GT Cover Story


Cresset is not your typical agency; they are strategic partners of fashion brands, who are wholly data-driven and results-focused. Cresset is passionately committed to comprehending the essence of fashion brands, whether it’s a budding newcomer or an established presence in the business world.

With so many feathers in your cap, let’s start with a brief introduction about yourself and a bit about your educational background.

I am from Lahore and spent over 25 years in the US. I pursued my undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut in Finance & Accounting and attended graduate level courses at Harvard University. I began my career in finance, specifically within Hedge Funds and Investment Banking. Now, to simplify, I am engaged in the business of fashion and run a Venture Capital (VC) firm that invests in startups.

What is Cresset Tech all about and what key services does the company offer?

Cresset is Pakistan’s leading “Fashion Commerce” player. We provide end-to-end solutions, from revenue-based eCommerce management to brand strategy, manufacturing, distribution, retail expansion, and even last-mile delivery for fashion brands. Our Venture Capital (VC) arm enables us to aid in the growth of brands both locally and internationally.

How many brands do you have on board and can you name a few prominent ones?

We actively cater to over fifty (50) fashion designers and brands, both within Pakistan and globally. Some prominent names in Pakistan include Farah Talib Aziz, Nomi Ansari, Ansab Jehangir, Mohsin Ranjha (MNR), Annus Abrar, Zain Hashmi, and many more. Internationally, we service names like Forever 21, Kylie & Kendall Jenner, just to name a couple.

What strategies do you use to create an emotional connection between customers and the brand?

A study by the Harvard Business School (HBS) concluded that in the 21st century, relationships are the backbone of business. For the last decade, our mantra at Cresset has also been the same. We focus on experiential marketing rather than a product push. Our motto is to be “empathetic,” providing unparalleled service, thus creating an emotional connection.

What sets your business apart from competitors?

Technically, we have no direct competition. With a human capital strength of 400 across five countries, Cresset is highly vertically integrated in all aspects of the fashion business. While other firms focus on just one aspect of what we do, none provide even half the spectrum of services as Cresset. While we wish the best to others, our only competition is within ourselves.

Why is brand management important to a business in your opinion?

A brand is a uniquely recognizable identity that distinguishes itself from others. A well-positioned brand’s persona and ethos are experienced without being spelled out. To strategically achieve this is the art of branding/brand management. Brand positioning/management is the soul of the brand, the single most important aspect.

What marketing metrics do you value most for brand management?

We believe in a balance of both quantitative and qualitative metrics. While numbers are paramount and easier to measure, it is equally important to track qualitative aspects such as emotions, feelings, and feedback.

Describe a typical work week and how do you spend your weekends?

The beauty of my entrepreneurial journey is that it has no “typical” week, and I love that about it. Depending on the week, it could involve traveling to three different countries, attending client meetings between Karachi and Lahore, or a retail store launch. There’s no such thing as a weekend for an entrepreneur.

Your favorite travel destination? Any memorable moment you’d like to share?

Zanzibar! From snorkeling to hiking and safari, it offers the best of all worlds. The whole vacation was memorable and a great experience.

We always see you very well dressed; is it a personal preference?

Tom Ford said, “Dressing well is a form of good manners.” I feel as comfortable in a suit as in a pair of denim. Coming from a finance background and now in the business of fashion, my career choices have shaped my sense of style.

What fragrance would Asad wear to turn heads at a meeting/conference and at the beach/party/or at the coffeehouse?

Chanel (Bleu) has been my go-to cologne since its launch a decade ago. Depending on the time of day and occasion, I also wear Creed (Aventus) and Clive Christian (No.1 Masculine).

How do you envision the future of your business?

Cresset has been on an upward trajectory since its inception. Despite the ever-changing market, we’ve experienced exponential growth. As long as we, as an organization, continue to evolve in both business fundamentals and technology, I foresee continued growth.

Are there any upcoming projects or expansions?

Absolutely! The only constant in life is change. We’re constantly expanding within Pakistan and internationally, through both eCommerce and retail networks. I can’t disclose exact details, but here’s a hint: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.”

What advice would you like to give to our readers?

I’ve learned that we are all a product of our unique life experiences and circumstances, so I refrain from giving direct advice. Sincerity to others, passion for your career, and humility in success always yield positive results. Patience and resilience are key ingredients in building character.

Khoobsurat hona aik ehsas hai, malmal sey ley kar resham tak. You could be draped in malmal or the finest of silks that Pakistan has to offer but it is every woman’s right to look and feel unapologetically glamorous and to transcend boundaries like our leading star for the campaign, the absolutely beautiful and talented, Sanam Saeed, who is fearless and represents the modern Pakistani woman! As we embark towards our 30th anniversary in fashion next year, we bring to you “Khoobsurat”, a bridal couture collection which is classic, yet intricately ingrained in the art of couture.


Reflecting the grace of the traditional khandaani bride, @sanammody wears a royal bridal ensemble, meticulously crafted in the hues of French beige blended with sepia. Embellished with intricate rose gold handwork, with a hint of silver, the ensemble consists of a farshi gharara, made in organza, paired with a beautifully tailored straight organza shirt and a dupatta with wide borders, featuring elaborate patterns and shimmering details that exude regality.



An exquisite bridal gown, featuring a regal silhouette fully embroidered with intricate hand embellishments of golds and silvers, creating a mesmerizing play of light that casts a magical aura all around. Flowing gracefully from the waistline, the voluminous silhouette is crafted in organza with delicate lacing details on the sleeves. Paired with a net veil which adds an enchanting touch, the ensemble is sure to be a favorite this wedding season.


Mark your royalty with our timeless saree;
a graceful charm of antique golden tones, hand-crafted with a textured skirt made in silk, layered with two different drapes, one in organza with wide borders and the other in net with heavily embellished handwork. Worn over a sequinned and beaded statement corset, this ensemble is perfect for those who want to make a statement.


Shine bright like a diamond; shine like the whole universe is yours! Flaunting a fusion of classic and contemporary style, diva @sanammody wears a pearl white ensemble sparkling with sequins, threadwork and crystals. Handcrafted in delicate organza, the shirt and dupatta are paired with silk pants with twinkling cutdana details, adding an ethereal touch to the entire look.


Wrapped in delicate drapes, @sanammody looks exquisite representing the woman who is fierce and unstoppable, who is strong and resilient, who knows what she wants and makes sure she gets it. Made in a subtle hue of creamy beige, this ensemble consists of a gown worn over a bustier and a skirt, all made
in a breathable hand-woven fabric.

Brand: @theworldofhsy
Muse: @sanammody
Photography & Videography:
Hair & Makeup: @theshoaibkhan.official
Jewellery: @hanifjewellers
Creative Director: @hassanhsy
Styled by Team HSY

#HSY #TheWorldofHSY #KhoobsuratbyHSY #HSYCouture #HSYBridals #StarsWearHSY #ShineinHSY #outfitinspiration #SanamSaeed #SANAMxHSY

We talk to fashion designer Maliha Aziz of Farah Talib Aziz about her new collection

Tell us a little about this new collection. 

Our new collection Miray is an exploration of traditional craft and modern day silhouettes! It uncovers fresh colour palettes and innovative techniques that come together to make your wedding experience unforgettable.

Tell us your vision behind this shoot.

This shoot was based in Shalimar Gardes, Lahore, a stunning location that we were mesmerised by ourselves! The campaign aims to translate how full of life our wedding celebrations are, show casing fun filled events and intimate relationships! The truely majestic Mughal gardens provided the perfect backdrop for this years traditional bridal collection.

How did FTA come into being?

Since I was young I was so interested in learning adda handwork embroidery and stitching a doing it myself. I spent years hand embroidery my own clothes in all sorts of different techniques. It was only when my elder son left for university that I got the courage to start my own work shop! I started with one Karigar who sat in a garage in my house and Alhumdullilah today I have that same Karigar along with 500 plus more!

What are some challenges you’ve faced as a designer in this industry?

There are so many challenges! Basic requirements of running a business; water, electricity, gas, infrastructure, are our main hurdles. It’s been quite a journey over the past 18 years but now we’ve accepted these challenges and try to take them in our stride.

What is your favourite part about this field of work?

I love all of my team, they are like family to me. It’s the best part of my day to day routine as so many of them have been with me for over a decade.

What do you do on your days off from work?

I love to spend my holidays with my family; my husband and three kids as well as my most adorable little grandson!

What is something you’d like to change about the Pakistani fashion industry?

I would encourage fashion councils to set some rules and standards! I understand imitation happens but it should be on a high street level not on a designer imitating other designers level. There should be some checks and balances.

What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?

Nothing is achievable with out hardwork. We worked for decades to get where we are, nothing comes over night! Try your very hardest and then leave it up to Allah SWT.

How does it feel seeing yourself on the cover?

Amazing like always, just like being the face of a brand, face of a drama or tvc project, it’s special.

How did you decide to pursue acting as a career? Did you always want to become an actor?

Wasn’t an overnight decision, kept asking myself what I wanted to do in life, acting was the answer. Not since the start, but this bug came in me in my later teens.

Has your perception of the entertainment industry in Pakistan changed over time?

Whenever it’s about to change, something or the other, brings it back to square one, so no it has stayed the same.

What are your hobbies outside of acting?

Outside my work, I am just a very lazy person so don’t do much other than Netflix and chill. But lately I am up for any new experience.

Do you work out?

Not like I used to. I am now just trying to stay in shape. The beach body thing isn’t for our screens so have let that go.

People in Pakistan don’t consider singing or acting a ‘proper’ profession. What do you have to say about that?

True and that’s because it’s not a very out in the open kind of profession, people who aren’t a part of it, don’t have the wildest clue of how things are done and what’s the whole scenario like. So it’s okay on their part to feel like this.

How do you handle the fame that comes with being an actor? Does the hate or the pressure ever get to you?

I take it in a very humble way and by being immensely thankful, because it’s not something on demand, if it happens you are lucky and because people have accepted you. Pressure sometimes yes, hate haven’t gotten any, love from all over, always.

What’s your favourite part about your work?

The creation, the unknown parts of you, which you get to discover in the process and also how you think you did something bad and when it comes out people love that too, that’s amazing.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

Three new to air sometime soon and two I am about to start shooting.

Name three things on your bucket list.

Don’t want to jinx them 🙂

Tell us about your first tv shoot. What was it like?

I had no clue on how it’s done, as I am not a trained actor, I just ended up in the middle of a shoot and was spellbound. Was very nervous initially but soon got the hang of it.

Who is your inspiration?

It’s no one in particular. The inspiration is the fight to achieve in life and not end up being a failure.

Describe your perfect day off when you’re not working.

Hahaha it’s me and my eternal love for my huge bed.

What advice do you have for aspiring actors?

Know the path, understand the industry, learn the process and choose and act wisely. Don’t just jump in to get thrown out, instead feel the waters and then keep slipping slowly to stay afloat.

Muse: Danial Afzal Khan
Photographer: Adeel Khan
On Set Co-ordination: Faizan Awan X Alchemists
PR: Samra Muslim X Alchemists

We speak to actor and singer Farhan Saeed about his journey in Lollywood, his hobbies and his inspirations

You started off in a boy band called Jal. How did the journey from there to here happen?

I started my career with Jal and I would say it was meant to be. I was performing at one of my university’s events where a common friend introduced me to Gohar Mumtaz and we recorded Woh Lamhey and from there we just never looked back.

How does it feel seeing yourself on the cover once again?

As always it feels so good to work with GT and to be on their cover story. And my favourite part is communicating with my fans through GT.

How are things with you and Urwa now?


How did you decide to pursue acting as a career? Did you always want to become an actor?

I never wanted to be an actor but it just happened! To be honest initially, I never thought I would be taking up acting this seriously. Now I think I’m in love with the process of acting as I want to discover the new roles and the boundaries I can push as an actor and I think that keeps me going. Choosing a right script, the right role and performing to my best abilities is what I’m enjoying right now.

Has your perception of the entertainment industry in Pakistan changed over time?

I don’t have a perception about the entertainment industry as such but yes one keeps meeting people everyday and keeps discovering. I also think our entertainment industry is very talented. Be it music, drama or the film industry we are like a family. We are a very small industry and everyone knows everyone and I think overall it’s a good industry but the perception as such has never changed. I think our industry is different than the other industries in the world and I see people standing for each other quite often in this industry.

What are your hobbies outside of singing and acting?

I like sports. I have always been a great fan of outdoor sports. Cricket, volleyball and table tennis have got to be my favourites. So the minute I get some time off I love indulging in these sports.

Do you work out?

I do work out but unfortunately, I’m not that regular. But I am strong believer of going to the gym. It keeps you sane, fit and fresh.

People in Pakistan don’t consider signing or acting a proper profession. What do you have to say about that?

Unfortunately, that’s sad. But once you cross a certain line then you know it’s a parallel and proper profession. Fortunately, in singing and acting Allah has been kind to me so it never came to my mind whether it is a proper profession or not but people would be very surprised to see how much actors and singers earn.

How do you handle the fame that comes with being an actor? Does the hate or the pressure ever get to you?

Well, I think once you’re a successful actor or a singer that comes with it and you know that’s when people like your work. I have learnt to filter the haters and that really helps. But people think that actors and singers are public property and anyone can say anything about them. I am fortunate enough to filter all that and I don’t let it get to me if I don’t want to. I really like and respect my fans and whatever we are, we are because of them.  The good and bad just comes with it. We are what we are because of the love we get from our fans. My fans mean the world to me and make me strive to keep doing better with each passing day.

What’s your favourite part about your work?

My work is my joy and passion, it’s what keeps me going everyday – so I love everything about it. Making new music, performing at a concert in front my fans, acting in a drama, shooting for a TVC and now making my film Tich Button – the journey of creating something for people to see and react is an altogether different high … and what keeps me going.

Name three things on your bucket list?

Performing Hajj. Travelling to my favourite destination. I have quite a few actually… third would be doing a dream script.

Tell us about your first TV shoot. What was it like?

My first shoot was a music video Woh Lamhey. Everybody knows about it. It’s a memory that stays with me forever.  T-shirt, pants, shoes and car, everything was borrowed. When we shot the video for Woh Lamhey. We had no experience and yet Allah blessed us with the number one song of Pakistan for months.

Who is your inspiration?

My inspiration would be any hardworking individual I love and respect wholeheartedly. The people who are honest with their profession inspire me. I literally note every single thing about people who I think are very honest with their profession. You could be a salon worker, waiter, singer and if you are honest with your work, it shows and if you are not then that shows too and that’s how you lose my respect right then and there.

Describe your perfect day off when you’re not working.

Waking up then breakfast, gym and friends coming over for a good jamming session. Basically, lots of chilling.

What advice do you have for aspiring actors?

Just be honest and passionate about your work. Just don’t do your work for the sake of fame and money but instead do it for the love of your profession. Whatever you are doing be at acting, singing just do it wholeheartedly and then there’s no way anyone can pull you down.

Photography: Mohsin Khawar

Wardrobe: Munib Nawaz

Makeup & Styling: Toni & Guy

Location: Eggspectation; Client Management: Alchemists

Actor, model and influencer Merub Ali gets candid about her childhood, date nights and more

Did you always want to become an actor?

So acting wasn’t something that I initially wanted to do. But as time passed and I got more opportunities I became more interested in it because I liked acting.

How did you find yourself in this career?

I was accidentally put into this career because of the music video I did for Sajjad Ali when I was younger. So yeah, it all kickstarted from there.

What was your childhood like?

My childhood mostly consisted of me just reading books and spending time with family. I was a very extroverted yet introverted child. I’ve always been that. It takes me time to open up to people and that’s how I was as a child too.

You’re very young. Does the work pressure ever get to you?

Uh yes I do feel the work pressure sometimes. I like working24/7 but whenever it gets too overwhelming for me, I just take a step back and take a break. Maybe go on a vacation or spend time with family at home, so I can kind of stablise myself before I get back into it.

What’s your favourite thing about being on set?

The fact that I’m working. I love working! I’m the kind of person that can work 24 hours if you ask me. I like making art out of whatever it is that I’m doing.

Is it hard to find time for each other when you and Asim are both working?

Yes, it is sometimes. Mainly because we’re both in different cities. But we do make a lot of time for each other because we are each other’s priority.

Where do you like to go for date nights?

I honestly like going in my PJs to watch a movie. That’s the ideal date night for me. I don’t really require a lot. Sometimes I do, but usually I don’t.

Describe your perfect day off.

My perfect day off is at home with my dog, with my family, and online shopping or playing games on my laptop. That’s it!

Name three things on your bucket list.

To skydive! I want to get a car for myself and also build a house for my parents.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In 5 years I hope to be more wiser and InshAllah be ahead in my career. I never think about the future but when I do I just hope for the best because I’ve never been on a path. I just like the flow of things in the present. I don’t like thinking about the future.

There is a major cancel culture these days. Does the pressure of always being politically correct ever get to you?

Umm, yes. Because sometimes you might say something else in an interview and people will pluck words out of a sentence and use it in a wrong way against you. But I honestly think if you don’t have enough knowledge about something it’s better you don’t speak about it. If you have a proper argument against it then sure, why not? I mean, I would still suggest not to. Just don’t make comments until you don’t know the situation. Specially if it’s very sensitive.

Do you think there are some taboos with working in the entertainment industry in Pakistan?

People view the entertainment industry in a very negative perspective. And I honestly think it wholey depends on you. If you want to do something bad that’s entirely your choice and if you’re on the right path that’s also your choice. So it’s basically how you handle yourself in the industry and not about whoever is around you. Logon ko same scale pe tolna nahi chayiye. There will be good people and bad people everywhere. I don’t think people should see this industry from such a bad prespective.

