The Crown’s Humayun Saeed on the role of Hasnat Khan and the controversy surrounding it

Humayun Said had gotten the offer of a big audition – play Hasnat Khan, the Pakistani surgeon who treated Princess Diana shortly before her death in the fifth season of The crown. But Saeed, who lives in Karachi, Pakistan, was stuck at home isolating with COVID and was so nervous doing the read-through via Zoom that he couldn’t help but light a cigarette. “I was in my basement and I guess the Wi-Fi signals weren’t great because we kept breaking up,” he says now, smiling. “When my manager found out I smoked during my audition, he was like, ‘Why on earth would you do that?'”

The truth, Saeed explains, is that he’s always been a bit of an introvert. Before assuming the throne of Pakistani cinema – the 51-year-old actor has starred in three of the country’s five highest-grossing films of all time – he was general manager of a clothing store in downtown Karachi. “I became an actor quite by accident,” he says. “Allah was kind to me – I don’t even know if I have any talent because I still feel like I’m learning.”

dr Khan, who first appears in episode seven, is an unlikely candidate to fill the void of intimacy in Diana’s life. In the episode, she meets him while escorting her friend to a London hospital following their breakup of still loose ends Prince Charles. There’s something soulful about his emotional reticence when they first meet, but he’s a serious man with a demanding job who has neither the time nor the ability for meaningful romance. So, on the show, it falls to Diana to initiate the seduction, which she accomplishes by trying out the role of a heart patient and begging the silent doctor to mend her broken heart.

Saeed credits his costar’s encouragement, Elizabeth Debicki, for helping him beat his nerves on set. “From the day we met I felt her warmth and sweetness. I told her that I was completely out of my comfort zone, that the atmosphere was so different than anything I had experienced, that I felt like I was [acting] for the first time,” he says. “She was the one who calmed my nerves by telling me how much she enjoyed our rehearsals. When someone goes out of their way to calm you down like that, it only adds to your on-screen chemistry.”

At the same time, Saeed believes his natural prudence and fear of working on a production of this scale helped him identify with the character, a surgeon who was reluctant to begin a relationship with the world’s most famous woman, and who rarely did has spoken to the press about them. “I was just telling someone recently that I find Hasnat so much like I am in real life. I also became famous by accident… and I think it helped me understand him,” says Saeed.

Khan’s fear comes to the fore in episode eight when he watches Diana’s infamous BBC interview on a TV in a hospital common room. Since the interview re-enactment had not yet been filmed, Saeed was asked to respond to footage of the original panorama broadcast, the Prince William has since said should never be aired again. “There were no lines in that scene and only about 10 seconds of screen time, but I felt it was important to convey that this is a really private man here, and he’s wondering if there will come a time when he can pursue his very private romance with this one.” Woman has will end up being hashed in a similar public way,” says Saeed. “It was difficult because while I wanted it to appear like he probably realized he wasn’t going to stand up to public scrutiny on this relationship, I didn’t want it to appear like he had decided to end it.” .”

The depiction of the intercultural relationship between a British woman and a Pakistani man is received quite differently in the respective countries. In the West, Saeed’s performance has reignited interest in the often-overlooked relationship between Hasnat and Diana; However, in Pakistan, coverage focuses on the kissing scenes, which are banned by Pakistan’s electronic media regulator and have almost never been seen in Pakistani cinema and television.

Humayun Saeed continues as Hasnat Khan The crown.

Courtesy of Netflix The Crown’s Humayun Saeed on the role of Hasnat Khan and the controversy surrounding it

Charles Jones

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