From producing films, fighting online trolls and moving towards a healthier lifestyle,Â this superstar reveals it all
The trailer for your upcoming movie â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ has audiences excited. Tell us about your role and how the plot is different from a typical rom-com.
â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ is not just a rom-com, but a feel-good movie with an important social message. Heer is a happy-go-lucky, high-spirited girl with big dreams, but from a conservative family â€” a character many will able to relate to. She wants to keep everyone happy, but once she undergoes a transformation, the real story begins.
You mentioned in one of your interviews that your relationship with your father inspired the father-daughter dynamics in â€œHeer Maan Ja.â€ Please elaborate.
That’s my absolute favourite part of the movie. Weâ€™ve shown a very healthy and positive father-daughter relationship â€“ one thatâ€™s similar to my own relationship with my father.
Iâ€™m also extremely grateful that the venerable Abid Ali agreed to play the role of my father. We previously worked together on â€œDiyar-e-Dilâ€ and it was great to work again.
â€œEid is a festive occasion and a big business window for Pakistani movies. It’s always good for the industry to have more than one release to the exhibitorsâ€
â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ is going to be released on Eid-ul-Azha, coinciding with the release of some other big budget movies. Does that make you feel any pressure?
Eid is a festive occasion and a big business window for Pakistani movies. It’s always good for the industry to have more than one release to the exhibitors. As a producer, I know we need more cinema screens in Pakistan for the industry to become sustainable, which weâ€™re not. Weâ€™re dependent on foreign content when Pakistani films are not releasing.
As far as the other movies are concerned, I believe they are catering to an audience much different than â€œHeer Maan Ja,â€ which is a comedy. They’re all projects from incredibly talented people and I wish them all the best.
The majority of your work has been with either Ali Rehman Khan or Osman Khalid Butt. Does being old friends or being raised in the same city have a part to play in that?
It’s a simple equation â€” the more you enjoy your work, the better a job you end up doing. Having a good team and people we are comfortable with, is probably our strength as a production house. To be honest, Ali & I have worked on various projects together and we have a whole bunch of fans, but Heer & Kabeer’s relationship in â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ is very different from what our fans and audiences have seen us play before.
How has your journey from â€œPawnay 14 Augustâ€ to â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ changed you as a person?
It’s been a wonderful roller coaster ride. I feel, I’ve grown exponentially as an individual, realised Iâ€™m a workaholic and love my job, both as an actor and as a producer and have accepted that my strength lies in my family and close friends.
So while Iâ€™m calmer, more focused and working non-stop, Iâ€™m essentially the same Hareem.
â€œActors are also humans and we have good and bad days â€” we have skin issues, weight issues and all other imperfections that any other human hasâ€
When answering why you ventured into production, you’ve spoken about the shelf life of an actress. Don’t you think a growing film industry demands female characters to be written differently?
Of course it does and there have been many projects in Pakistan that focus on women of all ages. However, that doesn’t mean that if the opportunity arises one shouldnâ€™t broaden their horizons.
In order to grow professionally, you need to explore your options and keep on learning. Producing wasÂ just a natural next step, even if I keep the age and gender factor aside.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a woman in the public eye?
The best thing is that you represent Pakistan and can be a role model for Pakistani women.
The worst is always being under scrutiny in a judgemental society. Actors are also humans and we have good and bad days â€” we have skin issues, weight issues and all other imperfections that any other human has.
You’ve spoken very candidly about your weight loss journey, advocating fitness over an unrealistic obsession with being skinny. What motivated you to change your lifestyle?
As we grow older, I guess it’s natural to want to be healthy â€” and that’s what triggered my decision to start this journey. At some point I actually started enjoying it all, the exercise, eating healthy and just feeling fit â€” it just became a way of life for me.
At the same time, because it wasnâ€™t an attempt at becoming skinny, the journey has left me feeling good about who I am, instead of being in a race to be a certain size or shape.
â€œIâ€™m blessed that my family is super supportive and loving. Both my sister and I have been brought up with the mentality that we can achieve whatever we set our minds onâ€
How do you unwind?
By listening to music and exercising.
Everyone knows you as a skilled actress and credible producer, but what are you like at home? Tell us about your family and childhood.
I come from a small family. I have aÂ younger sister whoâ€™s studying abroad and together we had a very normal childhood. Our parents always encouraged us to follow our dreams. Iâ€™m blessed that my family is super supportive and loving. Both my sister and I have been brought up with the mentality that we can achieve whatever we set our minds on.
Other than my family, I have a very small circle of friends that Iâ€™ve known since my school days. Theyâ€™re not from the industry and keep me grounded.
SHORT & SWEET
Ali Rehman Khan and Osman Khalid Butt
A role of yours you think you couldâ€™ve performed better?
There’s always room for improvement in everything you do
Your default response to trolls?
I generally don’t bother responding
Biggest pet peeve?
Do you have a hidden talent?
I can make you laugh on the worst of days
Wardrobe essentials you can’t live without?
If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Flame-grilled chicken and biryani (I guess those are two)
Tell us your most embarrassing moment.
Postponing the filming of a scene because of a gazillion retakes, thanks to my fits of laughter
Three things on your bucket list for 2019?
1-Make â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ a success
2-Start working on my next film
3-Go on a vacation with my close friends (without my phone)
What traits of yours do you credit your success to?
The will to give my all to anything I set out to achieve
Interview: Â Mehek Raza Rizvi
Photographer: Â Shahbaz Shazi
Makeup & hair: Shazia Rashid
Â Wardrobe Stylist: Â Faiz Rohani