Pleasetell us about your journey into acting and what inspired you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Unexpected! I was discovered in a casual meeting with Sultana Siddiqui. I was looking at the possibility of being a host or anchor and her keen eye saw an actor in me. A week later I got a call from HUMTV that I had been cast in a drama.
Now, I had been in the entertainment industry since I was a teen, with Radio and TV anchoring creating an appreciated recognition. I had never thought of acting as I had only grown my public speaking and effective communication skills through both media. So I tumbled into acting and realized that this is what I was born to do!
What types of acting roles do you find most challenging and enjoyable, and why?
The most challenging roles are where there are ‘not so committed to the project’ team members. You have to become a stanchion to stabilize the outcome. It saps a lot of energy out of you and that is challenging. And no, I can’t just turn a blind eye to unprofessionalism just to run the kitchen, that is not who I am.
It is so fulfilling to get the chance to act along side the magnificent true actors. The passionate maestros, young or seasoned, when they are my co-actors, you can literally feel the goosebumps in the interaction! This is lovingly called chemistry these days.
Can you share a memorable experience from a recent acting project that had a significant impact on you as an actress?
In my 9 years as a TV actor, the experiences that have made me smile, with a pat on my back have been
a). Acting opposite Nauman Ejaz in Dumpukht (I consider him my mentor, a guru and co-acting as his peer I would either raise my bar much higher to match his brilliance, or fail hopelessly)
b.) Acting opposite Yumna Zaidi as her mother (a sexually exploited woman), misunderstood and hated by her daughter, desperately trying to protect the young woman from being tormented the same way. The range of emotions I got to present and react to were phenomenal!
c.) Currently on air, Fairy Tale season 2 presented a satire of my character taking inspiration from over-the-top saas bahu soaps. Ensuring, that the fine line between inspiration and roasting was not crossed, respecting the culture being represented, and then trying to keep a straight face while emoting overly dramatic facial expressions and vocal modulation was so so hard but delightfully memorable! (Hamza, Sehar, Amna and I were in stiches, breathless and had tears of laughter cascading down our faces after each take!) Hats off to Ali Hassan for making it look so effortless in the drama.
How do you prepare for a new acting role?
I say goodbye to Saman Ansari and become that character. And if it is unlike something familiar to me, I research it, observe it and then implement it. This is also why I never do more that one project at a time, I don’t have an on off button, so once I delve into the character I am playing for a drama, I am only able to wean it off at camera close.
Acting often involves working with diverse teams. How do you collaborate and build chemistry with your co-stars and crew members?
A professional team knows that the success of a project depends on everyone doing their job passionately. And yes, in the real world there are often times where you need to adjust to some one or the other not doing the team justice. If it is an actor not focusing on their dialogues or respecting the etiquettes of being on set, the Director makes a call on that. If its some one from the production team, you can bring that to the notice of the head of production. My mannerism on set has always been immense respect for every team member from spot boy to a super star and complete dedication to my work. If that means I don’t partake in green room gossip or hanging out between scenes to conserve my performance energy, I am very comfortable with that.
Can you describe a particularly challenging scene or role you’ve had to portray and how you overcame the challenges it presented?
Sitara Mir in Khaani was a highly challenging role. I started from a coy, bureaucratic, arrogant, ruthless trophy wife of a Politician who was much older and the doting, liberal, mother of a thoroughly spoilt young man who looked more like a sibling than son to a grieving humbled widow and repenting, humiliated mother. It wasn’t just the 180 degree shift in look and emoted personality, it was ensuring that every moment of it became believable for the viewers, and that was the real challenge.
In the evolving landscape of the entertainment industry, how do you stay relevant and adapt to changing trends and technologies?
I read, I watch and I learn – every day. I implement selectively, so yes, I am active on social media as it has this unspoken bond with our drama industry casting and ratings, but I do not follow trends unless I can relate to them. Yesterday my drama was being viewed by Gen X and Z, today I have a new audience especially with Fairy Tale 2, its Gen Alpha! So yes, when I am out and about, it’s the preteens and younger who recognize me before their mothers or grandmothers do.
What do you believe are the most important qualities or skills that an actress should possess to excel in this profession?
To be able to adapt to the character by letting go of their own personality. Yes, you have beautiful bouncy layered hair, but if you are playing a young woman from a lower middle class economic income group, you will not do cleaning the veranda with a perfectly blow dried head of hair! Observe and implement. And, please focus on the clarity of your speech. Accents are not dialects. Please take speech classes, please learn how to modulate so you can whisper with clarity and throw your voice without screaming.
Diversity and representation are important in the entertainment world. How do you see your role in promoting diversity and inclusion in your work?
I am always open to any project, or character that is as far from Saman Ansari as possible. I am equally thrilled to work with new talent or veterans. In Badshah Begum I was a cold blooded 70-year-old lady of the throne in a rural land, in Sammi, I was a raw villager in her early 30s who had 5 living daughters out of 8 pregnancies all in the hope of a son to be born. That to me, is diversity, it includes lives, of people we may have never heard of, met or known, and yet we represent them thus for me, this is inclusion of diversity.
Finally, what are your future career aspirations and are there any upcoming projects?
I would love to do more theatre, that for me is the apex of fulfillment in acting as it is a live exchange of energy between the performer and the audience.
I am reviewing a couple of drama story lines right now and will choose one to pursue once my commitment with the current Fairy tale 2 is over.
Wouldn’t mind trying my acting talent in a film. It’s called the directors medium, I think that would be a larger than life opportunity to enhance my potential in acting, to perform and most importantly to learn from what dreams are made of!