Bilal Abbas Khan first came into light post his debut in ‘O Rungreza,’ for playing the overtly soft, melancholic Qasim – a new kind of male protagonist we hadn’t seen in a long time. It seemed like the days of misogynistic, unflinchingly chauvinistic men on-screen might be over. Few past actors had invoked raw emotion in dramas; Suhaib from ‘Diyar-E-Dil’ and Asfy from ‘Yakeen Ka Safar’ pop into my mind, but they were nothing like Qasim.
‘O Rungreza’ was the first drama that brought Bilal Abbas Khan to light.
While the drama ‘O Rungreza’ itself became incredibly dull and painful to watch, the only thing that kept me attached to the show was for Qasim. Being relatively new to Pakistani dramas (give or take the odd three to four years), I had noticed a recurring pattern of male characters in our dramas; I could sum up most of them in three words; prejudiced, undignified and abject to a certain degree – if you take in societal taboos into account. It was Bilal’s shocking ability to display new horizon of male sensitivity and fragility as Qasim, with emotions pouring out of him in the most quintessential manner that you couldn’t help just fall head over heels for while the love of his life, Sassi (Sajal Aly) dismisses his delicacy and constantly demeans him. His tenderness, however, was never compromised for weakness; Qasim was crafted to hold his ground when things got rough. Yet his character, until the end of the show was a far cry from characters like Zaroon from ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’ or Mir Hadi from ‘Khaani.’
‘Qurban’ was nothing different, and Bilal settled into the comfortable role as the victimized character with an influx of emotions and the usual ‘boy next door.’ His chemistry with contemporary Iqra Aziz was fantastic, however, the story dipped as did the deplorable state of Bilal as Jameel. It almost felt like we were watching a toned down manifestation of Qasim – someone who lacked finances and longed for a better life (it wasn’t really his fault, to be honest – the writers were just lazy to truly create a memorable drama). Every time I saw Jameel, I saw Qasim; Bilal was playing it safe, and his good looks made him very popular with the younger female audience – while ratings fell for this drama, his fanbase still grew and his character as Qasim did aid in that substantially.
‘Balaa’ was the gamechanger for the actor. Bilal was cast alongside two very strong, level-headed actors; Ushna Shah and the venerated Sameena Peerzada. While we did see emulations of characters like Ahsar from ‘Humsafar’ or even Adeel from ‘Gul-e-Rana,’ Bilal managed to morph into a stronger protagonist, who by the end of the drama had seized the day and carpe diem-ed the hell out of his ballistic and evil wife Nigar (Ushna). He had a family to take care of, and this drama gave the actor leeway to leap out of his comfort zone of playing the sweet, lovable boy and plunge himself into a far mature role as Taimur. He was no longer a boy, but a man. And for an actor who is 26 years old, his majestic way of tuning his voice and refining his desolate and incredibly pensive facial features.
2019 might just have been the tipping point for Bilal when he was roped into ARY Digital’s drama with Saba Qamar (the best we have right now). Saba, whose last drama was critically acclaimed ‘Baaghi,’ picks her projects very carefully – and Bilal hit the jackpot by being cast alongside her, to be frank. At first, I was a little wary to see them opposite each other, mostly because for me the actor felt like a fetus in front of the Titan Goddess that was Saba – yet this drama has catapulted Bilal overnight into the realm of immense acting abilities. His psychotic, flitting and indomitable role as Wajih has left both audiences and critics speechless. This is his first role as the antagonist, and although challenging enough for an actor who still kept his career choices sheltered, to suddenly choose to play a distressingly evil human being (and a rapist) – well Bilal has done a tremendous job. He oddly fits into this role with great depth and has unconsciously demanded a compelling screen presence despite his role.
Oh, and we had the pleasure of meeting him:
What are your thoughts on Bilal’s transformation?