Your favourite designer?

Honestly, my personal favourites are Maria B and Zara Shahjahan. I think their clothes are amazing!

What advice would you give to aspiring actors?

Remember, accepting failures is actually accepting your success. Failures only make you stronger and determined. So there are going to be a lot of ups and down in the journey but if you’re being yourself and you love what you do you will eventually reach where you want to. Never ever doubt yourself. You should always remember your goals and whatever comes in the way, you just have to really pass through.

Urwa Hocane on self love, passion and life beyond acting

How does it feel to see yourself on the cover?

Always a pleasure collaborating with GT! The team is super cool and it’s always been a great experience.

How did you decide to pursue a career in acting and filmmaking? Is this something you always wanted?

It happened by chance. I used to do theatre in Islamabad and started getting offers for hosting and acting. I would say the career chose me.

How are things in your personal life now?

I am in a very good place Alhumdulillah. My personal growth expedited in the last 2 years and I am focusing a lot on self love and self care is important not just for me but for everyone around me.

What are your hobbies outside of acting and filmmaking?

Gardening is my favorite hobby and I definitely have a green thumb. I also enjoy painting and reading books. So yes art and nature have always have been my soul food.

Has your perception of the entertainment industry in Pakistan changed overtime? If yes, how?

With experience you get to learn a lot more about your respective field. I always believe in growth. I don’t stick to same perceptions for a long time. Things always evolve and grow as time goes by so should the perceptions.

What is your beauty routine?

Lots of water and sleeping on time. I like to keep educating myself about eating healthy and I practice things that resonate with my well being. Like I said earlier, all this falls under self love and self care and that’s what helps me.

Do you work out?

No. I guess I’m always on the go and that is enough exercise for my mind body and soul.

People in Pakistan don’t consider acting a proper profession. What do you have to say about that?

I think it’s a profession of passion. I work 12 hours a day and sometimes also on Sundays!  It’s very much a profession that requires a lot of hard work and patience. I firmly believe that with time this perception will change and acting will be considered as a solid profession. As a matter of fact, I feel that change has already started to take place in our society. The quality of Pakistani content has improved in volumes and so will the perceptions InshaAllah.

Acting in Pakistan is still considered very taboo. Did you face problems when you decided to enter this career?

Not at all. My parents are very progressive who trust me and my choices. I have been blessed with family and friends who have always supported me and been my strongest support system when it came to my professional choices.

Do you like the fame that comes with becoming an actor?

I love the creative process more than the exposure that comes with it. I enjoy it as much as an introvert could. For me fame is when what I do and what I produce is genuinely loved and appreciated by all.

What’s your favourite part about your work?

Telling stories

What are your upcoming projects?

I can’t wait for the world to see my upcoming film called Tich Button. It is a true labour of love and I’m thrilled to share it with everyone.

Who’s your favourite designer?

I don’t have a favourite as I happen to be a very simple person. I will wear whatever fits my mood. My personal choices are very basic.

Name three things on your bucket list.

I believe in living fully everyday as it comes but if I must answer it’s mostly travelling and exploring new places in the world.

Who is your inspiration?

I find inspiration in every day. Passionate and hardworking people inspire me. And for me, living and being in the now is extremely inspirational.

Tell us about your first shoot.

It was a photo shoot for my first job as a VJ. I remember being very nervous and overwhelmed.

What advice do you have for aspiring actors or filmmakers?

Follow your heart and tell stories that matter to you and be true to yourself first because when you do that you are automatically true to your work and to your fans. You will always deliver projects filled with love and passion.

As a first time producer, how was your experience producing a film for the silver screen and of that magnitude?

It took endless hours of hardwork to be honest. Yes initially it got very intimidating doing this for the very first time, but if there is one thing I have learnt in this journey of Tich Button, it is that with true dedication and hardwork one can over come all hardships and find solutions for anything. Project on such a big scale always comes with its challenges but the key is ones grit & resilience and not giving up no matter what. There were days when I thought I couldn’t move on but my team has been amazing and like they always say “Team Work Makes the Dream Work”. So yes tons of positivity and always knowing that sky is never the limit and one can always achieve higher.

Photography: Mohsin Khawar
Makeup: Nabila
White dress: Elan

Actor and designer Rehmat Ajmal speaks to us about her brand Rehstore, her time at NCA and life after marriage

How did Rehstore come about?

Rehstore was born in 2019 shortly after I graduated from NCA. It combines my love for both art and fashion. Today, 3 years later it has surely become the most important part of my life. It is true what they say “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Tell us about your new collection.

Sona is a step forward for Rehstore as we introduce hand embellishments. Like every other custom article that is part of our work so far, these can also be customized and so it becomes a personalized, individualistic experience for the buyer. This collection is all about luxurious drapery that encapsulates festive energy while also remaining minimal. It is perfect for intimate weddings.

Who is your inspiration?

I always say I draw inspiration from nature. Sometimes I design around it and sometimes it designs around me.

What’s your favourite product?

It has to be the new hand painted envelopes and notecards set. It makes for a perfect gift for all stationery lovers.

You studied Textile and Design from NCA. Do you feel that gives you an edge over other designers that haven’t?

I feel everyone holds a unique expression as designers and artists. Personally, spending four years at NCA studying the subject has definitely helped me technically but I believe experience and hard work can take you a long way ahead in life with/without a degree.

How is married life going?

It is going great. Can’t believe it has been over a year!

How do you like Karachi?

I fall in love with Karachi everyday. There is something about the wind here that really lifts my spirit up. I also love the concept stores, coffee shops and local art running through the veins of the city. I cannot wait to have my friends visit so I can show them around!

How do you find the perfect work life balance?

Being a freelancer gives me the freedom to draw a perfect balance. It allows me to run my business, keep my marketing consultancy going and work hours that suit me. With a little bit of structure, discipline and empathy for yourself you can get the engine running pretty smoothly.

We see from your Instagram that you’ve taken up baking recently. How did that happen?

Well I have always been fond of cooking and baking. It is just that I am taking out more time to record videos and create content around it. I am finding it so soothing and therapeutic just like painting.

What are the differences between the two big metropolitan cities that you’ve operated from, Karachi and Lahore?

In some moments it feels like both cities are the same and in other moments it feels like they are not. I have found Karachi to be more diverse and also more fast paced in comparison to Lahore. But then Lahore is my home that is so culturally and historically enriched so really, one I am falling in love with and one I already love.

Does the pressure of cancel culture and posting the right thing ever get to you?

No, not really.

What advice would you give to young people who are trying to get their big break?

There are two things that will never fail you; hard work and consistency. If you are working hard to be consistent and are consistently working hard you will not have to find your big break as it will find you.

Is there a message that you would like to give to our readers?

I would definitely like to thank everyone who has ever helped me in regards to my small business. Your kindness and sincerity truly elevates the experience of it all. Be it the teams that come together to create artistic photographs or friends and family extending support and love. None of anything would be possible without all of you.

Photographer: Mehlum S. Sadriwala

Muse: Sona Rafiq

Hair & Makeup: Bryan William

Jewelry: Ali Javeri Jewelers

We sat down with the boys of Barwan Khiladi to find out more about their friendship, their experience on set and their hobbies.

What was it like working on Barwan Khiladi?

SJ: It was my first feature web series therefore it will go down in my acting career as one to remember. From film-making to acting, there was a lot to learn on the sets of Barwaan Khiladi.

Where can people see the web series?

KS: People can watch it on the Tapmad app or website.

What was it like being on set? Were you guys nervous? Excited?

SJ: I was so excited to start this web series. I remember always waking up excited knowing I’m living the dream. I just never wanted it to end.

ZK: The first day was a mixture of excitement but a lot of nerves. It got really easy from there onwards because the energy on set was so supportive and fun!

KS: Super exciting. There was just so much happening and I tried to absorb all of that like a sponge. You learn a lot if you have an outlook like that.

Tell us about a funny incident on set.

SJ: There were a lot of funny moments on the sets, especially the ones with Ali, our co-actor who was playing Captain’s role in this web series. One day, upon not getting the food of his choice (which was BBQ btw), Ali decided to open all the biryani boxes that were brought in for everyone and ate all of the chicken from them.

Are the three of you close in real life also?

SJ: All of us have become good friends ever since we worked together. Although some of us knew each other from before as well.

What do you guys like to do on days that you’re off from work?

SJ: I barely get any time off from work, but when I do, it’s usually spent with friends and family. All of it. I cherish every moment that I get off.

ZK: I like to go get a good workout in, cook myself a nice meal and invite my boys over for a fun sesh!

KS: I like to catch up on some Netflix and try to spend some time with my family and friends.

What advice would you give to aspiring young actors?

ZK: Be prepared for really long hours! You have to really put in the work, it’s not as easy as it looks from the outside.

Photography: Mohsin Khawar
Wardrobe: Rastah
Hair & makeup: N Gents

We speak to the actor about his upcoming work,his bucket list and more

Did you always want to be an actor?

It happened out of the blue. As a fresh graduate of theatre, film and television (TFT) from BNU I jumped into work as a line producer under HUM TV initially. I mostly prioritized working behind the camera but Alhamdulillah for where life has brought me now.

Out of all your projects, which one is your favorite?

For me, my favorite project is always what’s coming next and anything that is in the making under my attention. So currently that would be a feature film called Money Bag Guaranteed, The legend of Maula Jatt, a comedy feature film Shortcut and Jindo a drama serial.

What do you like to do on days when you’re off from work?

Those are my favorite days of the year. I love being lazy when I can. I like to practice the extrovert side of my personality too. I like to go watch a movie or go out with my friends. I love chilling with Barfi. I’m a go with the flow kind of person.

Do you think that there is a stigma attached with working in the entertainment industry? If yes, how do you deal with it?

I do agree that there is a stigma attached to the entertainment industry. However, things are changing now due to the way the new breed of actors are conducting themselves. However, I do feel that this stigma stems out of the roots of the hypocritical nature of our society. It’s ironic that people don’t want to associate themselves with you but at the same time, they’re striving to get a selfie with you. I believe they’re ignorant because they don’t realize how much hard work goes into it. I personally don’t pay heed to such opinions because of where I stand in my career and life right now.

Name three things on your bucket list.

  1. Performing Umrah or Hajj.
  2. I’m really trying to start to praying five times a day. I really do aspire to be able to do that.
  3. I’m trying to be a good human being.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I don’t know. I didn’t expect 5 years ago that I’d be just where I am right now. So only God knows the future. I think I’m merely happy where I am right now. I am trying to live this moment to the fullest.

There is a major cancel culture these days. Do you ever feel the pressure of that getting to you in terms of what you say or what you post?

I love this quote from Charlie Chaplin that says: you do not need power to bring in the world, but love instead. So I believe the power to cancel someone is something I discourage. The culture can be a very powerful way to manipulate and mis-use any situation.
I think empathy, tolerance and patience are the emotions that should trend. I certainly don’t feel threatened by it. I don’t seek validation through my posts. Which is why I don’t really post that much, I just talk about the stuff I feel strongly about.

How important do you think social media is in today’s world for an artist?

I hate the misuse of social media. I surely support the notion that it is very important for an artist today to project your work. If used wisely, I think it’s a great tool. Otherwise it’s not really important for an artist.

What’s the best thing about being on set?

It’s an entirely different world. I would say it’s ability to help you disconnect with reality cause we all love to fantasize and dream.

Who is your favorite director?

For dramas my favorite directors are Anjum Shehzad, Badar Mahmood and Haseeb Hassan. My favorite film directors are Bilal Lashari, Nadeem Baig and Faysal Qureshi.

Favorite Pakistani actors?

Oh there are so many! Sania Saeed, Nauman Ijaz, Samiya Mumtaz, saleem Miraj, Late Mr. Moin Akhtar Sahab, Ahmed Ali Akbar specially in Parizaad, Hania Amir along with Kubra Khan, Yumna Zaidi & Iqra Aziz to name a few.

What advice would you give to young people who want to be actors but might be struggling to get their big break?

My advice would be to believe in themselves. Be persistent, have faith only in Allah. This is the key. There are no other. Don’t go for anything else except these.

Ace fashion designer Fahad Hussayn talks to us about his struggles in the industry, his inspirations and more

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a designer?

I always wanted to be an artist, I think for my household, being a designer was far more acceptable than me being an artist. I remember my mom telling me artists die poor. So subconsciously, I was driven to channeling my art toward design and fashion. My mother had a small setup where she made clothes at home. Her studio was home to me after school. That’s where I learnt most about fashion. That’s where I was inspired and in the process I explored the art that was inside me. In my opinion, any medium that gives us the opportunity to explore our craft is a gift from nature itself.

What was your first job out of college?

My first job was my own brand! I started working on it when I was in college and I launched it after I graduated.

How do you think the fashion industry has changed since you’ve been in it?

The fashion industry has become more chaotic. I also feel like a lot of the love for fashion has faded away. People accept mediocrity in the name of affordability. There are still no laws for the fashion industry and almost no government support. The worst part is the growing culture of the social media mob mentality. For me, fashion was far more respected and profound a decade ago.

Tell us about your muses.

I’m not a people’s person. I very rarely connect with people. It takes time & chemistry for me to connect with someone. I love all the talented women I work with. They’re all inspirational in their own way & never cease to amaze me. But Seher & Munazza are super special to me. Seher started off with her career with us. She’s a graduate in fashion design from PIFD & it took us very little time to became friends. Munazza is a rare beauty. She’s confident, self made, smart and we bonded over our love for black & everything goth. There’s nothing more inspirational than watching these strong women be who they are and be so fabulous at it.

What collection of yours is your favorite?

Haha! From my past life, I think Putlighar has to be my favorite. However, my relaunch collection Saobanjara is also extremely close to my heart.

Who is your inspiration?

Some days, nothing at all. Over the years I’ve learnt how to deconstruct design to just a process. Inspiration requires emotion & feelings and in the real world, some days one just doesn’t have those. I can take a beautiful facade of a building and turn it into a bridal. I can take a picture of people oddly dressed on a road and use it for color palette. Inspiration is a constant process. Other days it has to be mechanically dealt with. If something really moves me, I write about it & take it from there.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I want to take Fahad Hussayn & print museum to a global scale. I want to try new and different things with them with a different set list of audience that we haven’t tried before. It’s a work in progress.


Your favorite international designer?

McQueen forever! Lately I’ve been in love with how Daniel Roseberry has resurrected Schiaparelli and combined wearable art with fashion.

What do you like to do on days that you’re off?

I try not to take days off from work. If I do, I spend them cooking and end up with a good meal shared with friends.


If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be? 

Don’t fall for everything you’re told; and perhaps I’d like to teach myself how to handle social anxiety.

Are you still involved in the day to day running of the brand?

Very much — every thing requires chaperoning if you want to achieve results.

What do you think are some of the downsides of being in the fashion industry in Pakistan?

It’s mostly the lack of respect people have for the job, but then that’s a general issue with most Pakistani people. They’re bitter and unappreciative. It’s difficult to create new things for an industry that doesn’t even uphold niche markets.

In the recent years we’ve seen you come into your own, you express yourself a lot more in terms of your own fashion also. What changed?

I think I evolved out of the public opinion game. My friends, family and my therapist helped me get over it. I think being a figure that’s constantly watched I fell victim to caring too much about what other people wanted to see me as; so I stopped doing things the way I wanted. I was told to blend in. I used to read really vile comments about to how I was perceived and looked upon for my hair, the kajal I wore in my eyes, my clothes, the shape of my body and my choices. I got thrown into the black hole of the opinion game. I’m at a point now that I don’t care who thinks what of me. I’m my own man, loved by my family, my friends & people who appreciate me — I don’t care anymore what masses think about my hair length — haha!

Photography | Asad Bin Javed

Hair & makeup | Fatima Nasir

The supermodel reveals her beauty and fitness secrets, hobbies and more.

What’s it like seeing yourself on the cover? 

It’s always an honour to land a cover and it’s really exciting for the entire team because every one has worked so hard at bringing this dreamy concept to reality.

How did you decide to pursue acting/modelling as a career? Did you always want to become an actor? 

I studied at a Performance Arts school in London so it was impossible not be interested in something related fashion and dramatic arts from a very early age.

Has your perception of the modelling industry in Pakistan changed over time? 

I do feel that I have really grown to love and appreciate Pakistani fashion while working as a model. Pakistani womenswear is just so beautiful and diverse and I am lucky that my work as a model means I get to be surrounded by the newest designs.

What are your hobbies outside of modelling and acting? 

I am currently obsessed with home decor. I spend quite a lot of time going to furniture stores on my days off. When I’m lost on my phone, I am most probably scrolling through Zara Home and H&M Home. Even when I’m travelling I like exploring their local home decor stores. I find coffee tables, wallpapers, arm chairs, cushions and lamps so beautiful and fascinating.

What is your beauty routine?

I do invest in quality skincare and am always purchasing highly reviewed skincare products to try out. Apart from the basic cleanse, tone and moisturise, drinking lots of water and removing my makeup before I sleep, I love getting regular Hydrafacials and semi-chemical glow peels from the dermatologist.

Do you work out? 

YES! I work out to maintain my figure, stay strong but most importantly to release feel-good hormones! I just find that working out is great for my mind as well as my health.

How do you handle the fame that comes with being an actor? Does the hate or the pressure ever get to you? 

