A juggling act
Ahamed Ali Khan has been blessed to fulfil his childhood dream of becoming an actor as well as a writer. But at times, he feels torn.
BY: Anushkaa Pangam
From the minute he pretended a ruler was a rifle for a role in Primary Five, Ahamed Ali Khan knew he wanted to become an actor. During his school days, writing was also something he fell in love with and writing essays was something he looked forward to (unlike many others).
In 1990, Ali became a professional actor when he got a role in a play entitled “The Memorandum”, which was written by former Czechoslovakian president Václav Havel. He has now been acting for 24 years, both on stage and TV. And, he has stayed just as active on the writing front too. In May 2013, he published his second book called “The Old Fifty Cent Coin” and this year, his third, “Subtle Obsession” was released.
Ageless Online chats with 55-year-old Ali about how he is juggling his two big dreams:
What inspired you to start writing?
Writing was something I really loved to do when I was in primary school. When it came to writing essays, especially narrative ones, I would ‘get into it’ immediately.
What actually inspired me was the fact that if I were to be a writer, I would end other stories or movies differently. Even now, every time I see something interesting, something strange or whatever that catches my attention, I would be inspired to write a story around that particular event.
What messages are you trying to convey in your books?
My first book – “Sadness Behind Beauty and The Bottle The Beggar, The Drunk The Beggar”– has two stories that are both centred around love in its subtle form, as well as greed and money. The first story is about love that catches the reader by surprise. It is about the more subtle and unexpected love. The second story is a bit bloody – not too bloody – but it also talks more about greed and money.
My second book – “The Old Fifty Cent Coin” – is also about love, a “strong chain of desire” which was strong until it broke. It’s yet another subtle love story.
The main message that comes across my books is that love can be seen either with subtlety or with a sense of inner guilt. It also suggests that greed is something we should definitely avoid.
Has writing a book changed your view on some aspects of life or has it taught you lessons you wouldn’t have known otherwise?
My books have taught me a lot of lessons that I definitely would not have known otherwise, such as:
- I’ve realised that ideas can come at any time of the day, but it requires a lot of patience to start, write and complete the piece and later read through the finished piece before sending it for final print and publication.
- In today’s world, earning a living is completely necessary. But I feel as if my dream of becoming a writer is more important than that because when I first dreamt about it, money was never involved.
- I’ve learnt to do what I want to do and not to think about the success or the popularity of the book, or whether it will sell or not. I’ve realised this – do it to prove it to yourself before you can prove it to the others.
Tell us a bit about your new book, “Subtle Obsession”.
My third book, “Subtle Obsession”, was published in May this year. The second story from this book is actually the first story in my first book, “Sadness Behind Beauty and The Bottle The Beggar, The Drunk The Beggar”. I published the same story with another one because it is my favourite story and I wanted a larger, wider audience to read it.
Is your book self-published? How much did you spend?
My first book, “Sadness Behind Beauty and The Bottle The Beggar, The Drunk The Beggar”, was self-published, and I spent around S$4,000 publishing it. My second and third book, “The Old Fifty Cent Coin” and “Subtle Obsession”, which cost the same as the first, are both published by overseas publishers.
What will be your next book?
It will be about betrayal and it will be published next year.
Let’s change gears and talk about your other love – acting. What made you get into it?
What got me into acting was the passion to act, together with the desire to act out the characters I created, the way I want them to appear in people’s minds. I felt that I could “be” a certain character better as an actor since I knew the emotions and the mood of that character.
What has acting taught you?
Acting has taught me that there is an actor in every human being, and there is a human being in every actor. I’ve also realised that there are many “actors” within me and I’ve realised that if they want to “unleash their power”, I should give them the stage or screen. Most of the characters that I play can stay with me for hours, sometimes even days, and that’s completely fine. It does not worry me anymore.
Of all your roles, what was your most memorable one and why?
I have many memorable moments because everything I have done was with a 100-percent effort. One role, which will always be stuck in my mind, is the TV commercial I did for the Health Promotion Board (HPB). The lingo and friendship in the video touched the hearts of so many people that I’m fondly referred to as “Raj” on HPB’s website! The video is still on YouTube! (EDITOR’S NOTE: Ali is a member of Ageless Theatre where he acts with other seniors on stage. He is also on Tamil.Com on Vasantham Tamil channel every Mondays to Thursdays at 10.30pm. It is a comedy TV series that unfolds primarily in an education centre that focuses on teaching Tamil as a spoken language.)
How do you juggle your two loves?
It is definitely a challenge! I would be lying if I said I had no problem in managing both. Time is the greatest factor where acting and writing are both concerned. I always feel as if I’m fighting against time.
When I discard the cloak of an actor and take on the role of a writer, I need to have a serene setting to let my “soul” wander away and bring in new ideas for the characters. This can be quite tricky at times.
I stay awake all night, till four in the morning if I have to, in order to finish or continue my stories. So it’s very tiring and I get very little sleep.
You have achieved your dreams. What three tips would you share to today’s youth?
1. All of us have dreams – don’t give up. No matter how small or how great, just go for it.
2. Challenge yourself – if you challenge yourself and lose, your inner strength will increase. If you challenge others and lose – two things will happen – you will seek revenge or you would feel sore for the rest of your life. Just discard all the negative thoughts within.
3. Listen to your inner self – some call it “your inner God”. There is something within which propels you to do all the good things you should do. Listen to that inner God and fight the evil within. Listen to the good guy within you and fight the evil guy within you.
Any other dreams that you have yet to achieve?
I want to explore the world one day. I also want to be a filmmaker, should the resources be available to me.
You shared some advice for the youths, how about three pieces of advice to seniors?
- If there is something you have always wanted to do, but couldn’t due to work and other commitments, do it NOW when you have all the time in the world.
- When you set out to do what you’ve always wanted to do, don’t backtrack. You must have had a strong desire to do it, so go through with it and complete it. Leave no room for regrets.
- Be positive. Be amongst people and friends that give you very strong, positive energy. To receive positivity, you must give out positive energy – through laughter, the way you carry yourself, being cheerful, etc. Only by giving, will you receive. Money cannot buy positive energy.
*** Ali’s books are available hard copy, paperback edition or e-book, and can be purchased on Amazon. The second and third books are also available on Barnes & Noble through online orders.
(** PHOTO CREDITS: Some of the photos were provided by Ageless Theatre)