Pakistani Plays Starfleet Captain Star Trek Movie

Posted on June 8, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Pakistanis Abroad, People, TV, Movies & Theatre
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Adil Najam

I assume many readers have already seen the new Star Trek movie and seen Faran Tahir, an actor of Pakistani origin, who sets up the story in its first 15 minutes as a Starfleet Captain Robau, fearless leader of Starship Kelvin.

Too bad that the storyline requires for him to die early on, but it is a pivotal role and Trekie blogs are writing about how his portrayal as a courageous and heroic captain is important to Star Trek history. Have you seen the movie? What do you think about his performance?

Some may not know that both of Faran’s parents are veteran PTV artistes and played pivotal roles in some of the early PTV dramas. His father, Naeem Tahir, was later the Director General to the Pakistan National Council of the Arts and also acted in Khuda Key Liye (as the father of the two brothers around whom the story revolved). 46 year olf Faran was born in Los Angeles, where his parents were then studying, grew up in Lahore and studied at University of California at Berkeley. He has a long list of Hollywood roles to his name, but mostly small roles and often playing the villian. The most famous of these roles is clearly Captain Robau in Star Trek and the villainous Raza in Iron Man. Many Pakistanis woud also remember him for Charlie Wilson’s War where he plays a Pakistani Army officer.

I had a chance to briefly meet Faran last year when he spoke at a conference on Pakistan and Pakistanis organized by the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (OPEN) that I had a small role in organizing here at my University. He had spoken at a panel on Pakistanis who had taken on careers off the beaten path. He impressed many, including myself, with his good humor and practical remarks. You can see the same good humor and spark in this interview about his Star Trek role (also includes clips of him in the film).

The role of Captain Robau is making waves in Trekie circles because of the nature of the character portrayed by Faran. As one blogger notes:

One thing is clear, the captain played by Tahir will not be another in the long line of weak captains seen in so many Star Trek films. Captains like Terrell (Wrath of Khan), Harriman (Generations), Styles and Esteban (Search for Spock) have ranged from timid bureaucrats to downright buffoonish. It appears that past Trek film makers felt the need to have other captains be foils or patsies to make Kirk and Picard seem that much better. It has been reported that in his role as consultant for the post TMP films, Gene Roddenberry himself had expressed concerns over how other captains were being portrayed. This issue isn’t lost on Trek’s new set of film makers either…

The fact that Tahir is Pakistani also cannot be ignored. One only needs to look at much of his recent work (on 24, Sleeper Cell, Iron Man, etc) to see that Tahir gets a lot of work playing villains. Like the Germans and Russians of past generations, many of today’s popular culture villains are played by those of Middle-Eastern or South-west Asian descent. But just like Gene Roddenberry put a Russian onto the bridge of the Enterprise in the height of the cold-war, JJ Abrams has put a Pakistani into the captain’s chair in the post-9/11 world.

The Sci-Fi Wire also has an interesting interview with him, from which some excerpts are noteworthy:

“[It's] a great thing,” Tahir said in an exclusive interview. “I have had conversations with J.J. about this, … because I knew the other people who were being considered for this role, and they were not [cast]. So one day over dinner I was, ‘So what was it, why?’ You know, just to get a window into it. And I think he—and I have to commend him on this—what he was trying to do was find a certain quality in the actor and just to set up the story, you know? And to me, that is refreshing, and it’s great to hear. … The biggest compliment is that he was looking for a certain quality. He could have found that in me, he could have found that in [anyone else]. And it just happened to be me, and … the added … layer to that is that, yeah, I happen to be of a certain descent, and … the casting was [in] the spirit of what Star Trek is about.”

Robau is the captain of the Kelvin, the starship on which James T. Kirk’s father, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), is first officer and is serving with his wife, Winona Kirk (Jennifer Morrison), who is pregnant with James, as the ship comes under attack by the villainous Romulan Nero (Eric Bana).

“I am on the ship,” Tahir said. “That’s how the story goes. And then, of course I have to go deal with Nero. So that’s the premise of it. … It sets up this entire saga of [Star Trek]. People who understand Star Trek, it kind of takes us back to a time when … the story began.”

