, or celebrities taking out the time to speak to fans. We have had this window, that we did not previously have, into their lives. I am hoping that these conversations do continue. Have there been any interesting live sessions or things like that, that you have been a part of or come across that you’ve kind of really felt grateful for?
Bilal: I have done a few live sessions, with some of my celebrity friends, because we are all trying to reach out. I did a really cool one with HSY, the designer, where we spoke about a lot of different stuff. He has really seen me evolve as an actor, and he has seen me grow from my first project. It was a very real conversation. There was another one that I did with my followers where I was having random conversations and we came across doctors and we came across people in Italy and we came across people in Turkey and it was very refreshing to experience that. I think live sessions, whether it is the current time period or any other time, are important and I think sometimes we need to do them without having a project to promote really and it should not be ke ‘oh jee just because aap project ker rahay ho’ (just because you are doing a project) so you are having this session. I have realised that it is important to connect regardless. And I’ve started doing these things like ‘Ask Me Anything sessions’ which I had never done before. I was actually asked a lot of good, constructive questions, which not only make me realise some things but also were helpful to those who would be reading those questions and my answers, so, absolutely I think it’s a good thing.
OW: Thank you for that, we are actually very grateful to all of you for having taken out the time to share your lives with us during this lockdown. It has been entertaining and informative.
Who are three people you would’ve liked to be in lockdown with?
Bilal: Three people? I’m glad I’m with my family to begin with. And I’m with them. But I guess, apart from family, three people it would be interesting to be in lockdown with would be Donald Trump, Imran Khan.
OW: Interesting you’d want to be in the same house with them together
Bilal: Imagine me in a lockdown with Donald Trump and Imran Khan. That’d be like crazy!
OW: You definitely need to do a live then!
Bilal: hahaha the third person, I’m just trying to think, maybe, maybe, maybe Modi. It’ll be interesting. Modi, Imran Khan and Trump all together. Just want understand what’s going on.
OW: What are your top 3 recommendations for things to watch on TV/Netflix/Prime?
Bilal: Well I’m not going to say Money Heist because everyone’s just watched that. You know what, Spy. Spy is very good. I think it’s Keanu Reeves. He’s in it, he’s done a fantastic job. So definitely watch that. And watch Dark. It’s kind of twisted, but it’s fun. And then, watch. There’s a show called Carnival Road, which is interesting. It’s on Prime. These are the ones that are not the regular ones that I’ve seen.
Which three people would you like to be in lockdown with? Tell us in the comments below!