Mani rose to fame at an early age and continues to excel. His talk shows, played a major role in forming the shape of many shows that we see on our channels these days. We had a chit chat with him about everything personal and professional- give it a read!
Please tell us about your background, family, education.
My education is till B com. Even before my graduation, I got famous. My first drama was ‘Sab Set Hai’. My family background is my father; Saqib Sheikh is in the television field since 1964 but he died 4 years back. He was one of the great actors of those times. From 1964-78 he did many dramas like Tabeer, Khuda ki basti, Coffee House and many more. But then he was banned to do more dramas for 11 or 12 years, in the tenure of Zia-ul-haq, he was with Bhutto. After Zia-Ul-Haq’s death he came back and did numerous roles, almost everyone in the industry acknowledges this fact. But a fact remains there that he didn’t receive that limelight which he had till 1978-79. He belongs to Lahore and studied at Government College. He was an artist at NCA.
How did you get into acting?
I was born in Karachi, I started from theatre, named ‘Katha’. I was inspired to do theatre by my sister; Ayesha. My sister did numerous plays on PTV, like Kohar, Nijaat, etc, she went very famous at that time but she stepped back and left. So basically I did television as it was in my blood, seeing my sister and father. Considering the fact that I was a sportsman, I used to play hockey but I chose acting as my career. I was district champion, I was my college’s captain. I was much involved in hockey and was a sports lover which I am still. But I came into this work and started writing for many projects of Music Channel Charts and PTV- I had a partner, Munji too. So then we met Asfar, Ahsan Raheem, Faisal Qureshi and Tipu, talking about Asfar Ali who became my partner in future, so then we made a drama ‘Sab Set Hai’ for Indus Vision. While I was new I gathered people and made this super hit project. As well I made a super hit roadshow, you can I say I was the private channel star who was recognized.
What are your three main considerations before choosing a play?
Normally in Pakistan you don’t consider this much and I also. I actually produce. For 15 to 16 years I produced my things myself, I wrote myself, I acted myself and hosted on my own. I consider myself on my own. Three things you should have, good content, your concept should be unique, it should be different. You can say that from all of the people in the past I am a different item of entertainment, I have my own style which I try to show in my work, in which I have been very successful, all my work has been famous and is liked by the audience. I make my work on my own; acting is offered less, like now a few projects have been offered as I am doing 5 films, but for television I create things myself.
So far, your best experience is working with whom?
My best experience of working was with Asfar. Our Asfar and Mani show was very famous from 2003-04 to 2008, then a radio show and a television show. It was fun with Asfar, I did a lot of work with him. As a pair I did the most work with him and it was a great experience. I did a lot of work with Faisal Qureshi, as of now I am doing a film with him called ‘Money Back Guarantee’, I did a show ‘Ulta Seedha’ for 4-5 years on Geo TV with Faisal, it was fun to work with him also but of course the most fun is with Hira, but if you talk about the most amazing experience on television, so it would be those two men which I mentioned above.
Which of your roles is most memorable to you? Reason?
My most memorable role was ‘Bobby’ in Sab Set Hai in 2001 which was very famous. This drama was a unique one and super hit. Bobby’s role was my favourite as it became my identity, I did numerous roles after Bobby, but it became my identity.
Tell us about your hosting experience. You plan to continue hosting?
I started hosting with a different style, there were no road shows in 2001-02. So it was my first private channel show and I was the one who started the concept of road shows. At that time Anoushey, Dino and Faizan were very famous so I thought how will I look? So I started a show with the name ‘Mani Says’- it was a show different from others, they all did links but I went for sarcasm. I started sarcasm. ‘Maani says’ which was a huge success. It was a huge hit and after that I did a lot of shows. So then I came on a mature channel, Hum TV, I did a show ‘Casual’ on Hum TV. I did around 100-150 episodes of ‘Casual’, in which all of the famous Pakistani celebrities came, it was a really entertaining show. Then I did a radio show, it was also super hit; like in Karachi it was a super duper hit show. The people who remember that era are much familiar with these super hit projects. Then I did a lot of different kinds of shows, I did kids show even. When you are doing such shows, brands are after you and you get corporate events. So like all the big brands whether it’s a soap brand or PIA, I did all commercials, since I was ‘awami’, I was a public figure and also a member of the public. I made a public figure attire, because of this quality I did commercials whether for a tea advertisement or a mobile phone advertisement, with all of them I did a lot of work. So far I have done uncountable commercials, I myself don’t remember and I am sure you guys also don’t remember because now the memory erases so fast.