You have to become independent of the public’s opinions. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion but I only rely on my family members and my closest friends for their feedback. If it’s a thumbs up from them, I celebrate. If they dislike something then I just try to improve it.

What’s your favourite part about your work?

The fact that every day is completely unpredicatable!

Who is your favourite designer?

Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Celine

Name three things on your bucket list. 

1) Eat sushi in Japan

2) Get married

3) Own a successful business

Who is your inspiration? 

100% my mother. I have always admired her dedication to her work as a Doctor whilst being the perfect homemaker! I am generally inspired by people who can balance work and family lives successfully.

Describe your perfect day off when you’re not working. 

Brunch and shopping with my favourite girl friends.

What advice would you give to young models? 

There’s only one of YOU and that is what makes you special, beautiful and unique and that is what you should share with the world!

We speak to actor and model Mahenur Haider about life in the fashion industry, upcoming work and more

How does it feel seeing yourself on the cover once again?

It always feels amazing to see myself on the cover and this time is no different!

You’ve worked with Mohsin Khawar several times before. What is it like to shoot with him?

Shooting with Mohsin Khawar is always a blast. It’s always really comfortable. We all have so much fun on set. I remember shooting with Mohsin a lot when I had just started modelling. I think we’ve worked on countless projects together! We always make a good team.

How did you decide to pursue acting as a career? Did you always want to become an actor?

I guess deep down I always knew that acting was what I wanted to do.

Has your perception of the modelling industry in Pakistan changed over time?

I never formed a perception about the modelling industry in Pakistan. For me, modelling has always been work. It was always a job and that’s how I’ve looked at it.

What are your hobbies outside of modelling and acting?

This is such a heartbreaking question! I don’t get to do anything really because I’m so busy with work. When and if I get a day off, I like to go for a swim.

What is your beauty routine?

I wake up at 6AM every single day. I like to do yoga. Sometimes I work out. I always make sure that my early mornings are dedicated to myself and my mental well being. All of this is, of course, followed by a healthy breakfast.

People in Pakistan don’t consider modelling or acting a ‘proper’ profession. What do you have to say about that?

To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve never come across anyone who has such views. Everyone around me knows how hard I work. No one has ever questioned it being a proper job.

Acting in Pakistan is still considered very taboo. Did you face problems when you decided to pursue this career?

Not really. However, I did face problems when I decided to quit my career. There were so many people who didn’t want me to leave. So I had to come back.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I’ve shot a film with Fahad Sheikh which should come out this year InshaAllah. I’m also going on set to shoot my next play in March, so that’s also in the pipeline. I’m very excited.

How do you handle the fame that comes with being an actor? Does the hate or the pressure ever get to you?

People are always very sweet and supportive when they approach me. People that have seen my work and decide to come say hi are always so nice and that is a big motivation for me. I’ve never really gotten any hate so I feel blessed in that regard.

What’s your favorite part about your work?

Literally everything!

Who is your favorite designer?

I personally love Sana Safinaz Couture.

How do you stay in shape?

I do Yoga. I also try to watch my diet and eat healthy.

Name something on your bucket list.

The number one thing that I’ve always wanted to do is skydive!

Tell us about your first shoot. What was it like?

My first shoot was back in 2013. That day was the first time I had worn heels in my entire life! Can you imagine? It was a 2 day shoot for Bareeze’s eid campaign. I still remember it so well. Since it was my first time ever wearing heels, by the end of the shoot I literally couldn’t walk. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget.

Who is your inspiration?

I get inspired by anyone who’s hardworking, regardless of their profession.

What kind of photo shoots, in your opinion, are the hardest to do?

Underwater ones.

Describe your perfect day off when you’re not working.

Day off? What does that mean?

What advice do you have for aspiring actors and models?

My advice to all those people is to never give up and stay motivated. There is a long road ahead of you; so work hard and don’t lose hope!

Photography:  Mohsin Khawar

Blue dress:  The House Of Kamiar Rokni

Saree:  Mahgul

Coats:  Quiz

Makeup:  Saad Nasir

Styling:  Aarinda Noor

The model opens up about her work, her time at LUMS and more

You went to LUMS for your undergraduate in English, that’s very different from what you’re doing now. How did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in modelling?

I think that the career chose me. I kind of found myself doing it one day. Most of my life I was on a single trajectory where I wanted to be a great writer. I think I’ve wanted to be a writer since I learned how to write. Even when I was in college, I was on that trajectory. Although I was a child star for a small amount of time – but that’s a story for another day. I was taking the summer semester at LUMS during my junior year and one day this girl approached me. She asked me if I was interested in doing a shoot in college for a new brand that was starting up. It was Zaha by Khadija Shah. She was just starting her pret wear line. It was their first campaign and she wanted to show that women from all walks of life wear Zaha. She did one for working women, one for mothers. She wanted to do one for college girls. We actually shot on campus. And I was one of the models for that. It was a lot of fun.

You are also a published author. Tell us a little more about that.

Again, I think – it just kind of happened. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. This friend of mine, she works very closely with the Aleph Review and I had written something for this fiction course that I was taking at LUMS. It was a short story called Ye Yo. Apart from that, I have also written a couple of poems. Although I wouldn’t really market myself as a poet. I dabble in poetry sometimes. That is still something that’s on my agenda. I do want to maybe write a book one day or maybe a collection of short stories.

Choker: Accessorize Denim Jacket: Quiz Pants: The House of Kamiar Rokni Shoes: her own

There is stigma attached to the profession of modelling in Pakistan. Did you find that to be true in your experience?

Well I’ve been very fortunate and privileged to have a very open minded family. However, I do agree that there is a lot of stigma attached to the profession of modelling generally because I think a lot of people have a perception that a career is really a 9 to 5 job where you go to an office and work at a desk. So a lot of people wouldn’t consider the entertainment industry as a viable career. However, I do think times are changing now. Even if I see people other around me, because we are from a conservative society, receiving backlash its seriously in one ear and out the other because at the end of the day it is your life and its what you choose to do with it. So yeah.

Describe your perfect day off when you’re not modelling?

Oh my god… when I’m not modelling and I have the time and the luxury, I just stay in bed and watch Netflix. That’s usually what I’m doing. I spend a lot of time with my dog. I also like to call up my friends and catch up with them. Honestly, just chill out. I like reading, I like going to the gym. I’m more of a homebody when I’m not working.

Blazer: UJ Bespoke Skirt: Zola Tank Top: LAMA Shoes: her own

You feel very strongly about Astrology and Numbers. You even do readings. Tell us more about that.

My spiritual journey started a few years ago. Although, I would say even as a child I would have these ruminations sometimes. But I got into Astrology in a big way around the time that I was in college. I even took a course in it. I’m just really into all of that stuff! It’s such an interesting discipline and there’s so much that is unknown to us. We should really question everything around us. You know, I think a lot of people like scoff at Astrology or the Occult Sciences and think that it’s not a “real science”. But ye nizaam to kaafi dair se chal raha hai. It’s even older than we know or understand. I definitely think that its something interesting worth tapping into. I think the ambit of my intuition widens the more I look things up about other people. It’s a really interesting way of assessing people’s personalities and understanding how in one version of reality how your day might go – if you read your horoscope. So I do think that it’s interesting. As far as readings go I was really interested in tarot card readings although I don’t really do them anymore because I was advised not to. But that’s also a very interesting discipline. For those who are well versed in it. I am no one to say.

How do you think your generation is different when it comes to working in the fashion industry? Do you find it hard working with people who you have such a big age difference with like Kami or Faryal?

So I definitely think that Faryal and Kami are geniuses in their own right. They’re really with it in some ways. They’re so flexible and open minded. I think a lot of our older legends are sort of moving with the times and modernizing as we go along. Which I think is really cool. They’ve tapped into this new market. A lot of the young people in the industry including myself are changing the game in certain ways. We want to bring about new ways of looking at fashion, looking at beauty, looking at clothes and its just really exciting stuff and I’m really happy to be a part of it.

Do you have any regrets?

Professionally? (laughs) No. I don’t think I have any regrets professionally because every shoot that felt like a disappointment at the time was, in the end, just a lesson. I feel like you’re constantly growing and evolving even as professionals. So I wouldn’t say I have any regrets. Maybe I would do some things differently but that reflects more on things like punctuality and being more disciplined and staying organized about shoots and stuff. Now that I have mentors and people looking over me, I feel like my journey has gotten a lot easier and a lot more fulfilling and gratifying. It does take an army to create a beautiful image. So, I don’t think I have any regrets, no. I think if anything, everything is just a lesson.

Bomber Jacket: Zola Outfit: The House of Kamiar Rokni Hair & makeup: Sara Tarek

What advice do you have for young people who are wanting to start out in the industry?

Honestly, I’ve gotten this question before and I’ve said back then also that I’m no one to give advice. But I would say don’t back down. Don’t let anyone tell you your worth. Know your own value. Stay disciplined. Know your angles. You should also have a great social media presence. Specially Instagram. It’s the place where people scout other models. If anything seems shady don’t say yes to it. And finally, I would say always trust your intuition and your gut.

The millennial model talks love, marriage and inspirations

Sona Rafiq walks into the pool house of a stunning farmhouse on Bedian Road in Lahore on an August afternoon and the entire room is overcome by her star personality. The pool house is tucked away in a romantic little spot at the back of the farmhouse. “Hiii guys!” says Sona, looking impossibly cool in black flared jeans and a t-shirt. She greets the make-up artist and everyone else with so much warmth that you’d never guess this girl is the lead for every single campaign in the country this season.

Do you like the jet set life? Always travelling between Lahore and Karachi? “I love it. I just feel like I’m so lucky. When I visit Lahore, I get a break from Karachi. I come to Lahore and I feel like I’m fully refreshed. But I feel like the only drawback here is that I really really miss my dog Piku.” she says making a sad face. “And I miss my husband and my friends and of course, the food!” she adds quickly.

As she gets her hair and makeup done for the the cover shoot, Sona talks to me as if she’s known me for years. She’s open and honest about her experiences in the fashion industry. We all head over to the the pool area for the first few shots — dressed in a Sania Maskatiya outfit, she looks like something out of a movie. And once she steps in front of the camera, everyone is mesmerized. The camera absolutely adores her. Modelling and fashion, however, weren’t always in the books for Sona who is a major in Banking and Finance — a field that’s worlds apart from this one. “I feel like I always liked dressing up.” says Sona. “Honestly, in my third year in college, I knew I did not want to do this. I was like ‘why am I even here?’ but then I made my Instagram public and things just fell into place after that. Everything was perfect.”

Outfit: Sania Maskatiya Jewelry: Takhleek Handmade Jewelry Her own shoes
Lengha choli: Sania Maskatiya Shoes: Be Smart Earrings: Accessorize

And perfect is just the right word to describe her life. Sona is married to Taha Memon AKA Taha Dawat thanks to his Instagram username. Taha runs an event management company in Karachi called Dawat. Their wedding in 2018 took over social media and Sona’s photos went viral in India because of her unique wedding looks. But how did the two meet? “I lived in Saudi Arabia all my life and I would come to Karachi every summer. I met Taha at an event. We both got along so well. He just decided he wanted to marry me! And I liked him a lot too and the rest is history.’ says Sona. When I ask her about her wedding photos going viral she laughs it off like it was no big deal and tells us a funny story about how she fell asleep with her contacts in because she was so tired the night before her Walima only to wake up with swollen eyes. Taha and Sona really do make the perfect millennial couple. Independent, so in love, all the while giving each other the space and opportunity to live their own lives.

“What does a typical date night look like for you guys?” I ask.

“Netflix and chill.” says Sona. “And a lot of pizza. That’s perfect for us.”

Sona spends the next few hours changing between outfits, posing for the camera and by the end of it everyone is tired but Sona’s energy is still the same as it was when we started. Sona says: “I have fun at all my shoots. For me, work isn’t work. Even right now I’m having so much fun! With all the girls here.” Pause. “And the boy!” she says while laughing and pointing at the photographer. She makes sure no one is left out. I am struck by not only how polite she is, but how graceful her entire presence is. The owner of the location, a 60 something man, has put out an elaborate spread for us in the dining room. We all sit down for tea and Sona talks to him openly about their mutual friends and how beautiful his house is. She is polite, strong and self-assured but there is no air of arrogance about her at all. When I ask her how it feels to be a star, she lets out a laugh and asks sheepishly, “I don’t know… Am I? A star?”

In recent times, the modelling industry in Pakistan has certainly been redefined. We now see so many young, educated girls pursue the field. There is now much less stigma attached to it than there once was. But I’m sure there are still some drawbacks to being a model in Pakistan. My question makes Sona evidently uncomfortable but it seems like she knew exactly what she was going to say: “Honestly, it’s not a drawback, it’s my problem but I cannot wake up early. I’m not a morning person at all. I’m always grumpy in the mornings. But that’s about it. Everything else is amazing.” I don’t push the question again.

Sona is a model in Pakistan in 2022. Where modelling is just as important as her social media presence. Her transition videos on Instagram get tens of thousands of views and her fashion and Insta skills are remarkable to say the least. But how does she do it? “I edit my videos myself. But it’s so funny, sometimes my staff takes my videos. My cousins take them. And one of my best friends, she also takes them. I just ask everyone. I’m like please can you shoot my videos? But the editing and everything else, I do that by myself. I did not know how to do that initially and I would like check other influencers or look at tutorials. I always take inspiration. I take inspiration from so many influencers out there.”

I ask her who she takes inspiration from while modelling. “I love Kendall Jenner! But in Pakistan there are so many. Oh my God! There’s Zara Peerzada, Eman Suleman. My friends, Sasha, Alaynah and Fatima Hassan. I love them.” she says. We talk a little about how nervous she is about this interview. Surprising, since her breathtaking smile and confident personality would never have you believe that even for a second. She says she doesn’t want to say the wrong thing or mess up like some other models recently have. A valid concern since the ‘cancel culture’ in Pakistan is so strong these days. It also shows how important her work is to her. This is Sona’s first sit down interview. The first time she’s sitting with a publication and talking about her life. The first of many. What advice would she give to the young generation following her? “I would say don’t take things too seriously. Just have fun with it. And while having fun just work hard. That’s what I do.”

Saree: Sania Maskatiya Clutch: Be smart Earrings and rings:Takhleek Handmade Jewlery Bracelet: Accessorize

As the day comes to an end, I realized that Sona is that person whose coolness comes not just from her trendy fashion or hip social circle but also because of her genuine kindness and concern about others. She doesn’t have a diva attitude. She’s open and easy to talk to. I felt like Sona was actually someone I had known for ages. What’s next for Sona? “What’s next for me? The person I am, I feel like I don’t plan anything. I like to go with the flow. I’m very easy. So haven’t really planned anything. I don’t know, maybe launch my own brand? Maybe start acting? Let’s see where life takes me.”

Saree: Sania Maskatiya
Clutch: Be smart
Earrings and rings: Takhleek Handmade Jewlery
Bracelet: Accessorize

The actors get candid about the pressure of social media, upcoming work and family life

How did you guys meet and who made the first move? 

Hira: I made the first move. Mani was friends with one of my friends. I told my friend that I wanted to meet him. I was engaged to be married in six months. Everyone has goals before they get married like bungee jumping or a bachelorette party. During our time, and because of my family, these things weren’t possible. So I thought, since I listened to this guy on the FM and I was his fan, I wanted to meet him. I asked my friend to introduce us and she did. Before that, I used to talk to Mani on the phone pretending to be Maryam Khan. I was his fan. I had told my then fiancé that I speak to Mani. He was okay with me talking to Mani. Maybe because he knew that I don’t have any bad intentions. He knew that I was just a fan. However, I didn’t know myself that behind all of this I was in love with Mani. You know how they say, love at first sight? Something like that. Honestly, as kids you don’t know yourself whether it’s love or infatuation. I used to think that I was in love with my fiancé and that I’m just Mani’s fan. But this was not true at all. Not even one bit. My fiancé was chosen by family for me. I guess I had been in love with Mani all along, I just didn’t know it myself. Anyway, when I met Mani, I found him to be very beautiful. He had an amazing body and he was fair, too. I was very impressed. I was like, this, this is who I want! Honestly, I’ve never really liked tall guys. They make me anxious. Mani is as tall as me so I thought he was fun sized! I told Mani that it’s better if you marry me because I don’t want to alternatively marry someone I don’t love. It’s better to feel secure in a marriage with someone you love, rather than marrying someone you don’t love and then subsequently having 600 extra marital affairs. This dramatic attempt turned out to be successful and here we are!

Mani: We started talking on the phone first. I had a show that was on on air called Mani-ism. She came to meet me with one of her friends, just like any fan would. That’s how we first met. We spoke on the phone for a couple of months. Hira definitely made the first move. And she made such a move that I was hooked from the first call. I used to talk to so many people at that time, I was single. I still remember the exact moment that she called me. I was with Reham Sheikh, he is also an actor. I remember it being very cold in Karachi that year. I remember me and him drinking tea outdoors and then having to move to the car because it got super cold. As soon as we came and sat in the car, I got a call from her. I was hooked on to her from that very moment.

You guys have spent so many years together. You have kids and separate careers. Does it ever get challenging to take out time for each other?

Hira: I truly believe in quality time. When you’re busy you think you should give your kids quality time. When I was a stay at home mom, I would have the TV on and the kids would just be playing around me and I’d be watching a movie, the house would be a mess. However, since I’m a working mom now, I know that my time is limited and hence, precious. I know that this one hour that I have to spend with Muzzamil is completely his and should be focused only on him. Similarly, I know that this hour is Ibrahim’s, and this hour is for cooking or organizing etc. It’s a little challenging, of course! But I feel like this makes one work smart. You become more organized in your work and household duties. Working makes you active and alert. Both husband and wife should work, in my opinion.

