“I see Tara as the actual victim, failed by those around her”

Popular actress Armeena Khan, after a brief hiatus, has returned to television screens with her new drama serial “Mohabbatain Chahatain,” essaying the villainous role of Tara, opposite Hira Mani and Junaid Khan. Armeena speaks to Haider Rifaat about her character and what motivated her to return on set

Why did you choose “Mohabbatain Chahatain” to be your return to television? Was the script conducive to this decision? 

I took some time off for many reasons. I’ve been working consistently for a number of years and an actor only has so many roles and projects within them. I was burning out. This was compounded by the torpid scripts on offer that are now the mainstay of the Pakistani drama industry. Once you’ve played one daughter-in-law victim, you’ve pretty much played them all.

Finally, the work-life balance of an actor is incredibly difficult to maintain and you must understand that I don’t come from a showbiz family, so I struggle with all the peripheral aspects that come with being in the limelight. It’s important for me to take time out.

But just as the need to step away is strong, the desire to be back on-screen is strong as well. I do love being in front of the camera and living the many characters without any inhibitions. I was looking for something new and “Mohabbatain Chahatain” felt like it had enough ‘bite,’ because I’m playing a villain; so I took the chance and plunged. Let’s see what the audience makes of it now.

Give our readers some insight into Tara’s character. 

I’ve come across many troubled individuals in my life. In fact, I volunteered around such people in my late teens. To understand my character better, I concocted a whole backstory around her. I don’t think people are born evil (the whole nature versus nurture debate). I subscribe to the school of thought that people are conditioned according to their environment and are shaped by their circumstances.

I don’t see Tara as an aggressor, although she’s the cause of the conflict in the story. I see her as the actual victim, failed by those around her. No one was ever there to defend her or take her side. I really sympathised with her on some aspects and felt that anyone with mental health issues would ‘react abnormally’ in a similar situation.

She’s a representation of all those stigmatised, ridiculed and practically abandoned by society and their families. In Pakistan, mental health is not given the care and attention that is required, and the character I play is paying for this negligence. You’ll see what I mean, if my scenes survive the editing table, that there’s a bit of Tara in all of us.

By the looks of the premiere episode, you seem to be quite a troublemaker in the series. How true is our assessment?

This woman is not a conventional troublemaker as appears at first sight. In episode one, the stage is set. She’s clearly the villain, but she’s neglected in her marriage. To make things worse, her husband is undermining her behind her back to his friends. He then divorces her in front of their close friends. That is enough to drive anyone into the worst place mentally. To an intelligent viewer, the cause and effect are clear, but I still maintain it’s because the system fails her and people who’re like her.

Why should our readers watch this drama serial?

We’re going through perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime global health crisis and I know it’s affecting people’s mental health, so if you’re an intelligent viewer and want to explore how mental health affects people and those around them, then this will interest you. Also, if you’re bored of seeing poor victims of circumstance or mono-dimensional cartoon villains, then this is for you. It’s a different story from what’s out there currently and I hope I manage to elicit some compassion from the audience for my character.

 You mentioned how you were consumed by work completely. How did it feel like to be on set 24/7? 

It’s a pressure cooker and is symptomatic of a wider problem in Pakistan and the way business is conducted in this part of the world. When you’re sleep deprived, over-worked and tired, performances become compromised. Outcomes are left to chance, people fail to take responsibility and there’s a void in which work happens. I could go on, but I’ll save this discussion for another day. Whether your experience will be pleasant or not is highly dependent on the team around you.

You recently wrapped another project in Turkey. Tell us some more.

I recently co-produced a project called “Snapshot.” We collaborated with Turkish actors and crew. I hope to reveal details concerning this when the product is near completion, but Sharaz Ali (my co-producer and director) is very excited, as this is from the same team that previously took us to the Cannes Film Festival.

Do you regret any of your past projects? 

No—I don’t have any regrets. I was meant to do those projects and leave those not in my destiny. I’m exactly where I am decreed to be. I believe in abundance and we all get what is our due in life.

You’ve been travelling back and forth during a pandemic. How is it like out there?

Initially, when COVID-19 was new, we saw countries looking at each other and imitating best practice protocols so they could project a semblance of control. But now I can see that lockdown fatigue has set in around the world and different countries are reverting to habit.

In the U.K. and Western Europe, they have adopted a very risk-averse approach, because they do not want huge numbers of their aged population to die. In Pakistan, the indiscipline has set in and people are not taking the pandemic seriously, because well, I suppose the loss of life isn’t as serious as it seems.

What I’m sensing, however, is that what’s to come in 2021 and after, especially in terms of the economy and people’s mental health, is that a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and there’ll be a huge debt piling up from relief programs around the globe. All of this would have to be paid back, so there’re some more shocks to come.

What new perspective have you gained in life since COVID-19 began? 

Everything is temporary and none of us are coming out of this life alive, so why take things so seriously? Let it all go.


What do you want our readers to know about you? 

I’m intuitive and will latch on to most things.

Your go-to fall look? 

If it’s fuzzy and comfortable, that’s my look.

Colour of the season, according to you? 

All earthy colours.

A personality trait you wish to work on? 

I’m a perfectionist and unfortunately in my industry, you have to compromise otherwise you’re disappointed.

What do you have that your contemporaries don’t? 

My sensibilities that derive from a mixture of the West and Pakistan. I can add a layer to my acting, which wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Where does your heart lie? Pakistan or the U.K.?

My heart’s with my family. It’ll go where they’ll go, be it Timbuktu.


Good Times


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