They say that most writers are frustrated actors.

I find that funny because I never wanted to pursue acting, not that it was ever a choice. Acting was considered a licentious profession in Pakistani culture and that was actually something I agreed with growing up.

Besides, I never had the confidence in my looks to think I could make a go of it.

But something about drama on stage does appeal to me, and luckily I’ve got the storytelling to fill that need.

Anyway, getting back to Philip Semour Hoffman…every once in a while you do come across someone who is extraordinary at what he does.

I first noticed this actor in a low budget movie hardly anyone seems to know about called Owning Mahoney. It’s a Canadian film from the seventies I think, and it has that gritty fuzzy sepia look of a lot of the movies from back then. It was filmed in Toronto and is about this Mahoney guy who committed the biggest bank fraud in Canadian history because he was an addicted gambler.

It’s a fascinating little movie if you can get past the technical flaws. Hoffman puts in a performance that is remarkable because he actually makes this really weird guy sort of understandable.

Now that’s hard!

Because people are a lot weirder than fictional characters and it’s really hard to take a true story and show the motivation of someone who committed a crime that seems inconceivable according to his character and lifestyle.

I finished watching Owning Mahoney and made a note to myself to watch out for this actor.

Then when I saw him in Doubt…all I can say is wow!

Everytime that the movie Doubt comes on, I’ll sit down and watch it.

Mind you, Hoffman was playing against Meryl Streep, and they’re both in very fine form! By the way Meryl’s another actor who is fabulous, but then everyone knows that!

And he played an obnoxious reporter in Red Dragon, that really brutal prequel to Silence of the Lambs with Ralph Fiennes. It’s really good! And Hoffman is really obnoxious. A completely different character again!

And yet watching him in Red Dragon, where he’s pictured in his underwear superglued to a chair before he’s tortured by the Ralph Fiennes character, makes him look quite vulnerable because he’s quite pudgy.

And seeing that made me wonder if that would affect his confidence like it affects my own at times.

I told a relative recently that I have absolutely no business having any confidence whatsoever…and yet I do. When I get up on stage I don’t even think of how much weight I have to lose.

I get caught up in the story I’m telling.

Weight just doesn’t matter.

People seem to like me despite of it.

I wish I was immune to the way we’ve been socialized to value the thin, but, hey, I’m not. And I bet Hoffman wasn’t either.

Apparently it was no secret that he suffered from drug addiction.

And I thought, I think I know why.

Maybe the drugs take you away from your insecurities for a while. Maybe they offer a release. And once again, I thank God that they are forbidden in Islam, because if they weren’t… shudder.

And then I wondered but didn’t he come in contact with people who constantly told him how much his films meant to them?

I have.

And then I started to wonder if Hoffman listened to their kind words and then dismissed them after a while because his inner demons were calling.

And then I thought of how easily kind words and compliments just wash right over me and it’s always the stings and barbs that linger.

I think we need to focus instead on the love.

Remind ourselves constantly of it.

Even while we strive to overcome our deficiencies.

I’ll stay on my diet, and I’ll keep going to the gym, to bring the weight down, but I’ll also remind myself that my work has touched a lot of people and I am blessed.

So give it a break.

Alhamdu lillah.