Mani: It’s not that challenging for me because I’ve seen this growing up my entire life. My Abba worked in this field also. He was actor during PTV times. During my childhood, I saw our mom take out his clothes making sure the continuity doesn’t get messed up. My sister used to do theatre. I started theatre back in 1995 also. So I don’t think it’s that much of a challenge because this is our normal. I’ve seen it in my home growing up. I know how it works. Sometimes we’re both busy. Sometimes Hira is busier than I am because currently I’m only focusing on production. I do that from home. It’s a bit more challenging for Hira right now because she’s acting in plays. She’s doing back-to-back dramas and they’re all hits. So she has to do dramas. This was me a few years ago, working 10-12 hour shifts. Now Hira is doing all that. Hira is going through a hard time now just like I did all those years ago. But I guess you could say that its challenging for both of us. We have fun together. We fight also. We also love each other a lot.

Are your parenting styles different from each other?

Mani: I guess I’m the bad cop and Hira is the good cop. Hira tries to fulfill their every wish. She feels a little guilty because she isn’t able to spend as much time with them due to her work. She has to leave for longer periods of time so she feels guilty about that. Hira wants them to be with her 24/7.  She still sleeps with both of them. Muzamil on one arm and Ibrahim on the other. This is their routine. Right now Hira is on tour. She has shows all over the country. Like Faisalabad etc. So we always try to take the kids with us. Ibrahim says he doesn’t enjoy it so then she had no choice but to leave them but usually also we always try to take the kids with us where ever we go. Sure, it might affect their school a little bit but we think this is the right age for them to come along with us and spend time with us. They’re giving us attention right now because they’re young when they grow up they probably wont even do that. So this is our parenting style. The same parenting style as our elders. People often say that our kids stay up late, we respond by saying, we stay up late too! Our kids are street smart. We’re street smart too. Our parenting is very aligned with our own lifestyle. Hira obviously feels guilty at times, she feels like she isn’t able to give them enough time. But she also knows that this is her time to shine. Hira looks at people like Bushra Ansari who spent their wholes lives doing this. Bushra Apa told me that there was a time, back in the day, when she was working at PTV, she didn’t have any help at home. She would come home from work during thebreak, cook for her family and then go back to work. So that was a time way tougher than ours. Now the pay scale is much higher. Things have changed. There are maids, nannies, cctv cameras. There are a lot of advantages of this new age.

Hira: I feel like you would have to interview my kids for this answer! The funny thing is that we’re both not parents. Parenting is a condition. This can fall upon anyone – be it parents, kids or siblings.

I’ve seen a lot of unmarried people that have to behave like parents, like fathers or grandfathers. Out of all four of us, this condition can fall upon anyone. So some times Muzamil behaves in a way that I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I’ll tell you a story. A little while ago I was scolding my maid. I didn’t speak to her nicely. Muzamil was listening and he intervened. He said, ‘Mama, aap bhool gayi hain ke aap shaadi se pehle kahan rehti thi, 2 rooms ke apartment mien. Aur uss waqt apsay aisay koi baat karta, tou apko kaisa feel hota? Jayien Humayun Saeed se aisay baat karke dekhaien.’ I was shocked. He was right. So many times, I feel like my kids teach me to be wiser and kinder. Sometimes your kids teach you how to be a better parent.

Who’s the first person to say sorry and make up?

Hira: I don’t know why but Mani never gets upset with me. He doesn’t have a problem with anything. Yes, the only thing he doesn’t like is my overspending. That’s it. I’ll get a call randomly and he’ll say. Was there 25000 withdrawn from your card on Wednesday at 9:30PM? And I’ll say I don’t know Mani! He wants me to be a better money manager. To take care of my finances better. So saying sorry doesn’t matter between us. Even if we have an argument, we start talking again. If I’m mad, he’ll crack a joke that’s bound to make me laugh.

Mani: There is no saying sorry when it comes to us. When you’re used to someone, they become an addiction. Hira is that for me. We fight like crazy but we slowly make up to each other also. One of the main advantages that we have is our sons. Our younger son, Ibrahim, he’s very emotionally intelligent. He handles everything very smartly. If I’m getting upset he’ll say to Hira, ‘Mama, wo Mani Baba ko ghussa aaraha hai tou aap zara chup hi rahien’ and vice versa. First we would make up to each other ourselves but now we have the kids. One is going to be 13 next month and the other one is 9. They’re big kids now. I guess Hira is the first heroine who has a 13-year-old son and who still comes on TV as a lead heroine. I guess the other would be Mahira. These are the only two who have teenage sons. Others might have older kids but they don’t show it. I feel like when you’re married to someone you really get used to them. We have a habit of always being with each other.

Hira, you’ve often received criticism for being very blunt. What do you have to say about that?

Actually, we become blunt and outspoken for ourselves first rather than someone else. Like you know they say, always speak the truth. For example, one day, Muzamil was sitting with his friend. I asked them to pose candidly and said that I would record them for my insta story. When I turned my camera on, my flash turned on. Muzamil roasted me so much! So I guess we’re the first ones to roast each other. We bully each other a lot. I recently got an award called Star of the Year. Ibrahim came up to me and showed me a video of Jackie Chan. He goes, ‘Look, Jackie Chan had to break 800 bones to win an award. What did you do?’ So we roast each other so much at home that if someone outside even says anything it doesn’t matter. We’re public figures so this comes with the package. We have to accept it. So I’m very honest with my audience – whether it’s the truth, or a lie or complexes – I always try my best to be organic with my fans. So I feel like, if you’re a public figure you need to accept the fact that the public will love you and will also slap you. All the love that I receive, means so much to me. So why should I look at the other side and focus on the negative? It honestly doesn’t matter to me. When someone criticizes my acting, fortunately a drama will come up where I’ve performed well and people appreciate that. When someone talks about my singing negatively, a song goes viral. I feel like trolls are only human. They have to take out their anger somewhere, right? When we go abroad, we realize how poor Pakistan is as a country. We’re lucky that Allah has given us so much. People that haven’t been as lucky as us have to take out their frustration and exertion somewhere. So I always say, if you’ve had a fight with your mother in law, come swear at me. I don’t mind it at all!

Hira, how and when did you realize you had a passion for acting?

I honestly don’t know what my passion is. I still don’t know if I’m a good actor or if it’s my passion. I take every day as it is and I just try to achieve something every single day. It could be cleaning my house one day or making amazing aloo keema for my family. Some days that achievement will be a good scene on set, or making up to a loved one or solving someone’s problem. So coming back to the question, I honestly don’t know. It probably seems like I don’t know what I’m saying. But I don’t know if I’m a good actor or not. I became an actor by chance.

What, in your opinion are the challenges of being an actor in today’s industry? A female actor especially Hira?

Hira: None really. I can only speak about my own experience. I don’t know what others might have gone through. I think this is a good industry for women. Women are respected here and given a chance. It is a very positive place for me. I feel like for me a red light goes on and I take out all my exertion at work. I sing, I laugh, I cry. Directors and producers have always been kind to me. All the men in the industry give women the space that we need to act and perform. It’s a great industry for women, I believe.

Mani: The industry has changed a lot. There are a lot of rewards. Before, there wasn’t such a big reward. In terms of money also. There is a lot of money in the industry now. Millions. But there’s also social media and trolling. There was no trolling before. People would just say what they wanted to you. Now we have the pressure of social media. People write whatever they want without thinking. They make fake IDs. It’s a whole mission. It’s really tough, as an actor, to survive yourself, keep your fans happy, do good work, make sure your work is liked and then being consistent at that also. The social media game is tough. People will swear at you, spit at you, they’ll break laws. There are all kinds of people on social media. So I guess one has to pretend a lot on social media too. This really annoys us. Because we were famous for how authentic we were. However, in these past 2-5 years we’ve changed our strategy. We don’t really get that involved in things anymore.

Mani, when it comes to acting, have you set any rules for Hira?

No. Hira knows her limits. She knows her audience. She still hasn’t taken on a negative role. She knows that her audience likes her in positive roles. I know that she has certain likes, for example, she likes singing. She likes cooking, she’s a great cook. She’s a full gharelu maa at home and outside she’s an actor. And of course when she is an actor, she has an on-screen husband, a mother in law, she might have an affair with someone in the drama, she might have a baby but that’s all that it is, a drama. It’s just acting. I’m her husband in real life. She lives in my house. She gets mad at me. She loves me. She loves our kids. We have a family together and that’s real life. I know that acting is just work. The limitations are her own. I don’t tell her what to put up on her Instagram. I might say something about her clothes but honestly, who am I to tell her what to wear or what not to? These are her choices. You get to live once in your life. You should live it to the fullest. I support her as much as I can.

Hira, what do you like the most about acting? 

I like crying. Since the beginning, I’ve always liked playing sad characters. Dukh jis dil mein hota hai wo dil bara hota hai. When you’ve seen distress in life, even the smallest of happiness seems big to you. I feel like relax and chill are words that I don’t like at all. You only relax when you’re sleeping—

Are you able to cry easily during scenes?

Hira: No. Just because I like it doesn’t mean it comes easily to me. But of course, when you read a character, you resonate with it. When I go into that situation then through hard work, I’m able to deliver. People think that crying is very easy but there is a big game behind this. You can laugh by watching any comedy show – watch Umer Sharif, or any masala film. But to cry, you need to feel very strong emotions. My life, Alhamdulillah, is beautiful. So finding emotions like sadness is a challenge for me sometimes. However, if I’m able to cry that means that I’ve successfully put myself in my character’s shoes. I like this whole process. I like sad characters. I like the word sad itself.
I’m sure people recognize you when you go to places. Your every move is watched, specially in a time like today where social media and cancel culture are so popular. Does the pressure ever get to you?

Mani: There is a major cancel culture now. I think it’s very wrong. It’s also very popular in the West but they are also realizing how toxic this is. Of course we realize that we have given up on our privacy to some extent. If we go out to a birthday or to a restaurant, people come meet us. But I guess that is why we became famous, right? So that people recognize us, love us, meet us. But this cancel culture is a bit too extra. Obviously these things disturbed us before also but they’re even worse now. Everything happens through social media now which is annoying. This will only increase in the future. I see this happening with the younger lot in the industry and I see them reacting. One should never react. It should be handled very properly, in my opinion.

Hira: I had put on a little weight recently. I was in Houston on vacation and I was eating a lot. Of course my metabolism at 33 is a lot slower also. I was with my nieces and they took some photos of me. I didn’t like the photos. So my nieces told me to download this app to edit them. I said okay. I downloaded it and started editing my photos. When I edited them all the things in the background went crooked! I didn’t even realize it and I uploaded it. I just thought oh wow, my waist looks so thin and I uploaded it without thinking. But people really didn’t like it. However, you shouldn’t let these things bother you. These things happen. Everyone edits their photos. I’ve made my persona so accessible that when young girls look at me, they’re able to see themselves in me and relate to me. Soon, Muzamil’s friends told him and then of course Mani found out. Muzamil said that if this was Hollywood, I would have been cancelled by now. From that day, Mani has made me reduce 4kgs. Kehta hai, ‘bhaag saali, tu pictures edit karti hai.’ Mani makes sure I workout every day and Muzamil keeps an eye on all pictures. I feel like if you make a mistake on social media, you should accept it.

Hira, do you see yourself doing anything other than acting?

I think direction. Even now, I share a lot of my ideas with my directors. Right now I’m working with Ahmed Kamran on a play, he listens to all my advice. That gave me a real boost. After you’ve worked as an actor, direction comes easy to you. So I will direct very soon.

Can you tell us a little about upcoming projects?

Hira: I’m sure everyone has seen Kashf that was directed by Danish Nawaz. It was a beautiful project. There’s another play just like that called ‘Ibn-e-Hawa’. In which we show war between man and woman. The script for that is just amazing. I’m doing another play with Hum TV. I’m also doing one with Sana Shahnawaz called Kismat. I try to opt for stronger characters now. Characters that people watch and want to be like. When I choose a play, I try to make sure that its connected to my real life in some way. That’s why I’ve never been able to do a negative role. I did a play called ‘Mein Hari Piya’. I was actually offered Sumbal’s role first. After shooting for two days, I thought this is too much. It made me so anxious. I just couldn’t do it. So I asked them to give me another character.

Mani: I did a few films a little while ago including ‘I Love You Babylicious’ which also stars Shahroz Sabzwari and Syra Yousaf. I’ve played the villain in that. I’ve produced that film also. I’ve also done another film called Lafangay with Sami Khan. That’s a horror-comedy. I’ve also done Ishrat Made in China. The poster for that just released. My fourth film is Money Back Guarantee in which I have an amazing role. I’m also working on stuff for social media. I’ve also written a couple of things that are going to be coming very soon. But for now, these 4 films will be releasing very soon. I hope they are a success.
What advice would you like to give to your fans watching you who want to be like you but might be struggling right now?

Mani: Well, I would say that one shouldn’t live someone else’s dream. You should dream your own dream and follow that, you will reach your destination. When I started off, my Abba and sister were a little famous. I used to think to myself, everyone recognizes them, no one recognizes me. That’s why I started acting. But I became a hit because of my idea. Because I brought something different to the table. I started trolling shows for the first time. My content was different. So my advice is that you should always be unique. If everyone does the same thing, says the same dialogues, then no one will succeed. I haven’t worked as much but people still recognize me and like my work. The reason for that is, my content was unique. It was different. Hira’s face is very distinct. Her name and face are both very registered which is why people love her. People are able to connect with her. So I would say create your own dream and follow that. Don’t follow someone else. If you have a unique style, no matter what your work is, you will be a hit!

Hira: There is no need to feel complexed about anything. All these things will be left here, in this world. Whatever I am today is because of a man; my Abu. He always made me feel seen. I always had his support. Some people don’t have that. I pray that God is kind to everyone. During Covid times I spoke to Samina Peerzada on her show and I told her that I’m not scared anymore. I’m not scared of going on the roof alone at 4am to say my namaz. A girl heard this and she was so inspired. She messaged me and she said she’s not scared anymore either. When you hear that you have such a huge impact on someone that makes you want to be better for your audience. It’s a huge responsibility. It gives me the opportunity to be better every day. When you go to stores, when you go out in public, it gives you the opportunity to follow rules, to be an ordinary person every day. My dad used to say something. He said, ‘Salaam mein apnay aglay banday ko apna pura ikhlaq dekhana hai, samnay wala apkay liye ehem hai. Salam aisa hona chayiye ke samnay walay ko ap yaad rahien.’ I’ve experienced things because of which Hira Mani is who she is today. Experience is made better with education. Education is very important and there are so many ways that you can learn and grow. That’s all I would like to tell them.

Photography: Mohsin Khawar
Styling and concept: Aarinda Noor
Wardrobe: Maria Osama
Jewellery: Kundan Co.

We spoke to 22-year-old entrepreneur BISMA AKBAR about her latest venture, her inspiration and future plans

You’ve just launched your line of perfumes. Tell us a little about that.
Each fragrance in our line is distinct and unique. We tried to make sure that we offer fragrances for different moods and occasions. Sweet Heaven is a delicate scent, perfect for intimate dinners while Shining Mystery has earthy tones that are ideal for office and school wear.

Who is your inspiration?
I definitely take inspiration from the great design houses of the world, Cavalli, Gucci and so forth; But beyond that, I found a huge lack of authentic and local perfume brands. So I ventured to create my own.

How did this idea come into being?
I collaborated with the creative team behind Junaid Jamshed who I knew through professional interaction. They were generous enough to work with me and shared my vision.

You have so many things on your plate — designing and now this new business venture. How do you find time for everything?
I try to move away from the 24-hour grind mentality. The fact is that efficient management of time is the most important thing while ensuring health in your lifestyle. That means eating well and sleeping well. Managing clothing, denim, and now fragrances alongside my work with Master keeps my plate full but with a dedicated team and a calm mindset most things are possible.

What made you choose Waliya and Faizan for the shoot?
We wanted an approachable look to the brand. Celebrities, especially in Pakistan, become associated with all sorts of different brand images and we wanted to be more thoughtful with what we were going for. Instead of the product being spoken for by the model, it speaks for itself and is elevated by the fantastic work that Faizan and Waliya did.

Will there be other upcoming beauty products under Bisma Akbar beauty?
We hope to make this into a full beauty line. But you’ll have to stay tuned for that.

You’ve said you want to pursue politics in the future. Is that still the plan? How did an interest in politics come about?
Well, I’ve been dreaming of becoming the Prime Minister since I was a child. It has a lot to do with the unfortunate circumstances that we find our beloved country. Poverty is such a visible and distressing issue and that’s my main motivation. I’ve already decided on hopefully beginning my political career as soon as I turn 25.

Who’s your inspiration?
Definitely Benazir Bhutto. Her strength of character in the face of adversity was so inspiring and her death was a tragedy that continues to live with me. Her legacy is so important and I always think if we can even be a shadow of what she was we will be the best of Pakistan.

Do you have any regrets?
Regrets are unproductive. I’m constantly looking and moving forward but yes we all have regrets in our personal life. As far as professional life is concerned I am extraordinarily content and thankful to almighty Allah.

What would you say to young people that look up to you and might be struggling right now?
Belief is everything. Everything we do follows from our willingness to do it and our believing in it. If we don’t believe we can do something we certainly can’t. But if we strive with our person to do it then there is no way we can not achieve almost anything!

