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).
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 isnâ€™t lost on Trekâ€™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 todayâ€™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 captainâ€™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 heâ€”and I have to commend him on thisâ€”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."