How did you start acting? Tell us about your journey.
My journey is a story of good fortune, driven perhaps by destiny. I always had regard for acting and the creative industries, and was modeling part-time while studying in the UK. One day, a production house called me up from India for a Bollywood film. I auditioned, got the role and signed on the dotted line. It released all across India but did not have the impact the producers or I had hoped for. A few months later, I landed my first role in a Pakistani drama, Shabe e Arzoo ka Alam, which also met with mixed reviews. My career in Pakistan was certainly taking time to get going, but then I was offered an opportunity by Hum Films to be a part of their first film, Bin Roye. The only issue there was it wouldnâ€™t release for another two years. I remember thinking perhaps I would be better off concentrating on projects in Europe, where I was achieving momentum, at least with two successive selections at Cannes film festival. However, I had shot a HUM TV drama Mohabbat Ab Nahi Hogi which aired and proved to be a success. I followed this with Ishq Parast, Karb and Bin Roye in quick succession. I waited for a hit project and then three came along at once!
How did your family and friends respond to the news of you entering the industry?
I would like to tell you a story of parental refusal and familial objections filled with tears and struggles, but unfortunately, my career choice was met with a much more prosaic response from my family. We sat down, discussed the pro and cons, mitigated the risks, and finally the decision was approved. This has been followed by unwavering support.
Tell us about your transition from the small screen to movies? How are the two different and how are they similar?
The two mediums are very different. As an actor, I weigh each project and take each based on its own merits. However, I do prefer film. You see, cinema is grand and powerful! It can make you laugh, cry and dream. On that big screen, there is nowhere to hide. It really does separate the â€˜men from the boys.â€™ The sets are huge, the attention to detail is immaculate, and you get one chance to deliver and nail a performance that can immortalize you.
I have to connect with every character to bring them alive. Good acting should not be seen, but felt. The only character that comes close to me in real life is Saman from Bin Roye, because I am a straight forward and generous person like her. I hate underhandedness, gossip and duplicity. My favourite character was also my most difficult to play, that was of Fiza in Mohabbat Ab Nahi Hogi. Characters like that can only be played when you truly understand a culture having grown up in it, but were nuances and intricacies that were alien to me. I hope the audiences were convinced by my portrayal.
What role would you love to play that you havenâ€™t yet played?
I would liked to have played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, because I am an outdoorsy person who loves mountain climbing and travelling! Or Cleopatra – because I love women who are empowered and proactive. I am now looking for something different and challenging, and am continuing my work abroad, from where I started originally. I have been exploring projects with producers in the UK and US in order to find a role that can move my craft along.
What is the scariest part of the audition process?
Truth be told, it is an unnerving process. There are many actors competing for that one role, so one has to get extremely creative. You are never sure of exactly what the casting directors are looking for. The scariest part is the cold readings! Those are truly awful. However, with experience I am getting better at it to the point that I enjoy it now.
Do you have a manager?
Yes. I have a whole management team as well as agents representing me internationally. It is incredibly important to have a good team behind you especially in this day and age, where there are so many issues to address. I have people advising me on everything from my nutrition and fitness to contractual arrangements and logistics. Gone are the days of just making it up as you go along. We are professionals, so one can either do this properly or go home and let someone else who is serious take over.
How has Lollywood evolved in your opinion from your first days as an actress to now?
I started full time in Pakistan the same year as this â€˜littleâ€™ film by the name of Waar was being released. Little did I know what a catalyst it would be for our industry. As an interesting exercise, if you Google â€˜Pakistani films 2009â€™, you can see perhaps the same three actors appearing in almost all the big films that year. Now, repeat the same search for 2015 and you can see the huge change in personnel. We are witnessing the change in cinema history first hand. These are fascinating times, indeed!
How would you compare the two experiences of Lollywood and Bollywood?
Having experienced both, I can tell you that Bollywood is a completely different beast. The skills, experience and scale of Bollywood enables you to do things that very few film industries around the world can imagine. You cannot compare this behemoth to the Pakistani industry, which is only just emerging from a state of adolescence. Having said that, the potential and talent in Pakistan that can be tapped is second to none. My only plea to the people behind the Pakistani media is letâ€™s professionalise ourselves to International standards as quickly as possible. We can start by really looking after, both financially and emotionally, the talented technicians and support staff who make these projects possible. We need to look at the bigger picture. Our media industry can be a shining example to the rest of Pakistan on how to deliver world class, commercially viable products. We have the right amount of educated and skilled people to do this, and our future generations will thank us.
Funy fan stories?
I am lucky to have some of the best fans around, ranging out to as far as South America and Africa. They are a smart bunch with a crazy sense of humour. Recently, a young fan sent me a video asking me to take her to watch Bin Roye. How can I refuse something like that? So I will be taking her!
Whatâ€™s next for you?
In one word: â€˜Janaanâ€™. But first, my team and I will review 2015 thus far and look at the lessons learnt from my other projects. Believe me, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt judging from the opprobrium by some of the online reviewers. Then I press the reset button, where I hit the gym, refocus mentally and cleanse my diet so I can reshape myself for Janaan. G
Fav. vacation spot: Rome, Paris, Iceland and the Greek Islands.
Perfume you wear: Flowerbomb by Viktor and Rolph.
What makes you impatient: Liars and cheats.
Addicted to: Coffee and the great outdoors. If you could change one thing about yourself, it would be: I wish I could be a better cook.
Brain or brawn: Brawn! No, Iâ€™m just kidding haha! But actually, both are important.
Love or money: Neither. I prefer cupcakes better because it attracts less trouble than the other two.
Fav. fashion designer: Ellie Saab, Viktor and Rolph and Zuhair Murad.
Oldest item in your closet: My grandmotherâ€™s sari.
Necessary extravagance: I own over 50 pairs of shoes!
Fav. piece of furniture in your home: I am a minimalist (except for the shoes of course) but I love my wonky â€˜Picassoâ€™ shelves.
In your DVD player: Amelieâ€™
Most typically Pakistani thing about you: No matter where I go in the world, no fruit can taste as good as fruit that has touched Pakistani soil. Pakistaniâ€™s abroad will understand exactly what I mean.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably: Cat videos on Youtube and toddlers eating lemons for the first time. Hilarious!
When are you happiest: When I am with my family.