Versatile actress Sarwat Gilani has become a household name through her powerfulÂ performances and advocacy for special needs children.Mehek Raza Rizvi sitsÂ down for a candid chat to know more about her work and life at home
Your movie, JPNA 2, was the first Pakistani blockbuster to cross the Rs 70 crore milestone. How does it feel to be part of the industry at a time that may be written down in history as its most transformative phase?Â
Yes. Commercial cinema is the need of the hour, most certainly the safer bet, while independent cinema is slowly but surely catching up. In order to elevate our craft the pioneers of the industry must collectively open an institution to educate newcomers about film. Itâ€™s important to invest in and groom our talent, so they carry the torch forward. Weâ€™re witnessing the re-birth of Pakistani cinema and Iâ€™m extremely lucky to be part of this transformation.
With the conversation on gender equality and feminism on the rise, how important is it for female actors to choose their roles carefully and avoid playing the damsel in distress?
Most of our drama serials are about weak women who eventually turn into strong ones. So one could say thereâ€™s a kind of feminism involved, but obviously a little twisted since itâ€™s drama. However, I believe as actors we shouldnâ€™t judge the characters given to us.
Weâ€™re witnessing the re-birth of Pakistani cinema and Iâ€™m extremelyÂ lucky to be part of this transformation
As a woman, have you experienced any inherent prejudices in your line of work?
Every profession has its prejudices, but since the entertainment industry is at the forefront itâ€™s very easy for people to create preconceived notions about those who are part of it. It used to bother me initially but eventually I realised it was only a reflection of a limited mindset. I remember a girl walking up to me while I was performing Umrah to ask why I was there and who looked after my children when I was at work. Itâ€™s very sad when women pull other women down because of their own insecurities.
Out of all the memorable performances to your credit, which one character portrayed by you remains the closest to your heart? Why?Â
Linta from â€œKhasaraâ€ because it portrayed a strong woman who stood against the odds. She faced difficulties with grace and strength, which is an admirable quality. I enjoyed embodying her character as there were various dimensions to it.
We hear you may be producing a film soon. Is that true?Â
Yes, itâ€™s a secret right now, but when Iâ€™m ready Iâ€™ll talk about it.
You were recently awarded for your tireless efforts to promote Special Olympics Pakistan. Tell us about your work for the organisation and why itâ€™s close to your heart.Â
Being part of the SOP family has been an honour. I’ve witnessed these beautiful individuals transform from children with special needs into power house athletes, owning and embracing their differences. The rewards weren’t just restricted to medals, but also translated into every aspect of their lives, enabling them to realise their own potential. Belonging to the media, I had the advantage of reaching out to the entire nation for this noble cause.
Whatâ€™s the secret to a happy relationship with your partner, especially when both of you have demanding careers?
More than anything else you need to accept that your partnerâ€™s an individual first and then your spouse. To be in a healthy and happy relationship itâ€™s essential to appreciate and encourage each other. What I love most about Fahad is that he listens to my wildest ideas and gives me genuine advice. On the other hand, if something is troubling him I sit down and try to resolve it for him. This makes us realise that weâ€™re both involved and interested in each otherâ€™s lives. Also, I feel itâ€™s crucial to keep reinventing yourself in order to keep the fire burning, especially when you both are working individuals and barely get time to spend with each other. My mantra is: be a friend before a lover, a lover before a companion and a companion before a spouse.
As a working mother yourself, what would your advice be to women struggling to strike the work-life balance?Â
Mothers are superheroes â€” theyâ€™re multitasking all the time. I manage my kids and work by being super organised with everything. For example, I have a set weekly menu for them so no time is wasted on thinking what to cook every day or what groceries to buy.
Iâ€™ve witnessed these beautiful individuals transform from children with special needs into power house athletes, owning and embracing their differences
Itâ€™s important to keep certain days of the week free for family and have one activity that you do with them everyday. It could be a quick game or reading to them, either while dropping them to school or putting them to bed. These are the things they will remember most when they grow up.
In the world of social media, the ruthlessness of trolls is something all public figures are subjected to. How do you respond to them?Â
Everyday I get numerous comments and sometimes they can be very hurtful. Since thereâ€™s no limit to what anyone can write on social media, itâ€™s up to us how seriously we take it.
At the end of the day I realise they come from people who see me as public property, so I remind myself to not give them undue attention. Whether itâ€™s me jumping from the sky, smoking, wearing unconventional clothes or climbing K2, the trolls will always have a comment that comes from an unexposed mentality.
My mantra is: be a friend before a lover, a lover before a companion and a companion before a spouse
What is Sarwat Gilani like at home?
I like everything clean and in order. Iâ€™m often found organising mine and the kidsâ€™ wardrobes, the pantry or the kitchen. I love gardening, so I manage my plants with the gardener as well. He thinks I treat my plants as my own children and thatâ€™s actually kind of true.
Iâ€™m very chilled out with close family and friends and enjoy entertaining at home.
SHORT & SWEET
Theater, film or TV?Â
Film and now web-series
Three changes motherhood brought in you?
Empathy for special needs children
Your guilty pleasure?
Watching â€˜Sex and the Cityâ€™ every chance I get
One thing you would want to change about the entertainment industry in Pakistan?
Alternate career choice?Â
Favourite â€˜90s jam?
â€œBittersweet Symphonyâ€ by The Verve
What was the last photo you took?
Of my sons playing in the sand
Your personal style in three words?
Last impulsive buy?
Shoes for the kids in Poland
Most prized possession?
My fatherâ€™s antique watches
What was the last lie you told?
â€œThe dessert was greatâ€
Do you have a nickname?
A decision you regret?
Not a single one
Favourite movie quote?
â€œLife moves pretty fast, if you donâ€™t look around once in a while youâ€™re going to miss it.â€ From â€œFerris Buellerâ€™s Day Offâ€
Photography, hair & makeup:
Soraya B, Nitya Bajaj & Vesimi
Styling & Coordination:
Ella Hussain â€” Emergency Room 19