Also see ATP on: Ramchand Pakistani, Son of a Lion, Bhowani Junction, Charlie Wilson’s War, Aliens in America, Khuda ke Liye, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Man Push Cart.

13 Comments on “Pakistani Plays Starfleet Captain Star Trek Movie”

  1. ASAD says:
    June 8th, 2009 11:30 pm

    I thought he was very very good. After all those bad guy roles it was good to see a Muslim actor playing a positive role.

  2. ShahidnUSA says:
    June 9th, 2009 1:08 am

    I left the movie in the middle, not as a protest but I had to go somewhere else.
    They killed the guy (robau) in the begining, the only believable character in the movie, the rest of them sound rather silly to me (look who is talking). Too many kids and silly jokes. Obviously I am not a Trekie so I would not be a fair critic.
    Next please.

  3. Yasin says:
    June 9th, 2009 11:38 am

    I thought he was really good. Part was small but important and everyone who saw the movie remember it. So it was not a side role but an important one.

  4. June 9th, 2009 11:38 am

    Now this movie is at the top of my list to watch. Thanks for sharing it Adil.

  5. Gardezi says:
    June 9th, 2009 12:34 pm

    More on why the Captain Robau character is so well loved by Star Trek fans;

    Captain Richard Robau was a 23rd century Starfleet officer who served as the commanding officer of the USS Kelvin in 2233. His first officer was George Kirk, father of James T. Kirk. In an alternate reality, the Kelvin encountered a massive disturbance in space, a black hole described as a “lightning storm in space”. A Romulan mining ship from the future called the Narada emerged from the black hole and immediately opened fire on the Kelvin. After inflicting heavy damage on the Kelvin, the Narada’s captain, Nero, requested that Robau take a shuttlecraft to their ship. Robau handed command to Kirk, and ordered him to begin an evacuation of the crew, before departing in a shuttlecraft. Upon arrival on the Narada, Robau was brought before Nero and questioned by Nero’s first officer, Ayel, regarding the location of Ambassador Spock and his vessel, the Jellyfish. Having no knowledge of either, Ayel asked him what stardate it was. When Robau replied that it was stardate 2233.04, Nero realized that the Narada had jumped into the past and killed Robau with his teral’n. The termination of Robau’s lifesigns was registered aboard the Kelvin.

  6. Aliya says:
    June 9th, 2009 12:47 pm

    He is a good ambassador for Pakistan.

  7. Mike D. says:
    June 9th, 2009 12:49 pm

    Am a big Captain Robau fan. I hope they will make another movie around Robau. I think they are planning that. Did not know he was from Pakistan.

  8. Aamir Ali says:
    June 9th, 2009 12:51 pm

    His part was very very small but he acted well and was believable. However I did not like the movie, it seemed more “Die Hard in Outer Space” than Star Trek.

    Tahir’s role in “Iron Man” was much bigger and once again, his acting was good. If he can branch out of playing the “ethnic actor”, he could possibly be in many more films.

    The unintended mistake of Omar Sharif to always play ethnic role restricted him a lot and he repeatedly regretted that in later interviews.

  9. Sikander says:
    June 9th, 2009 1:19 pm

    Tahir is really a fine actor.. but the most surprising and pleasant thing for me is that at least a single Pakistani actor is playing roles in quality movies whether in Hollywood. The others like Shaan and rest of the actors in Lollywood should also choose good movies.. and for god sake get rid of the Gujjar culture. Our industry mostly depicts the terror in their movies in shape of Wahshi Gujjar, Dada Badmash, every movie revolves around the story of a terrorist gujjar or rajpoot..

  10. Saadia says:
    June 9th, 2009 3:39 pm

    Cool. Does not look 40+. I hope this will allow him to break out of villian roles.

  11. Osman says:
    June 9th, 2009 6:02 pm

    Good performance. Role may be small but he will be remembered for this more than for Iron Man.

  12. Tina says:
    June 10th, 2009 11:29 am

    They had a “Chief Engineer Singh” in ST–TNG, who was killed in the first episode, if I

  13. February 1st, 2010 2:33 pm

    He looks like Aamir Sohail, the former Pakistani opening batsman.

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