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Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari still remembers the day when the team of Kapoor & Sons visited their office in Mumbai, a bustling port city in India. The media house was buzzing with excitement and preparations were underway to host the attractive trio – Alia Bhat, Siddharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan. The 26-year-old girl was beaming with happiness. After all, she was going to meet one of her favourite actors, or to put it simply, the one she had crush on. As the session began, the cast started talking about their on-screen equation and off-screen camaraderie and it so happened that during the course of interaction, Siddharth candidly admitted that he would like to imbibe a few things, like rich baritone, intense look and effusive charm, from his co-star Fawad to grow his fan base.

The mood in the conference room was cheery and it was Soumya’s turn to pose a question. All eyes were on her. There wasn’t anything unusual about it, but the usually confident and assertive Soumya was slightly nervous. So when she was given the mike, the only words she could utter were “Hey, Fawad”. Her mind went completely blank after this and even before she could regain her composure, Siddharth quipped, “This is what happens to female journalists, so you can imagine what his female fans go through.”

It is a rare thing, in the film industry, to see an actor openly acknowledge his admiration for a fellow actor. But if one cares to read between the lines, it becomes easy to infer what Siddharth subtly hinted at: what has made Indians sit up and take notice of this Pakistani actor who has left a lasting impressions on our mind.

“He is extremely charming,” says Soumya. “I have interviewed global icons like Amitabh Bachchan, A.R.Rahman, Bryan Adams and Pitbull, but nothing like this has happened to me before,” she adds.

The Karachi-born actor became a household name with the launch of Zindagi channel. It was his boy next door image that found resonance among Indian audience. He came across as someone who was not only good looking, but commanded a credible reputation. His ability to portray plausible characters, without trying too hard, also drove home a point that six-pack abs isn’t the only skill set required to excel in Bollywood. “He came as a breath of fresh air,” says Jigar Shah, a photographer.

“It is interesting to see how he filled the void, we never knew existed before. On one hand we have the Khan brigade and on the other, we have promising youngsters like Ranveer, Ranbir and Siddharth. Without disturbing any equation, Fawad has created a space for himself,” he adds.

Fawad-Khan-filmfare-octoberIf one has to draw analogy, then Fawad’s unexpected success is a poignant reminder of superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s humble beginnings. Before scripting their victories on celluloid, both had a successful stint on the small screen, a move which has played out in their favour. Nothing can be inferred from this correlation which is purely coincidental, but it does hint at the sea of possibilities awaiting for Fawad to explore.

He bowled us over with his incredible performance in Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai. The way the 35-year-old negotiated with complicated emotions and situations, he made us believe there was nothing wrong in being vulnerable and fallible. His amicable and charming disposition was icing on the cake for many Indians. “I have been following him since day one. I am a fan of Pakistani soaps because of their content and execution, but discovering Fawad was a bonus,” says Gauri Gharpure, communication professional.

“He has this particularly pleasing personality and looks super romantic,” she adds.

A quick glance into his personal life reveals what makes him a likable guy. Married to long-time sweetheart, Sadaf Khan, he is not a man of controversies. Instead, he is a man of commitment. This reputation of being Mr. Dependable earns him love and respect not only from his friends, family and friends, but from the ones who have interacted with him, briefly.

The beginning of Soumya’s admiration for Fawad began when she was doing a feature on diabetic actors. Since Fawad too is affected with type 1, she shot an email to him with a few questions for him to answer. She was surprised to get the reply within a day. This trait is unknown of in Bollywood where chasing is a mandatory exercise, irrespective of a star’s popularity. “It is so difficult to approach stars just to get a quote, but the way Fawad was prompt, it spoke a lot about where he came from,” she says.

This humility is one of the core characteristics of the man who is not the first Pakistani to make it big on big screen. His predecessor, singer-actor, Ali Zafar who featured in Tere Bin Laden, did climb popularity charts. But there is something about this guy with soft eyes, spiky eyelashes and a friendly smile that sets him apart from others.

“Unlike other Pakistani actors, his features don’t restrict him to a particular nationality. He has global looks and that works in his advantage,” says Jigar.

However, Bollywood has an infamous reputation of stereotyping and Fawad can possibly fall into this trap. He is just two films old and it is too early to comment on the choices he makes when it comes to accepting a project. Will Bollywood create roles keeping him in mind, or whether he will have to compromise to fit into the framework of Hindi cinema — this is something to watch out for.

But right now, he is the man of the moment whose hard work has given him much deserved success. While the road to glory may be miles ahead, a testament of his growing popularity was again witnessed during promotions of Kapoor & Sons when he visited a studio for a television show. The fans who failed to get a glimpse of the star were seen clicking selfies with his vanity van. Yes, you read it right: his VANITY VAN.

This euphoria around Fawad Khan may be temporary, but he has already left a deep insignia in our hearts and minds. He is in the right place at the right time.

Images courtesy Filmfare India

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