The TV sensation gets candid about acting, anxiety and his journey in Lollywood

Let’s start with your childhood. What was life like growing up?
We were 2 siblings, me and my sister. We grew up in Islamabad. Growing up we were raised by my mother and my grandfather. It was good. It was interesting. I was a big cricket fan. I spent most of my time playing cricket out on the street and I used to love comic books. I used to read lots of comics. Specifically, DC comics. So yeah, it was great.

You were also in boarding school for a while. What was that like?
Yes, I was sent to boarding school in ‘94. I was there till ‘97. I was 9 years old. Of course it is tough. There’s a change of routine. You have to wake up at 5 in the morning. So yeah, it was tough; but I guess every boarder who goes to boarding school has to go through that.

You even wanted to pursue cricket as a proper profession at one point and that didn’t work out. How come?
It didn’t. Actually my grandfather wanted me to compete my studies. He thought that cricket was such a big commitment and that it would interfere with my studies so he wanted me to focus on my studies first.

I read somewhere that your family was not okay with you becoming an actor. How did that feel?
It didn’t feel great. This is back in 2004 when I made the decision I wanted to do this. There were huge fights at our house. Till 2015, it was a constant struggle. Because you know, in our culture, media and actors are looked down upon. Whenever you get the question: ‘Beta what do you do?’ You go like I’m a director and an actor and people go like, ‘No, what do you actually do? What’s your actual job?’ So people don’t even consider it an actual profession or job. There was a lot of back and forth. I was really rebellious. I would sneak out for shoots and stuff. I was locked out of the house so many times by my dad because he’s like if you’re coming back from a shoot you’re not entering the house. But eventually, I feel, most of my family members and family friends who thought oh ye tou zindagi kharab kar raha hai saw me succeed and somehow they were automatically okay with it. It’s such hypocrisy. You think how are you okay with this now? It was a long 10 year journey where I felt like I had no support. The only support I actually felt — and I even spoke about this before — is Poppy (Shayan) She was the owner of Kuch Khaas in Islamabad. At the time, in 2011 I was very ambitious and I was struggling. She gave us home. She made all of us – me, Obi, Shahana believe that we belong somewhere. That we were capable, we were talented, we were creative. She gave us the platform and that’s the only support we got.

You were also a filmmaker at one point.

I still am. That is what I want to be known as. Acting is something that I’m doing. I enjoy acting but I want to primarily direct and make films and stories.

How is filmmaking different from acting? What do you prefer?
I mean I definitely prefer filmmaking. I love telling stories. I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker; but it’s just the kind of stories I want to tell, they’re not commercial. My creative side doesn’t agree with taking on projects that are super commercial and specially if it’s a narrative that I don’t agree with. That’s one of the reasons I still haven’t done an all out commercial film. I’ve done shorts, I’ve done other stuff but commercially I haven’t. Hopefully, one day inshaAllah.

Your first project as an actor was Janaan. How did that happen?
Actually, no. Fun fact, my first feature was Gol Chakkar. It was a film that was shot in 2010/2011 and that was a total indie project. I had long hair and a beard and kajal in my eyes. I played this character called Shera.

How did you go from there to Janaan? How was that experience?
I mean, there was a 5 year break in the middle where I was just directing music videos and then this movie Janaan came about.

What was your experience like working at a proper Pakistani movie set?
It was interesting. It was intimidating at first. I wasn’t really involved in Janaan because I had a very small role. I was there for 4-5 days maximum. It was intimidating at first and it was also interesting.

In 2019 you starred in your first TV serial Aana, how was that experience different from movies?
It’s so interesting because I had done Parchi and Janaan. Janaan was a great experience. Parchi was very hectic. There were long hours of shooting. I was also DP for that, so for me it was really, really tough. We were running no sleep. We were shooting 36 hours straight. After that, I was doing this drama and I was let go because the production thought I was over weight. We had shot for one whole week, and after that they told me we’re letting you go because you’re over weight. I thought maybe I had made a big mistake choosing this career when this happened. Suddenly, I got a call from HUM saying they wanted to cast me in a production. By that time, I was in depression so I was just eating all the time. At the point that I was let go from the first production, I honestly don’t think I was overweight but I started eating and gained like 30 kilos. So when I got this call from HUM, to play this guy called Altamash I was like have you seen me recently? But we had time. The shoot was supposed to start after 2 months but somehow got delayed by a couple of months and by that time I had lost weight. You know, one thing about HUM is that it’s always felt like home. Even my first drama, I felt so comfortable working with them. They’re all so nice and they’ve always felt like family. They’re very understanding.

Your TV serial Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay with Mahira Khan is a big hit but people hate your character. Do you get a lot of hate because of that?
I get a lot of messages saying we hate you Aswad. You need to be hanged. It’s very freaky. They think they directly talk to Aswad. They say things like Aswad you’re horrible to Mehreen. It’s interesting that people get so involved that they cannot differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.

What is Mahira like as a co-star?
It was great working with Mahira. Even Kubra. When you come on set with these guys it doesn’t feel like you’re shooting with big stars because they’re so down to earth. They’re so grounded. By the end of it, it was just like a little family. When we had breaks we were just talking, laughing and joking around.

Out of all of your projects, which one was your favourite?
My favourite project is something we shot recently: Umro Ayyar. It’s just been a passion project. I’ve been an Umro Ayyar fan since I was a kid. Growing up reading comics like DC and then Umro Ayyar was just like like that. I remember when I was in boarding school there was a bookshop there and Ama used to buy me these books: Umro Ayyar stories and Tarzan and Manu ki kahaniyaan and she would read them to me. I never thought that I would even be in a project that’s Umro Ayyar. Being a superhero fan, being in that environment on set was just such a huge pleasure. It was an amazing feeling. So that’s probably one of my favourite projects.
Tell us more about Umro Ayyar…
It’s just amazing. When I was offered this movie it was during quarantine. Asfar, the director, mentioned this project to me back in 2019 because they were working on this project secretly. So it took them a good year to do the pre-production. He had mentioned that he was doing something and that he might get in touch but I had forgotten all about it. September 2020, I get a call from him asking if I can meet him. We sat down at the office and he told me that there’s a project; a movie called Umro Ayyar and I said I’m in. I didn’t even ask what role, I just said I’m in. It was an amazing experience working with all these people. Faran Tahir is such a great human being and such a great actor. He was in Iron man. I saw that movie and I couldn’t believe that I was going to be acting with him. I had some action sequences with Faran Bhai that I just couldn’t do because I was so intimidated. But Faran Bhai was so kind. He was like, no this is your job. You need to do this. Sanam is a great actor too and I’ve mentioned this so many times in the past. The two actors that I would love to work with are Sanam and Sajal. Sanam I got to work with. Ali Kazmi is a great actor and even Manzar Sahab. It’s just amazing to work with all these people.

You recently got married. How’s the married life going?
Its amazing. We were friends before we got married. And I think that friendship really matters. There’s never a dull moment these days. We’re always joking around. We’re cooking, we’re eating, we’re watching movies. So, its amazing. It’s a great time that I’ve spent in the last month.

Does your wife ever get tired of all your travelling and working? Does she ever come with you?
No no. She tou actually says go, work! She can’t travel because she has work. I have really bad flight anxiety. I try to drive to Karachi every time I have to do a project. This time around I can’t because there was a really short notice. I have to take a flight. So I said to her, “Listen, I can’t do this alone. Can you come with me?” So I’m dragging her with me because I can’t do it alone.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Again, I don’t know. I mean, I wish and I hope that I keep doing what I love doing and that I keep doing projects that people love. But again, I don’t know what’s going to happen in 5 years. In 2018, we never thought we would be in a pandemic in 2020. So, you never know what’s going to happen. But I’d really like it if in the next five years I get to make my feature and I get to do some interesting projects.

What advice do you have for young people who wants to be actors/filmmakers but might be struggling right now?
There are so many kids that are filmmakers and they come up to me and tell me they don’t have opportunities and they’ve struggled for a couple of years and say they want to quit. I keep telling them all of them, I say listen, do not quit. It took me 11 years to kind of, somehow, be in the mainstream media. It was a long journey. You need to put in the hard work. Don’t lose hope. Don’t be disheartened. Work hard and don’t sell out and InshaAllah you’ll get there.

Photography: Naba Khalid
Wardrobe: Rici Melion
Hair and Styling: Nabila Islamabad
Coordination: Mahnoor Zahid

Did you always want to become an actor?
Yes! As far as I can remember. I grew up watching Bollywood and Lollywood movies.

What do you like most about acting?
Everything. I love my craft. Playing different characters is so much fun for me. I love being so different on camera. Acting comes very naturally to me.

Who is your inspiration?
No one in particular. So many artists from all over the world. Cinema and art has always inspired me. My soul connects with everything that is artsy.

Do you think people are influenced by you?
I think people connect with me on a lot of grounds. Especially my wardrobe and my style. My globetrotter image has influenced many people. So has my Instagram image; people find me interesting to follow.

You recently won an award for your acting. Tell us more about that.
Yes. Pakistan Achievement Awards were held in London and they awarded me for my outstanding performances in drama serials Jhooti, Pakeeza Phupho and Barfi Ladu.
It was a proud moment for me because that was the first time I ever held a trophy. Also, I feel like there are many more to come. The next one should come from home (Pakistan). I feel really blessed because I was able to make my mother proud.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.
Baddua is on air right now in which I play a romantic lover that’s looking to get married to the love of his life: Falak. Some other things are also in the pipeline for which we’ll start shooting in December.

What according to you, is the best part of your work?
I can’t pick one thing! So many things such as performances as an anchor person from hosting to acting make it to the top of my list. I was proud to be the only Pakistani artist to be a part of Malaysian television and theatre.

What do you do on days off from acting?
I am a people’s person but also a homebody. I can spend a full day just in my pjs at home with my family!

How difficult is it to establish yourself in the film industry?
Very! It is definitely a cut throat industry and you don’t get your chance that easily no matter how good you are. You have to play your cards right to prove your worth.

What’s your advice for people who want to become actors and might be struggling?
I would say only consider showbiz as your career if you have patience. Because it takes a lot from you and in return you get name, fame and money.

Natasha Noorani is a recent addition to the Pakistani music industry, but she’s already worn many hats. From organising the Lahore Music Meet, to being a general manager for Coke Studio Season 10 and completing a master’s in ethnomusicology, her passion for music has culminated in her forthcoming debut album—the first of many for sure. Here she sits down with Mehek Raza Rizvi to talk about her musical journey, the industry and more

A musician, ethnomusicologist, general manager for Coke Studio Season 10, marketing executive for CityFM89 and the co-director and co-founder of Lahore Music Meet (LMM) – you really have done it all. When do you remember being drawn to music for the first time?

I’ve been drawn to music since I was a child, as everyone in my family had a great relationship with music: my elder brother was the reason we had a guitar at home, my sister had a huge collection of ‘90s RnB music and my mother had a great collection of music. In fact, she was the one who got me started on singing. Every car ride to and from school was used to taking turns playing mixtapes that my older siblings had made. Personally, I used to spend all my time curating music through Winamp playlists and mixtapes I recorded from the radio, and watching music TV channels including PTV, MTV & eventually Indus music. I knew early on that I would want to pursue music in some capacity. It’s also why I’m so interested in various aspects of the field.

How do you feel the internet has impacted the music industry, particularly the need for corporate backing?

The internet is a great game changer for anyone looking to gain traction for their art. Using the power of the internet wisely means it’s less likely that artists will need to rely on corporate backing; Maanu, Hasan Raheem, Talal Qureshi, Young Stunners and others have showcased this in the last few years.
However, I feel that the internet era music and fame only works for a specific kind of artist in Pakistan. Beyond musical merit, it’s harder for more reclusive and camera shy artists to really build a bigger audience because their “instalife” might not be as thriving as that of other creatives around them. It will be great to see more artists finding audiences without succumbing to changing their persona.

When working on your music, are you concerned about it appealing to the masses?

I’d love for my music and my work to reach as many people as possible. However, I think I’ve found a comfortable space in my writing and creativity to ensure that I’m making music that fulfils me, while making music that fills the current gaps in the industry.

Who are some of your musical influences?

My influences keep evolving. Presently, I’m listening to a lot of Naheed Akhtar, Musarrat Nazir, Lianne La Havas, Prabh Deep, Rawshni, Jamiroquai & Towers.
Growing up, I listened to rock and heavy metal, along with local Pakistani pop-rock. I also had bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, mixed in with Missy Elliot, Beyonce, Imran Khan, Jay Sean & Rishi Rich on my playlists.
Tell me about the creative process behind your new album, “Ronaq”.
This album is a culmination of all my research and practice in music over the last two years. My approach to songwriting has evolved and I’ve found some excellent co-writers and co-producers who are helping me carve out the sound I want. The album is meant to be a showcase of my ethnomusicological research, as well as my understanding of what the music landscape of Pakistan is currently lacking. The album is also a means for my music to make a point against all the typecasting female musicians have to go through. I refuse to be boxed into a singular sound and that’s been the driving force of the album.
RONAQ itself refers to a state of mind. It’s how I’d describe myself in my most fearless moments. That’s the theme that brings in all these different genres together into an album.

Do you have a favourite from your own music?

Yes! But unfortunately a lot of that work is unreleased. The songs I’m working on with Talal Qureshi & Umer Ahmed are currently on loop from RONAQ.

What are the top five songs on your playlist right now?

• Lover by Diljit Dosanjh
• Artist by ZICO
• Maya by Prabh Deep
• Mein Chup Raha by Vital Signs
• Addicted by Niniola

What do you think goes into building a loyal fan base?

It requires an incredible amount of interaction. Most of my fanbase is under ten years old and these kids are so wholesome and quite ruthless—it’s amazing! It’s lovely to exchange voicenotes and Instagram DMs with these children and their parents. It’s also great because I can still be playing shows when I’m fifty!

What’s a piece of advice you’d like to give the next generation in music?

Don’t allow the insecurities of the people around you to become your own. Constructive feedback is great, but stay away from jaded folks who don’t want to see you excel.

What is Natasha Noorani like at home?  Tell us about your childhood and family.

At home, I’m super relaxed. I’ll mostly be in my nightsuit all day if I can manage to get away from meetings. I have a sister and two brothers who are much older than me, which means I get to be the baby (read: brat) of the house. I grew up surrounded by art and music and ronaq. It was also really valuable for me to grow up in a house of adults, because it made me so much more confident of what I could be in the future. Every step my siblings took in their lives made the world seem so much bigger for me. My parents and siblings are also the reason I never worry about staying grounded, because they serve both as my biggest fans and the biggest trolls I will ever have to encounter!

Photography: Farhan Lashari
Styling: Haiya Bokhari
MUA: Fizzah Iqbal
Wardrobe: Lulusar & 9Lines
Concept: Plum Media Tank

Ahmed Ali Butt may be showbiz royalty, but he’s charted a career of his own that’s made him a household name in his own right. From music to comedy to drama, he’s done it all. This fortnight he speaks to Mehek Raza Rizvi about all this and more

How much did growing up around icons, such as your legendary grandmother, influence your decision to be in showbiz?
Creativity is as important to my family as water and air. As such, I grew up with show business all around and with studio life being a part of my upbringing. I’ve been blessed to be a part of a family that boasts legends like the Melody Queen Noor Jehan, to Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, one of the biggest producers and studio owners of the time. Even my own parents were creatives—my mother began singing later in life and my father was an actor. Growing up I realized it was something special, it’s not something that happens in every household; I knew it was sacred. Eventually I learnt the craft, leaning on music and performing arts, and I knew it was a privilege to be part of such a history.

Have you ever felt that being typecast into comedy has its drawbacks?
I think being typecast for anything is bad. Comedy, drama, romance—being repetitive in anything is bad for your creative process and identity. It’ll lose its charm. So yes, after the success of JPNA 1 and 2, I got approached repeatedly for the same ideas. I’m all for comedy, because it comes really naturally to me, but there has to be serious inspiration behind everything. There has to be flavour and room for creativity.

What was it like playing a serious role (in “Jhooti”) after so long?
“Jhooti” was beautiful. When I got offered the role I jumped at the opportunity. You don’t get to play a character made for you every day, especially in drama. I’ve always been a fan of Iqra Aziz, as she has amazing range. My character arc may have been short, but it was so out-of-the-box for me to play. For the first few episodes I had to manage my tempo a bit, because I was more accustomed to comedy. It was a thoroughly wonderful experience!

Being a public figure comes with immense responsibility towards your audience. How conscious are you of that fact while selecting scripts? 
My grandmother used to say, “Once you’re on stage, you belong to the public.” I think it’s a tremendous responsibility and I believe what we artists perform, in our craft and in our work, it projects a certain image of the country and of the people on a surface level. I do take pride in the fact that my projects need to have a patriotic side and you know we live in a visual world—things said even five years ago can instantly catch up to you. I believe in family values and family-oriented themes. So yes, I do select scripts very consciously.
“Phatte Dinde Chakk Punjabi” marked your international debut on the big screen. Tell us about your experience.
It was something completely out of the blue. Hammad Chaudry and I had been wanting to work on a project for a while, and the right script came in the form of “Phatte Dinde Chakk Punjabi”. I was given the chance to work with Gipi Garewal and Neeru Bajwa. The whole U.K. Punjabi scene is really thriving; our Sikh brothers appreciate and love our content. It’s very humbling and I was amazed at their show of love and support. We had such an amazing time and it was fun to work with them as they work quickly and efficiently. The film, I believe, is funny as hell and hopefully, Pakistan will be a good market for the U.K.-Punjabi cinema content. I hope our government allows it in our cinemas.

