Usman Raaj, an artist of multidimensional talents, talks to Muttahir Ahmed Khan in a candid and friendly chat session. Born in Lahore, on 2nd February, 1988, Raaj, went to school in Lahore and, later on, completed his F.Sc. from Government Islamia College Civil Lines and B.Sc. Honours from Shalamar College of Medical Sciences. His natural tilt towards Fine Arts and Performing Arts and itching desire to demonstrate his God-gifted talent in acting, compering and singing led him to step into the world of entertainment and literature. His exclusive performance as Manto, Dara, Bullah and Kaami, at stage, made him famous, popular and loved not only in Pakistan, but in other countries also.
Muttahir: Are you from a family related to the realm of literature, entertainment and showbiz?
Raaj: Not at all, instead, I am from a religious and teachers’ family. There wasn’t any family member who had any even remote link to these fields. It was my natural inclination towards these delicate arts that drove me here. I have not been trained in singing, acting or compering, but, with the grace of the Almighty, I made my way to these arenas with direct auditions on the basis of my strong desire, dedication and conviction.
Muttahir: How did you start your journey of performing arts? Were you interested in acting right from your school days?
Raaj: I recited my first Naatt (Divine Poem) at the age of one year and 11 months and got 100 rupees as a prize. Later on, I stood first and was honoured with prizes and awards in Naat Competitions, Patriotic Songs, Declamation Contests and other such activities, many times during schooling. Keeping in view my success in these stage-oriented activities, I decided to participate in school’s plays and received applauses in this field too. Then, I won Naat and debate competitions at provincial and national levels and also at Radio Pakistan.
Muttahir: Did these activities exercise any negative impact on your studies?
Raaj: Alhamdulillah, I always performed well in my studies too and received distinctions in different classes.
Muttahir: Did you join stage and acting first or try your muscles as a host and Jockey at Radio?
Raaj: I joined Radio FM-95 in March 2011 as a radio Jockey and Host and, thus, my recognition started blooming. Later on, I joined FM-93 also, in December 2013. Even before all this, I participated, several times, in “Angan Angan Taray” and “Sajray Phool”, the famous programs of Pakistan Television, as a talented child during 1994.
Muttahir: When did you join Ajoka Theatre Group that led you to real fame?
Raaj: I became a member of Ajoka theatre in September 2012, and got leading role in the play “Daikh Tamasha Chalta Ban”. My performance was extraordinarily lauded and acknowledged by the senior thespians as well as the theatregoers. Since then, I have done so many plays for Ajoka with leading roles including “Bullah”, “King Aurangzeb”, “Manto” and “Kaami” in the highly appreciated plays like “Kon Hay Ye Gustakh” , “Lo Phir Basant Aai”, “Dara Shako”, “Bullah” etc. Besides, I did justice to my leading characters in many other plays
Muttahir: You have visited and performed in India also. How was that experience?
Raaj: It was really a great experience every time to perform in India. Our group is always loved by the audience there. Nearly all the leading Indian and Pakistani television channels telecasted live the plays I performed in, in connection to NSD Festival held in Delhi, India. I performed there as a singer also and received admiration, in this regard. Besides, many visits to India, I have performed in the USA also.
Muttahir: When and how did you enter the planet of TV and Films?
Raaj: I entered the TV world when I did my first play “Bhati Chowk” in 2012. In 2013 I got the leading role in the tele-film “Umeed”. I have also so many short films for different film festivals like “Ak Aur Talib”, “Shades of life”, “Epilepsy”. I performed in a play “Junjalpura-2”, in 2014. My first cinemascope film was “Aitbar” and I was the hero in this venture released in May 2014. My 2nd film is “Kharedar” (2015).
Muttahir: Have you worked as a model also?
Raaj: Yes, I have been working as model, actor, and broadcaster n singer in the fields of showbiz, theatre and entertainment. I have been a model for different magazines’ title pages.
Muttahir: Do you believe in destiny or your personal efforts and hard work to achieve your goals in life?
Raaj: I believe in destiny, but lays a great stress upon personal efforts and hard work in making careers and acquiring one’s goals in life. I think both your hard work and luck work side by side for your achievements and accomplishment in the journey of life. The Heaven helps those who help themselves. In Pakistan people have a great potential and talent for singing and performing arts, but they lack proper opportunities and supporting organizations. If a little focus is given to this field, you will find a huge difference.
Muttahir: What do you like to eat? Are you fastidious in taste?
Raaj: I enjoy eating everything she likes, but she is not fastidious in her choice for food. I like all Pakistani and Continental dishes. I think food is a great blessing of the Almighty and I don’t dislike any dish. I like to enjoy the items I am in mood to taste but I am not very choosy. Like every woman she desires to clad impressively and attractively. “I like light colours, especially the combination of various hues. I believe that your dress must be comfortable and in harmony with the season and weather”
Muttahir: What message do you wish to convey to your fans?
Raaj: I wish to discern a durable peace and love amongst the people of the world, beyond the socio-cultural and geo-political boundaries. My message for the people is love and peace for all.