Acting or hosting- what do you enjoy more and why?
I will continue hosting as it is disappearing day by day, like all the quality morning shows have ended, there’s one or two shows like Fahad Mustafa’s show, lets see how long it goes. Nowadays many people tried to do the ‘mcqs’ type shows, which would only last for 25 or 26 episodes, like it’s a huge difference now, at those times I would run a show for at least 3 years-probably the content and quality was good so it stayed longer. My total shows would be almost 50, but they would run for 2 to 3 years, so that’s why I got famous with my work because my projects were maybe good or it was the requirement of that era. Nowadays I am not doing because the thing I have already done so many times is now being done. I can’t really think of getting a new idea so that’s why I am acting in films these days. For the time being I am doing acting but soon you guys will be seeing me and Hira on a YouTube channel, in which you will see numerous things; all my records, travel vlogs will be presenting in a different angle.
You have become extremely popular in a short span of time. How has it affected your life?
In the start of my career, I used to write and would come up with new material, which people couldn’t understand that motivated me much. My father used to say; ‘If you dig mud with the ambition that you will find gold in mud, and if you dig for 10 years, you will definitely get its reward.’ So that’s what happened that now I am receiving the reward,I have even received the reward very early though, like I got famous when I was very young-almost 18,19 years of age. It’s been almost 20 years that I am in this industry. I never fear from failure, I know I can create material myself- I do it till now, I am proud of my confidence that I can create , I am independent and I have my own material, production house, I have my own ideas, it is not like the drama actors who are dependent on the roles. It has not affected me because my father was into it and it was normal in our house-so nothing has changed. I will just say that we as celebs have to be extremely careful in our words and deeds. We have to be cautious.
A funny rumour you heard about yourself?
The rumor I heard about me was that, at a time I was very active in politics, supported PTI but now I learnt that I was wrong. Since I was supporting PTI back then, it was rumored that I was beaten up by MQM, which is really untrue and I am really amazed at this rumor.
There are 4 upcoming projects of mine, ‘Money Back Guarantee’ the one Faisal Qureshi is directing, then there is ‘Ishrat’ film directed by Mohib, then ‘lafangay’ directed by Khaliq khan, in these films I have major roles, you will see some major changes in my character. I wasn’t in this industry forl 3 years because I was very active in politics. I was active in production much but now you will see my production projects in 2020.
A fun fact about you that people are not aware of?
There is no fun fact but I am very much a sports freak, I can miss a funeral, wedding but never a football or cricket or tennis tournament. Once I was invited to an award show, which I missed because of a cricket tournament, this is one of my biggest fun facts, which only my relatives and friends know, fans may not know.
In a biographical film of your life, who would you like to play you? Why?
If there would be a film made on me so Hira would be playing the role on that film obviously, because she knows everything about me and can easily become Mani. However, my elder son Muzammil copies me very well too. He exactly knows my love, my habits and everything, so I think he can play it too.
What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out as an actor?
The attitude of ‘professionalism’ in artists, that’s what I want in myself, if I would have come now so I would want
that attitude which I am missing in me. We didn’t have any PR, manager, social media team- we were very raw but now Hira does have everything because it’s the demand these days. All the actors of that era have no such things which is something we lack.
What are some of the greatest fears you think actors face? Any suggestions to get rid of them?
The fear for an actor is the fear of failure, the fear of being replaced, these are the fears which are everywhere around the world. However, in Pakistan teh actors have an additional fear of not receiving the payments in time.