What inspired your incredible weight-loss journey?
I used to struggle with my weight even in school, so the inspiration was always there. My main inspiration came from my son and my wife. I wanted to be a more hands-on dad. This wouldn’t have been possible without Fatima. She was the ultimate support system for this whole journey. She executed my regimen and was the key that kept me in check. The journey is still going on; you need to contain the structure around you otherwise you lose sight of the goal you set out to achieve. I think I still have ten more kilos to lose, so fingers crossed I will see this through.

How do you stay motivated?
First of all, my faith and my religion. Allah has blessed me with so much positivity, despite so many ups and downs. There’re always the unexpected things that can happen, but prayer always keeps me grounded. Secondly, the love and support of my family. As life goes on you realise you don’t need a big circle, you don’t need everyone’s validation. You determine your own validation for success. Thankfully, you stop feeling the need to run after people and material gains. I surround myself with my own small circle of positivity and that’s the key. Stay away from the toxicity that you don’t need in life. Learn to say no. Learn to draw your own lines and define your own limits. And of course, learning from mistakes. I always keep the student mentality in mind—always learning, always grasping. My son Azaan teaches me such amazing things; I’m amazed at his purity and we at our age we forget the simplicity of life and its beauty. Fatima’s spiritual journey has also always inspired me to do better.

Looking back at your career, would you do anything differently? 
You can always find things that you could’ve done better. But if you dwell too much on that, it’s unhealthy. Early on I used to feel bad about missing projects. But you learn with time that ‘what will happen has already happened’. Christopher Nolan said that. What is in your fate will find you no matter what, and what isn’t, won’t. Simple. Failure is the best teacher regardless. Learn from your mistakes but keep moving forward and not look back too much.

Fans from your EP days still look forward to a comeback. Can we expect one?
Unfortunately, I don’t think so; we’re all comfortable in what we’re doing right now. Musically I like to venture out anyway, as there’re so many great people to work with. I’m working on a solo project too and am very excited to bring out new things really soon.

What is Ahmad Ali Butt like at home?
I think Fatima can answer this better, because she gets to see the real me. I’m a homebody who’s totally in love with spending time with his family. Pre-pandemic we used to have movie nights and so I hope cinemas open soon. When I’m at home, I love cooking; in fact, I cook a lot. I’m rather the regular Joe when I’m at home and I’m overwhelmed with the blessings I’ve received in this life.

Concept & photos: Jay Samuel Studio
Wardrobe: IFFI
Hair & Makeup: N.Gents
Styling: Fatima Khan
Coordination: MINT PR

Having completed a decade in the entertainment industry, Sonya Hussyn has portrayed some of the most memorable (and diverse) characters on screen. The leading lady, Popular for her poignant performances and style sense alike, sits down with Mehek Raza Rizvi to reflect on her career, the evolution of the industry and more

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?

With the ongoing movements and the current climate, I believe now more than ever, it’s become imperative for female actors to be more conscious about the scripts they choose. From the beginning of my career, I’ve attempted at walking the untrodden path, breaking the whole notion of what’s deemed commercially successful or what a conventional leading lady is expected to look and act like on screen.

To me, it’s solely about the character and what my portrayal in a project can do to further a narrative—if it’s in line with the message I want to put forth, I’m always up for it. At times a damsel-in-distress can also be written very sensitively and the characters around her can possibly contribute to her empowerment and growth. Every character deserves representation, what matters is how the story is portrayed.

How hard is it to detach yourself from the intense and complex characters you play? Does some part of them stay with you?

It does become very difficult to separate. As actors our job is to completely immerse ourselves in our characters’ worlds. Nazo, for example, was this mentally-challenged girl I played years ago who stayed with me for a very long time, especially her mannerisms and the way she spoke. There was a lot of research that went into it and eventually, once we’d wrapped filming, I struggled with going back to what my reality was.

Most recently, I’ve done “Saraab”, where my character Hoorain is schizophrenic. In the process of shooting, I was able to understand more about this condition, how it can be controlled and how one can deal with such patients. In all honesty, every character I’ve played has contributed to the person I’m becoming, consciously or subconsciously. All one can really do is wear these facets as a badge and try to do justice to what’s next—I simply live from one character to another.

The fame and influence celebrities enjoy puts immense responsibility on them to use it wisely. Do you ever feel burdened by the constant spotlight?

Yes, I do. However, I don’t let that come in the way of speaking my mind. If I strongly believe in something, I share that opinion without a second thought, because that’s my truth, even if it leads to backlash or controversy. The spotlight can be very daunting, but I keep reminding myself how it doesn’t define who I am.

In recent times you’ve had a war of words with a couple of other female celebs. How does difference of opinions that becomes so public affect you and how do you deal with it?

The pandemic has given some of us a little too much time to criticise others and take things out of context. I genuinely have a lot of respect for women in the industry; I know that there’re prejudices against women at large and to be successful, it takes great courage, resilience, hard work and talent. I also know that I’ve evolved over the past few years and now I fully believe that putting one woman down to defend another doesn’t do much for what we’re all fighting for.

Have you experienced any inherent prejudices in your line of work?

I’ve been fortunate to not have had any first-hand experience of it myself. I’ve worked with good people and have had the freedom in choosing my characters. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist—it’s a male-dominated industry after all, both in front of and behind the camera. Scripts are penned and then shot according to the male gaze. Sadly, a lot of naive women are exploited, but I do see things changing. I completed a decade in the industry this year, and I’ve seen how the position of women has evolved—characters and environments are better. Slowly but steadily, we’ll get to equality.

Many follow you ardently for your great sense of style. Do you, however, ever feel that takes away from your work as an actress?

Not at all! I feel honoured when I’m told that people appreciate my sense of style, Every outfit my stylists or designers help me put together tells a story and is representative of how I feel in that moment. I recently wore a neon-green power-suit by Mahgul at the Hum Style Awards and I felt it was a very contemporary, funky take on who I am today. My work as an actor has always been somewhat separate, because there’re often characters that demand simplistic outfits, lesser makeup, dark circles, dirty hair, or a dishevelled look. Thankfully, my audience accepts that. Fashion I think is storytelling as well, and if anything, it’s added to my work.

Tell us about your new project “Mor Moharaan”.

“Mor Moharaan” is a very interesting project. I’m working with phenomenal actors such as Samiya Mumtaz, Firdous Jamal, Mustafa Changazi and my favourite co-star, Zahid Ahmed. This is my third project with Zahid and there’s always such great camaraderie between us. I think we really understand and respect one another as artists and that’s really all one needs to perform well. My character Rohi is from Cholistan; she’s an environmentalist who’s dedicated her life to her community and the issues they deal with. The series also dabbles with subjects of politics, global warming and climate change. These are such pertinent topics and I’m very proud of the fact that I’m part of something that sheds light upon them. It’s coming soon on TV One.

Out of all the characters you’ve portrayed, which one is the closest to your heart and why?

This is a difficult question. As I said, I think almost every character I’ve played has been very special to me: whether it’s Nazo from “Nazo”, Pakeeza from “Aisi Hai Tanhai” (a victim of cyber-bullying), Safeena from “Meri Guriya” (a drama serial on child sexual abuse), Gauhar from “Ishq Zah-e-Naseeb” (dealing with her husband’s dissociative identity disorder syndrome), Hoorain of “Saraab” and everyone else in between. I’ve had the honour of playing such diverse, beautiful, flawed women. It’s impossible for me to select one!

What inspired you to start your own YouTube channel?

As an actor I believe viewers see you for the character that you play, and as grateful as I’ve been for the journey, I felt like I needed a medium to connect with my audience on a more personal level. I wanted to tell my story and introduce people to what really goes on behind the scenes, speak my mind and elaborate on subjects that I’m passionate about. I was ready to put together more slice-of-life, real content, but I understand that one has to be more consistent, which I haven’t been. Hopefully, I’ll be putting out some more videos soon.

What is Sonya Hussyn like at home? Tell us about your family and childhood.

My childhood was full of many ups and as many downs, but I think such is the beauty of life; trying experiences shape you. I personally feel that I’m more loving, stronger and determined than I ever was before, and a lot of it has to do it with my family and how we’ve all evolved together.

At home, I’m just my most real, unabashed self. It’s where I recharge—I can comfortably hibernate in my room for days. My family and I work as a strong unit: watching movies, having food and deep conversations, all of it together. It’s beautiful being with them and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Every chapter of my life has taught me immensely.

Concept, Coordination & Production: Centaur One
Makeup & Hair: Qasim Liaqat
Photography: Najam Mahmood
Art Direction: Saad Amjad
Outfits: Munib Nawaz (printed suit), Mahgul (neon suit)
Jewellery: The Jewel Company

Juggun Kazim has done it all: motherhood, entrepreneurship, acting, hosting and vlogging. This fortnight she speaks to Mehek Raza Rizvi about balancing her personal and professional life, and all that she’s planned for the future

You have three beautiful children. How different was each experience, both pregnancy and postpartum?

Yes, I have three biological children and two from my husband’s previous marriage, so a total of five children. As far as the biological children are concerned, each pregnancy and postpartum experience was very different.

I had my firstborn, Hamza, when I was very young. He’s fifteen now. It was a tough pregnancy because I was in an abusive marriage, but beyond that, as far as physical discomfort is concerned, my pregnancy was a breeze; I was very active and constantly working. Up until the last two weeks before delivering, I didn’t even realise I was pregnant. I had a C-section, but recovered from postpartum pretty quickly as well.

My second-born, Hassan, is four, while Noor, my daughter, is eight months, so they came along much later in life. A year before Hassan was born, I had a miscarriage and went through a really tough time coping with my loss. It really sent me through a spiral of emotions. I was very upset, so naturally when I conceived again, I was excited, but also overly cautious. In terms of that, pregnancy for the second time was strange and complicated, but precious. Also, when I was expecting Hamza, I only gained 10-12kgs, but when I was pregnant with Hassan, I put on almost 30 kgs, which was crazy. Postpartum recovery this time around was also tougher. With Noor, pregnancy was difficult again. I was put on bedrest and also gained about 35 kgs, so even more than before!

Each pregnancy is different and comes with its own set of challenges, but I wouldn’t change anything. I’ve been through a total of five pregnancies (one miscarriage each before Hassan and Noor), so while the experience can be difficult, I have to admit that having children is the biggest joy in the world. I feel very grateful for all my children—the ones I gave birth to and the ones I got through marriage. It’s amazing being a parent—an indescribable feeling. There are days when I look at them: one’s jumping on a bed, the others running around, another is crying—and I’m just in awe thinking I made these little humans.

Weight stigma directed at pregnant and postpartum women is extremely alarming. How does one tackle it? 

The weight stigma is directed towards every woman and every man. Pretty much every human it seems is first noticed for gaining or losing weight, which is not just infuriating, but also very offensive. We need to create awareness regarding this hurtful behaviour. It’s not okay for some aunty to come and tell you that you’re looking bigger or a friend to make apologetic statements. It’s important to make those around you realise that it’s not okay to be nasty about someone else’s body or inquire about their weight. Like I said in one of my YouTube videos, I’m all for people leading healthy lifestyles and losing/gaining if necessary. However, even someone like me who works out twice a day and is quite particular about her diet put on 30/35 kgs during pregnancy. Everyone has their own journey and making someone feel bad about it, especially when they’re pregnant, with their hormones all over the place, is just horrible. In fact, even if someone is in an otherwise great space, commenting on their weight is not acceptable. This is something very personal. Part of why I had severe postpartum depression after Hassan and Noor was because of the amount of people commenting on my weight and body. It was really upsetting.

How does your upbringing influence the way you’re raising your kids?

I think everyone’s upbringing does influence how they raise their own children. I learned good mannerisms and etiquette from my parents, including how to speak to or address my children. My father was extremely particular about being respectful towards elders: how to greet them, standing up in respect when they enter a room, offering your chair, etc. This learning has stayed with me, and I try to inculcate it in my kids.

However, one thing that had a negative impact on me as a child, I feel, is the fact that I came from a broken home. My parents got divorced when I was very young. The fights and arguments that led to them parting ways used to really disturb me, which is why my husband Faisal and I are very conscious about never arguing in front of our children. Of course, it’s natural and normal to have disagreements with your spouse, but we never have them in the presence of our kids.

There’s also no concept of violence in our family. It’s not okay to scream at or hit a child, no matter how frustrated you may be. We’re very mindful of that.

Another pressure I felt as a child, that I’d never want my children to have, is being an academic. I let things be a bit more fluid with them. I try being as accommodating as possible and provide them with the support they need, but do not believe in burdening them with unnecessary stress. The most important thing for me is to raise good human beings, who are kind, healthy and stable.

I guess I’d say that my parenting is influenced partly by what I learnt from my parents and partly by what I learnt from life myself. At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters to me is seeing my children happy.

Working mothers continue to face a number of obstacles in balancing their dual roles. How do you cope? 

Working mothers have always faced obstacles and I’ve been no exception. The biggest issue is the attitude of those around us. Constant scrutiny, criticism and questions like “won’t the kids get neglected?” “how will you manage?” etc. can really get to you. I’m lucky to have a good support system which includes the help at home, along with a supportive family—there’s no way I would’ve been able to work so much again without it, but it’s still hard sometimes. Judgmental behaviour is very hurtful.

The other major issue is the constant mom guilt. My career is important to me and I’m solely pursuing it because of my passion now, but I’m constantly worrying about rushing back home to my children. How do I cope? By taking it one day at a time. There’s no set formula that I know of, but if some does, please share it with me.

We love your YouTube channel and how real you are. Where do you, however, draw the line in terms of sharing your private life? 

When I created my YouTube channel, I was only hosting morning shows. There’s a slight limitation in morning shows about how honest or straight up you can be about a strong opinion you hold or an issue close to your heart. You’re the host, you can’t make it all about yourself.

With my YouTube channel, I wanted to create a platform for dialogue; a place where I could talk about things like fat-shaming, abusive relationships, etc. and interact with my audience through the comment section. Soon people started asking for videos for skincare and my lifestyle, so it was all very organic.

Regarding my private life, I’ve done a house tour and that video’s views are in millions! Having said that, I only go as far as I’m at ease. I don’t share absolutely everything, nor do I think I ever will. There’s a very clear line that I draw. For example, you’ll very rarely see pictures of my daughter.

A lot of people think they know me well, but there are many sides to me most are unaware of. I’m actually a very private person and the maximum you’ll ever get to know me is through my YouTube channel.

Do your kids know you’re famous? If yes, how do they react to it?

Hamza definitely knows I’m famous and likes to take advantage of that sometimes too. He’ll say things like, “You know my mama is Juggun Kazim, right?” and I have to tell him not to say such stuff. Hassan and Noor, however, are too young to realise it. Noor especially, as she’s only eight months.

Hamza was much more aware because I used to take him to sets with me—I was a single mom at that time—so he definitely knew. I remember, when I would smile for a picture, he’d strike a pose too. There was also a bit of jealousy if we were ever out and someone asked for a picture. He’d grab my arm and say “No mama!” so I had to politely refuse. I think he’s handled it pretty well though and I’m curious to see how his younger siblings will take it, that is if I’m still famous by the time they grow up.

Congratulations on your newly launched skincare brand! Tell us more about Nur and where the inspiration came from. 

Noor is my daughter’s name: Syed Noor Bano Naqvi. I love the name Noor, it’s always been a favourite. It means heavenly light. It’s common to compliment someone on their beauty in Urdu by saying there’s noor on their face; that’s how everyone wants to look. So I feel that’s the inspiration behind the name of my skincare line: NUR by Juggun Kazim.

The idea to start this venture came after constant comments on my skincare videos on YouTube. So many people used to say that I should create my own products based on the tips and totkas I shared. These are all things that have existed in the Subcontinent since centuries. I’ve basically just taken natural, organic combinations of herbs etc. and put them together. This is a pure labour of love. The products aren’t expensive, as I’ve tried keeping it as affordable as possible.

The response I’ve gotten is phenomenal. We’re online right now, but will be available in stores in a few weeks too.

We hear we’ll be seeing you act very soon. How does it feel to be back at it after a five-year hiatus?

Yes, I’ve already shot a couple of projects recently. I did a short film for Sohail Javed and now I’m working on a web series with a very renowned director and writer; I’m not at liberty to reveal more about this as of now, but it should be out in a few months. I’m also going to be seen in a telefilm for Eid on ARY.

I didn’t think this would happen again though. The reason why I put my acting career on hold was because I wanted to focus on family, of course, but also because I was so sick of the stereotypical roles I was being offered. I was either the innocent girl who was treated badly, or I was the English-speaking negative character, who was rude to everyone. It was getting too boring. I’m happy to have started acting again, though, because there’s really good work being produced now. My morning show is also scheduled to start this Eid on A-Plus, but I’ll be acting a lot more as well. There’s a film in the pipeline too and while I can’t say more on that, there is definitely a film that’s being worked on. Lots of really exciting things happening, so life is good! The kind of love and encouragement I’m getting is overwhelming.

Photography: Rizwan Baig at Deevees
Makeup: Munazza Rizwan at Deevees
Wardrobe: Reése, Vanya, Anaya by Kiran Chaudhry

Summer means time to amp up the volume in our wardrobes with bold prints and strong colour palettes. Who better to turn to for this than our very own 9Lines. This fortnight, Mehek Raza Rizvi speaks to the creative forces behind this brand known for its quirk, Hassan Iqbal Rizvi and Saad Shahid. Learn about their personal style preferences and then get a preview of their menswear collection in our pages

What impact do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic has had, if any, on men’s fashion trends? 

Hassan Iqbal Rizvi: The pandemic has made me feel comfortable in stepping out with whatever I feel comfortable in and I believe it’s the same for others. It seems that people have now warmed up to the idea of one’s own ease coming first in fashion.

Saad Shahid: As Hassan stated, people are more inclined towards what’s easier for them, but with that being said, they have also gotten creative with their looks. Staying in during isolation has certainly given everyone an excessive amount of time to brew up new looks, experiment with styles and portray themselves like never before.

What would your advice be to someone wanting to venture into slightly daring territory in terms of their wardrobe?

Hassan: Personally speaking, I always vouch for exotic prints and patterns: prints from the wild, summer foliage or floral blooms. I feel that they speak for you before you even enter the room. Experiment with anything which makes you think twice before wearing it.

Saad: The more you think about people’s reaction to what you’re wearing, the more you drift away from being confident with you unique looks.

What are some essential wardrobe staples for this summer?

Hassan: Resort shirts with eccentric prints—always!

Saad: A t-shirt with a good graphic or statement on it and you’re good to go.

Since most of us are still working from home, how does one stay comfortable yet well put-together?

Hassan: It’s always the effort that counts. All you have to do is put the same amount of effort into your looks, as you would’ve had you been going in to the office. It’s that simple and it works.

Saad: WFH has an important part to play, as we learn to become more efficient, more responsible and become aware of the idea that being in your comfort-zone while handing official hours really works well if you enjoy what you do!

How different is your personal style from each other and how does that reflect in the clothes you design? 

Hassan: My personal style is always loud and communicative. So it’s always a teams effort. Blending in both our aesthetics works for us in terms of making something that isn’t already there in the market, because it’s unique.

Saad: I believe I fall in the line of always following the lead of contemporary fashion with a sprinkle of that one quirky element that sets the mood for the whole look. So yes, mixing our styles together does the trick for us.

What’s a style rule you never break? 

Hassan: In my case style rules are meant to be broken. I’m never one to shy away from trying new things, even if most of people don’t agree with them.

Saad: Wearing sunglasses inside. I mean, the whole point of wearing sunglasses is to protect your eyes from the sun, right? 

What’s been the best fashion advice you’ve received?

Hassan: The best style advice I’ve ever received is probably from my parents at a pretty young age, but they had no idea at the time how it would directly or indirectly affect me. It was more of an all-encompassing ‘be yourself, no matter what’ perspective. I applied that confident individuality to every aspect of my life: how I think, what I say and do, and of course, how I dress. I wear whatever I wear. I don’t let trends or seasons get in the way. I never have. Most days I like wearing t-shirts, jeans, and flat-bill snapbacks, and I like colors—lots and lots of colors. It’s all about creating an image that uniquely embraces your own personality. And it never hurts to have some fun too.

Saad: Whatever you wear, just wear that with confidence. I follow this tip no matter if it’s jeans or a formal suit. If you feel good then you’ll be more confident and be better able to take on whatever life throws at you.

Is there anyone in particular whose style you’re inspired by? 

Hassan: David Beckham. His unique sense of style in both formal and street wear always puts forth inspiration to never be afraid to mix it up.

Saad: It’s a mix between Jinnah, Richard Biedul and Cody Fern.

Tell us more about your new collection. 

Hassan: As always, the Men’s Collection this time around focuses a lot on pattern and print detailing. Ranging from different colors and wild prints from rich florals, contemporary stripes and lush foliage, this collection provides our customers with a wide variety to choose from.

Saad: Our Men’s Collection is one of our favourites, as we decided to play with different prints. Like always this time yet again we weren’t afraid to bring in that wild element that always makes a mark in your wardrobe.

What can we expect from 9Lines menswear in the future?

Hassan: A brand staying close to its ethos, our signature menswear will always be bold, out of the box, and only for those who aren’t afraid to experiment with their looks.

Saad: 9Lines will always promote the idea of being free and limitless when it comes to updated and playful fashion. All our collections, including menswear will always be wild and popping with that quirky goodness.

Wardrobe: 9Lines
Photography: Asad Bin Javed
Grooming: Turab Haider
Models: Zarrar Khan, Suleman Hussain & Qamar Khwaja
Art Direction, Concept & Styling: 9solutions


London-based model Sadaf Khan has walked for Pakistani fashion designers across the globe. Here, she speaks to GT about her career and more

What inspired you to take up modelling as a profession?

I always had a keen interest in fashion and isn’t it amazing when you get paid to look good?

What I love about modelling is that you have a good sense of style, adaptability, a positive attitude, excellent stamina, communication skills and the ability to look good at all times.

Tell us about your first modelling job?

My first job was in London for Virgin Airlines. It was such a big shoot, and I was so nervous, but thankfully I did great in the end and everyone loved me.

What’s your experience been like working with Pakistani fashion designers? Do you have any favourites?

It’s been very good. I love Pakistani fashion and have done many shows around the world, where I’ve walked for all the top Pakistani designers. All of them are lovely, but Umar Sayeed and Rana Noman are my favourites.

What’s the one thing you enjoy most about your job and what’s the one thing you dislike the most?

I love walking the ramp and I’ve missed it a lot during the pandemic. I can’t think about anything I dislike, as I always try to find the best in everything.

What’re some things you wish you knew before you started your career?

The way people judge and criticise you in this career.

How would you describe your personal style?

I’m really into skirts and anything high waisted—that’s my thing.

Do you have a specific beauty and exercise regimen?

I do wear a lot of makeup, so it’s very important to look after the skin. I cleanse a lot using an oil cleanser (I love the Elemis range, as my skin is dry and it really helps), followed by a rose toner and thick moisturiser. I always use sunscreen before going out. Masks are really important for me too, so I apply them twice a week to get that glow. I try to drink a lot of water and never miss out on my vitamins.

Exercise for me is important not only for my physical health, but also for my mental well-being. It releases endorphins that keep you feeling happy and energetic. I’m quite addicted to reformers and I combine it with cardio three days a week.

What’s been the best advice you’ve received?

Be kind and treat people as you would like to be treated. Everyone loves to feel special; everyone loves to be noticed. So, if you care for people and treat them as the special people that they are, then they’ll love you for it. If you help enough people get what they want, then you’ll get what you want.

Photography: Altmash Urooj
Wardrobe: Euphoria
Makeup: Deepika Deshta
Hair: Dani
Location Courtesy: Mahesh Tourani

Ayesha Omar is many things: an actress, a style icon, an activist and an artist. This fortnight she speaks to Mehek Raza Rizvi about fame, fortune and family

It wouldn’t be wrong to say you’re one of Pakistan’s most coveted style stars. Do you feel that’s helped you in your profession? Or on the contrary, have you ever feared that might take away from people taking you seriously as an actress?  

Thank you so much for your kind words. I was always a tomboy growing up and not really concerned about what I was wearing. My wardrobe was simple and functional; I never followed fashion icons or magazines. In fact, even when I first joined the industry, I wasn’t too fussed about my style statement. It’s only in the last six to seven years that I’ve started to have fun with fashion, by figuring out what my preferences are.

I’m an artist; I’ve studied painting, so I use my outfits as a sense of creative expression. Keeping that in mind, yes, I’d say fashion does give me a medium to translate my artistic sensibilities into a tangible form. It allows me to express what I’m trying to say without actually having to say it. It also helps me bring the characters I portray to life, because I style them myself.

“I’m an artist; I’ve studied painting, so I use my outfits as a sense of creative expression”
—on her style

On the other hand, though, it’s true that sometimes when a lot of stress is put on how an actor is dressing, it can take away from them being taken seriously for their craft. I wouldn’t say this is a fear of mine, but I want to be remembered as a hardworking actor, host and activist, not just a style icon. There’s way too much focus on external appearances, which also becomes a point of comparison between contemporaries. An actor’s sense of style does matter to some extent as it’s part of one’s image, but it should be a secondary concern.

You mentioned in one of your interviews that your accident was a defining moment in your life. How did it change your perspective? 

Sometimes in life you experience something that alters your perspective on things completely—my accident did that for me. When you witness death so closely and see your whole life flash in front of you, it makes you rethink a lot of things and reassess your priorities. I’ve definitely started valuing life more, particularly the little things in life, like small acts of kindness. I feel I’ve now become a lot more empathetic to the struggles of other people and have realised the importance of being there for people in their time of need. More importantly, I’ve understood how to be there and when to give space to someone coping with pain.

This experience also gave me a lot of clarity regarding who my real friends are. It was a real eye opener in that sense. Above all, I felt a deep sense of gratitude as my connection with my creator and my belief in His divine plan became much stronger.

“I’m very fortunate to have grown up with my friends who’re my sisters and have really compensated for the lack of support from relatives”
—on friends like family

The fame and influence celebrities enjoy puts immense responsibility on them to use it wisely. Do you ever feel burdened by the constant spotlight?

Yes, of course I do, as do all other public figures. There’s this constant pressure of behaving the way people want you to. The criticism we receive isn’t limited to just our work, but extends to personal preferences as well: from what we eat, to our relationships, our choice of clothing, etc. One’s life does change once you’re in the public eye; anonymity allows you to live your life the way you want, but you don’t have that privilege as a public figure.

Despite being human, there’s very less room to make mistakes, because people are extremely unforgiving and sometimes it can take a toll on you. Having said that, I also enjoy the responsibility and feel very thankful that I have a voice that enables me to talk about issues that concern me. There are so many people, young people in particular, that look up to us for direction and also various occasions where we get to be representatives of our country. It’s a duty I take seriously and feel immense gratitude for.

One of the reasons we love you the most is for being outspoken and never being afraid to stand up for issues close to your heart. How do you deal with the inevitable backlash though? Especially on social media. 

You’re very kind. It does take a lot to be that way because many things aren’t received well. In the end, you just have to stay true to yourself regardless of any backlash. As long as your intentions are right and you aren’t hurting anyone, you should stand by what you believe in. Eventually people understand your point of view as well.

It’s true that you do need thick skin to survive the negativity. Social media in particular can be such a dark place, but then there’s also light and love. Where there are haters, there are also people who show support and faith in you.

Have you experienced any prejudice as a woman in your line of work?

When I first joined the industry, I was fresh out of college—very young, trusting and friendly. I dressed a certain way, because I grew up in a progressive household. I studied with boys in college and went to a school where there was freedom of decision-making and confidence building, so I was forward-thinking as well I guess. All of this led to a lot of preconceived notions and prejudice against me.

People thought that because I was new so they could say and do whatever they wanted. I feel I was judged for my pleasant nature and the way I dressed; I was stereotyped. I’ve faced both, sexual and verbal harassment. Nothing has come easy to me and I’ve had to learn things the hard way. I’ve had to build a hard exterior and keep people at a distance to be able to be taken seriously.

Also, because I moved away from Lahore and didn’t have family in Karachi, I didn’t have any backing or anyone to protect me. Knowing this, multiple people have been unfair and unprofessional with me—with full knowledge of me being the sole breadwinner for my family. I’ve had to face delayed payments many times; many of them still owe me money.

People who’re close to me know that things haven’t been so smooth for me and I’ve worked very hard to get where I am. I’m extremely committed and professional and have developed strong a work ethic. Despite that, people have so many assumptions about me and there’ve definitely been times when I had to prove them wrong.

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?

I find conversations about gender equality and feminism heartening. In an environment where so much is being said and done to protect and empower women, it’s extremely important for female actors to choose their projects wisely. The stereotypes created by society are validated by our content, so we must make sure we aren’t responsible for carrying such ideas forward, as this affects the women in our society on a daily basis.

The media plays a very crucial role in influencing people’s minds. Female actors should avoid opting for characters that’re detrimental to the role of women in society and that glorify injustices against them, whether it’s enabling domestic abuse, rape culture or victim shaming. This is the reason why you see me in such limited projects; I don’t agree with plots where you see women surrendering to their circumstances.

“When you witness death so closely and see your whole life flash in front of you, it makes you rethink a lot of things and reassess your priorities. I’ve definitely started valuing life more, particularly the little things in life, like small acts of kindness”
—on her brush with death

Out of all the characters you’ve portrayed, which one do you relate to most and why?

It’s always tough to choose, as there’re lots of them with different shades to their personalities. But if I had to pick, it would be my character in the serial “Kaisa Yeh Junoon.” I played the lead role, who was a very strong and principled girl who grew up to be a determined, solid individual with a lot of integrity and self-respect. She was also studying to be an artist, so I really related to her. We shot this project in London, Mumbai and Karachi, so we travelled to three different cities and I worked really hard on it.

What is Ayesha Omar like at home? Tell us about your childhood and family?

I was born in Karachi, but after my father passed away when I was only a year and a half old, my mother, brother and I moved to Lahore. My mother was a young widow, who’d only been married a few years. She had no emotional or financial support from the rest of our family, so she raised us singlehandedly. I saw her working very hard to provide us with an education; she started teaching at a school, gave tuitions and also drove a school van that she bought with the help of a friend.  My mother did everything she could to make ends meet; she’s sacrificed her life for us, but of course there was a lot of financial insecurity and anxiety related to that. It was very hard for me, as a child, to see my mother going through this. But, today I feel that I get my sense of independence and strength from her. I’m very self-sufficient, just like her.

My brother and I went to an expensive school that we may never have been able to afford without our merit scholarships. But this also meant that we had to work very hard on our grades. We were studying with rich kids but couldn’t afford to be spoilt the way they were. My mother also encouraged us to participate in extra-curricular activities, so I was very active in the school choir, theatre group and art workshops. Growing up surrounded with such cultural experiences makes me who I am today.

Despite the difficulties, I feel my childhood was full of love and warmth from my six best friends and their families. Of course, sometimes I did complain to God when I saw all other kids had two parents, but I’m very fortunate to have grown up with my friends who’re my sisters and have really compensated for the lack of support from relatives.

After graduating from college, I started supporting my family and became the sole breadwinner and have been since then. My brother is doing his PHD in Denmark right now, so he still has a few years to go. It makes me really happy to see him doing what he’s doing and also to see my mother enjoying retired life and taking care of herself. The three of us have always been very very close. I hope my mother is proud of me today.

“Female actors should avoid opting for characters that’re detrimental to the role of women in society and that glorify injustices against them, whether it’s enabling domestic abuse, rape culture or victim shaming”  —on choosing roles wisely

At home, I’m very domesticated. When I moved to Karachi, I shared an apartment with flat mates and continued doing so for thirteen years. It’s only been a year and a half since I started renting my own apartment. I never thought I’d be able to live alone, but I’m honestly loving it! I love doing up my space and creating this zen haven for myself that I love coming back to. I enjoy hosting and feeding people as well. I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of plants, since nature calms me and I try to stay clean as much as I can with my eating habits. I’m gearing towards a more holistic lifestyle and staying away from artificial and synthetic products—that applies to people as well. I’m beginning to realise that more and more every day and try to be around wholesome, positive energy only.


Pakistani actresses whose style you admire? 

Meesha Shafi, Kiran Malik and Mahira Khan

Favourite co-stars?

Hina Dilpazeer, Sanam Saeed, Saba Hameed, Sawera Nadeem, Azfar Rahman, Adnan Siddiqui, Ali Rahman, Mikaal, Ahsan Khan—there are so many!                            

Theater, film or TV? 

Film, theatre and TV—in that order

Your biggest strength? 

My resilience, self-sufficiency and ability to balance things

And weakness?

Being unable to say no

Favorite ‘90s jam?

Michael Jackson and The Cranberries all the way!

What was the last lie you told?

I lied to someone about working today when I actually just wanted to be by myself

Last impulsive buy?

A pair of shoes

One habit of yours that annoys your family?

My sleeping pattern

Do you have a nickname?

Some of my friends call me Jacks, while others call me AO

A decision you really regret?

There’re quite a few work decisions I regret, along with some personal decisions

Favourite movie quote?

“May the force be with you”
—Star Wars

“After all, tomorrow is another day”

—Gone with the Wind

“You make me want to be a better man”

—As Good as it Gets

Photography:  Najam Mahmood
Wardrobe: Saira Shakira
Coordination: Centaur One
Jewellery: The Jewel Company
Styling: Arbaqan Changezi
Hair & Makeup: Sonia Nazir

Junaid Khan’s star has been on the rise for quite some time. After a successful music career, he transitioned to becoming a critically acclaimed actor. This fortnight he speaks with Mehek Raza Rizvi about his work, peers and more

Your drama serial “Kashf” has a brilliant script and stellar performances. Tell us about the vibe on set—the stuff your audience doesn’t get to see. 

The plot of the drama serial itself is very serious and apart from a few scenes with dark humour, through Kashf’s father, there isn’t much comic relief. However, behind the camera the atmosphere is very different. The entire cast is extremely fun-loving; most people think I’m reserved, but that’s not true when I’m around people who I’m comfortable with. Hira Mani, as everyone knows is full of life, Danish Nawaz is the absolute king of comedy on our set and Mr. Waseem Abbas, owing perhaps to this theatre background, has excellent comedic timing even in real life. Every time we’re in the makeup room, it’s a complete party! The female cast, in particular, is very supportive of each other; they’re always seen encouraging and rooting for their costars. The vibe on our set is definitely very positive.

“Sun Yaara”, “Mohabbat Na Kariyo”, “Kashf” and another untitled project in the pipeline—you and Hira Mani have done quite a few projects together. Recently, she called you her “lucky charm” in an interview as well. How would you describe your working relationship with her and why do you think you two are casted together so often? 

Hira and I have been doing projects together for quite some time now, due to which we’re aware of each other’s working style and thus are very comfortable with each other as costars. Not only the two of us, but our families too, are friends, so a comfort zone has been developed. Our energy on set is focused on improving our performances solely, instead of having to worry about first getting along with or understanding our costar. We keep pushing each other to do better. The energy Hira brings onscreen is phenomenal; I love working with her because she’s very positive, is very cooperative and believes in teamwork.

As far as production houses wanting to cast us together repeatedly is concerned, I think that happens when an on-screen couple is liked by the audience. It also helps that we’re both professional and with us, there won’t be any issues or tantrums on set.

“Since I’ve always been of a reserved nature, I realised I struggled with expressing my feelings at times, which led to people misunderstanding me.  Any positive emotion that you feel must be communicated”

Talking about the new untitled project, we want to know more.

It’s a very interesting script. The concept may seem basic, but the way the plot evolves, the way each scene is put together and how the characters are knit in, is all very interesting; you won’t feel there was a single scene that was insignificant. The audience is bound to remain on the edge of their seats. Armeena Khan is going to be seen in a drama serial after about three years; Armeena, Hira and I have had a ball together. Overall, it’s looking like a promising project. I just heard the OST (original sound track) and loved it. I think the promos will be out in about a week and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

You’ve also launched your own motivational web series titled “Keh Do”. What’s the thought process behind that and where did the inspiration come from? 

“Keh Do” is an original song of mine that I released about seven to eight years ago. The concept behind it is very simple, yet personal. Since I’ve always been of a reserved nature, I realised I struggled with expressing my feelings at times, which led to people misunderstanding me. Any positive emotion that you feel must be communicated.

Over the years, I’ve read scripts and characters that have helped me understand, not just other people, but myself as well. I’ve given a lot of thought to who I am and what my purpose is. There were a lot of topics that I tried to decipher and breakdown. Negative thinking is something most of us deal with, so the way I dealt with it, is what you see in the web series, It’s all in my own, simple and brief words. It’s my own modest understanding of things, because, of course, I’m not a psychologist or expert in the field. It’s all about positive thinking and emotions I’ve felt in my life. I’ll be discussing them episode by episode.

“The energy Hira brings onscreen is phenomenal; I love working with her because she’s very positive, is very cooperative and believes in teamwork” —Junaid on Hira Mani

Do you think it’s important for actors these days to explore the web and other avenues apart from traditional television? 

I don’t think any individual is bound to stay confined to one particular avenue, for example, I started my career as a musician. This is a very fluid field; whether it’s important or not is relative. For some, like me, it’s just a creative outlet. I felt if I wanted to put forth something like “Keh Do”, YouTube was the best place for it.

You started your career as a singer, as you just mentioned, but it seems acting has replaced that. Would that be true to assert? 

Music may have taken a back seat due to my other professional commitments, but it’s a huge part of who I am and will always remain the platform with which I started my career. I’ll always be a musician.

“Every time we’re in the makeup room, it’s a complete party! The female cast, in particular, is very supportive of each other; they’re always seen encouraging and rooting for their costars”

Can we expect anything from you as a singer in the near future? 

I’m working on a lot of things, both with my band and solo. I’ll be sharing more details with you very soon. GT will be the first to know!

“I’m working on a lot of things, both with my band and solo. I’ll be sharing more details with you very soon. GT will be the first to know!”

We ran a little search on you and the web is full of projects you’re doing. How does that leave any time behind for family or yourself?

The web at times gives the impression that us actors don’t have time for ourselves, but over the years, I’ve learnt how to balance things. I think balance is very important, in everything in life. I don’t really have much of a social life, so the time that I’m not working, on weekends for instance, is spent bonding with my family.

What is Junaid Khan like at home? 

Junaid Khan at home is like any other regular guy. I’m mostly around my family, watching television, eating my favourite food and connecting with my loved ones.

Designer: Nauman Arfeen
Make up & Grooming: Sabs
Courtesy: Dewan Baqi Farooqui
at Harley Davidson

Sarwat Gilani is no stranger to complex roles; with the critically-acclaimed web series “Churails”, she’s tapped into yet another dimension of her craft. Following the resounding success of the series, she chats with Mehek Raza Rizvi about the conception of “Churails”, portraying roles responsibly and how she prepared to essay Sara

“Churails” is the first Pakistan-made original series for Indian streaming platform Zee5 Global. We’re curious to know the background behind this affiliation. Who reached out first? 

Shailja Saraswati Varghese, who heads content at Zee5 had noticed Asim Abbasi’s movie “Cake” and found it to be an interesting piece of art. She approached Asim and suggested they collaborate. At that point, Asim was in the process of writing the first draft of “Churails” and so he put together the pilot and sent it across. She liked it and asked him to write her a couple of more episodes, which he did and the rest is history. She loved the concept and commissioned Asim to create Pakistan’s first original product for Zee5. She gave him a lot of creative liberty to do things his way, because she could understand that he’s like a stallion—you can’t control Asim.

Did the team consider that the association of “Churails” with an Indian streaming platform could possibly hurt the sentiments of some of your local fans? 

A product like this is not for television or film. It had to be a web series; it was written for web and sadly, we don’t have an online portal of our own yet. If Netflix or Amazon had asked us for our content, that wouldn’t have been a problem, so why should this be? Art has no boundaries and artists want to exchange work. We don’t want to put ourselves in these little matchboxes saying “this is my world” and “this is where my art stays.” Art and music are forms you can’t control; they’re like water. If we had a Pakistani platform and we didn’t use it, then we would’ve at least given a thought to what people would say, but in the absence of such an option, if someone showed interest in Pakistan and its talent, I don’t think there was any room for resistance or second thoughts.

Asim has attempted to show the real, grey people. They could come from any part of society, but they have fallen, they have risen, they have imperfections, but also some great qualities. Your positives and negatives make you human

“Churails” is a brave script, unlike any other to have been produced in the country. However, something as courageous is always susceptible to backlash. Is/was that a fear? 

When I read the script, I knew this was a page-turner. The exceptional story is the hero of the project, it is both the antagonist and the protagonist and that’s a very unique concept to come across. With something so different, there are always fears about how it’ll be received. Whilst we were making it, we did have our doubts about people taking this well, or us hurting the feelings of part of our audience. However, we were blown away with the overwhelming love and encouragement we received when the trailer released and even more so after the first episode premiered. It was unreal; we had attempted to do something so unusual, it could make people feel uncomfortable, but it didn’t. And even if it did make a certain segment uncomfortable, they were happy with it, knowing that for the first time, someone had made the effort to talk about real issues women face that are normally not touched upon in our entertainment industry.

Tell us of the first thoughts you had when “Churails” was offered to you. 

My first thought was “Wow!” I was just thanking my stars to be offered an unbelievable script that would make history in Pakistan. For an actor to be offered such a role and be part of such a project is like a dream. This was the unicorn I had been looking for throughout my career. I had never read, or even watched, anything like this before. I was over the moon. This is right up my alley and I’d been waiting for it for so long. I’m an artist, a rebel—I’ll always stand up for myself and say what’s right when people try to put me down or troll me. This was a story that I could relate to. The issues addressed in this script are pertinent and important to talk about. What more could I have asked for, than someone like Asim Abbasi highlighting these topics so beautifully and sensitively? He really took ownership of the real reflections of our society.

Run us through the creative process of preparing for a role like Sara. Can you relate to the character you’re playing? 

Absolutely! I can relate to Sara completely. I think the casting was done very intelligently. Half the job was done with selecting just the right talent. I think one of the most important tasks on set is hiring the correct people and if you succeed at that, you’ve won part of the battle already.

Preparing for my role involved a lot of readings, rehearsals and personal sessions to discuss our characters, even our personal experiences—our inhibitions, sorrows and complexes—we opened up to Asim wholeheartedly, so he could understand us and see if there were any vulnerabilities he could tap into as an example when we weren’t getting something on set.

There were a lot of things that we talked about, references that we drew. A lot inspiration for Sara’s body language was drawn from Gayatri Devi, the third Maharani consort of Jaipur. I also took inspiration from Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada” and for a couple of scenes with Omair Rana, I saw and studied Angelina Jolie in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” So there was a lot that I picked from reading what I had read before or going back to characters I had seen before.

There were a lot of things that we talked about, references that we drew. A lot inspiration for Sara’s body language was drawn from Gayatri Devi, the third Maharani consort of Jaipur. I also took inspiration from Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada” and for a couple of scenes with Omair Rana, I saw and studied Angelina Jolie in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”

How was your experience working with an all-female cast? 

It was almost an all-female cast—we did have a few male co-stars on set as well, but it was an undeniably amazing experience! I think what made it even better was the fact that these were all actors with a background in theatre and were just fantastic at their craft. I always felt inspired by each one of them, as they brought so much to the table. The real magic was in the fact that they were always so normal, grounded and chilled out behind the camera, but as soon as they were shooting, they embodied the strong characters they were portraying so smoothly and effortlessly.

I think because we all came from the theatre community, we understood the essence of teamwork. There was no “star” on our set. We all stuck through the strenuous hours, challenging locations and hot weather, because we were working towards one goal, which was Asim’s vision—that was the beauty of “Churails.”  Our friendships have translated from reel to real life, so you can imagine what the vibe must have been like.

Why do you think it’s important to show flawed female characters on screen? 

The whole idea of “Churails” is to get acceptance for a normal, regular human being. In our drama serials, it’s either a negative or positive role, particularly for women. There are fixed stereotypes: the working woman wearing western attire will be painted as cunning, while the one clad in shalwar kameez will be painted as innocent and upright—there is no middle ground, all characters are black and white. Asim has attempted to show the real, grey people. They could come from any part of society, but they have fallen, they have risen, they have imperfections, but also some great qualities. Your positives and negatives make you human.

Mostly, we see stories of characters who aren’t relatable, but “Churails” is the story of real women, with real issues and real traits.

Do you feel gender portrayal in Pakistani drama serials will see a shift in the near future?

I really hope so. I wish “Churails” proves to be a benchmark for our entertainment industry and we move towards more message-oriented content, without creating dilemmas in the minds of our audience and taking down their intellectual ability to understand something. I feel there is no gender equality in our drama serials. In my eighteen years of working as an actress, I’ve always had to be rescued by a man: a husband, lover, father or friend. Never before have I played a character where I fell and rose myself. Every drama is built around the premise of “will they get married?” It’s quite regressive, it’s like you don’t want people to grow. I really pray that we start taking responsibility to tell the truth and stop misguiding the public.

What role can actors play in bringing about this change? 

When offered characters and stories that don’t encourage the idea of uplifting my audience or stimulating intellectual growth, I don’t accept them. If I can’t agree with a concept, I can’t preach it. This is why I’ve always done selective work. Your character has to be believable. I think actors should say no to poor content, regardless of the money involved. This is our responsibility as entertainers. We should not support putting women down in particular.

Women will definitely take away the fact that they aren’t the only ones with flaws. By showing the reality of our world, we’re aiming to make our resilient women realise that they’re born to fly, not crawl

What do you hope, both women and men take away from the web series?  

Women will definitely take away the fact that they aren’t the only ones with flaws. By showing the reality of our world, we’re aiming to make our resilient women realise that they’re born to fly, not crawl. Men on the other hand, will be reminded of all the cracks they’ve made in society and also of the unfair expectations they have of women. We want men to be a little uncomfortable, so they understand this is the new age; every woman has a voice and they are going to fail in shunning us.

More importantly, what has been your biggest takeaway from your experience working on “Churails?”

I think my most favourite experience has been unlearning my preconceived notions about acting.

Photography: Rizwan ul Haq  | Styling: Ella Hussain at Emergency Room 19

Wardrobe: Yellow dress dress courtesy Asim Jofa  | Hair & Makeup: Arshad Khan

Jewellery: Rouge by Rooj Amir and Jewels by Irma Hasan

Rehmat Ajmal first captivated us through the way she brought a unique artist’s sensibility to fashion modelling; she’s now bowled us over with her brand Rehstore. Mehek Raza Rizvi speaks to Rehmat about fashion, art, business and more

With a thriving modelling career, what propelled you to start your own clothing line?

In 2018 I graduated from the National College of Arts in Textile Design. Given my busy schedule of shoots and other freelance projects, I couldn’t have worked alongside any existing designer from 9-5, so I decided to start something of my own in order to make the most of my free time. Initially, it started as a side business, but with constant support of all my customers and friends, it’s safe to say Rehstore has taken over to become the main business for me. I do feel both Rehmat Ajmal and Rehstore help each other in many ways. What I do as a model is very closely related to fashion, so I think they pair together very well as different branches of the same tree.

Most people might not be aware of your educational background as an artist. Please tell our readers about it.

I did my O & A Level from Lahore Grammar School (LGS). My main subjects were Art & Business Studies. After graduating from LGS, I did my Bachelors in Textile Design from National College of Arts and graduated with a distinction in 2018. I started Rehstore in 2019.

How would you describe the vision behind Rehstore?

Rehstore began in the midst of an existential crisis. The word Rehstore is a play on “Restore” and “Rehmat’s store”. I had graduated recently and I was feeling uncertain about many things in life personally and professionally. Opening Rehstore gave me a sense of direction and empowered me in many ways. Although it combines both art and business, it will always be more than a business for me; it represents restoration of self and my own identity. The vision Rehstore carries is more than what it sells on its virtual shelves—it shines more on the ability to take a risk as an entrepreneur and to put yourself out there powering through self-doubt and fear.

A recent post on Rehstore’s Instagram, introduced “Rehstories,” an initiative to celebrate fellow artists. Despite the competitiveness in your industry, how important is this support?

Give two different artists the same brush and the same canvas and ask them to paint an apple, you’d be surprised to see how different both apples would be. Rehstories is an initiative to showcase works of young artists via Rehstore’s platform so they are able to reach out to more customers. It is honestly a small effort from our side in the middle of a global pandemic to help small businesses. I believe that a true artist is never afraid to share his or her paints. I am happy to make a difference in someone’s life even if it’s in a very small capacity.

On the topic of competition, the craft you focus on (surface design) is gaining popularity with other clothing brands as well. Does that put pressure on you?

To be very honest I feel more happiness than pressure! To have more makers to meet the growing demand of a very prestigious craft we need more suppliers in the business who all have different styles to offer. I strongly believe in healthy competition. It pushes you to create better and that in result adds value to your business and its growth. I’ve had constructive conversations with people in different countries who practice the same craft and learnt so many things from them. I wish for the same sense of community to formulate in Pakistan by sharing and being more secure in our own skill.

Tell us about your recent collaboration with Samsara Couture House.

It got planned pretty quickly and was concluded online. It was a great experience to join hands with a team that took my designs and processed them into beautiful stitched products.

How do you think such collaborations help individual brands grow?

It’s quite enterprising you know? At first, I was struggling with the business side of things, but now I’m finding more ways to create like an artist, yet sell like a businesswoman. With collaborations like these one learns so much about the whole business cycle. All that can come in handy for when you want to expand.

We’ve witnessed an influx of homerun businesses blossom in quarantine. Has the slowing down of everyday life impacted your creative process?

It’s actually given me more time to spend with my business. I’ve really organised the structure of things in this time as a coping mechanism, so in my case it’s safe to say that it’s impacted me rather positively.

What about you as a person? Is there a silver lining during these strange times?

You know I may seem like a social butterfly on social media, but in real life I’m very introverted. I enjoy my company at home and even before this pandemic hit us, I preferred staying at home as much as I could. Personally, I’ve really found it calming, but professionally it’s impacted me like everyone else around the globe. I think now people, including myself, are finding newer and more creative ways to cope with work.

We’re aware of your love for dance, but haven’t seen any performance recently. Can we expect something in the future?

I used to dance a lot as a teenager and in my early 20s. I was an active member and later the president of my school and college’s dance societies. I recently played a role in a musical that was showcased in Alhamra as well. But now I’m really out of practice and wouldn’t call myself a professional performer. I’m not partaking in any projects as of now, but let’s see when I’ll find it in me to dance again. For now my feet are resting!

What are your hopes and aspirations for your business a decade from now?

I believe Rehstore will always be a small business in size, but big in what it has to offer. In the future I see collaborating with like-minded creative individuals and bring newer things to the table. I do know that throughout the journey my biggest competition will always be me and I hope that with the support of platforms such as GT and so many others who have helped me in this journey, I’ll be able to conclude a better and a more evolved store in its nature and the products it has to offer.


Modelling or running your own business?

Running my own business

Describe your personal style in three words.

Minimalist, effortless and comfortable

What keeps you motivated?

I imagine what I want my future to look like and then I set out to create it

Tell us of an instant mood-lifter.

To be honest, I Facetime my little niece to feel better instantly, so I guess to speak to your loved ones and keep them close to you can be a quick fix

A song that describes your personality the best?

“Reflecting light” by Sam Phillips

Do you have a nickname?

Rehmu & my mother calls me Lemon (not sure why)

What irks you most about social media?

Misuse of it! Making an active choice to use it to spread hate and negativity

Alternate career choice?

I think a motivational speaker

A weakness you’re working on?

I’m working on problem management, like being able to manage a problem or a given situation more calmly and productively and holding back from reacting emotionally, especially while making business decisions

A strength that gets you through hard times?

Processing and reflecting

Acclaimed couturier Ali Xeeshan tied the knot in a resplendent ceremony that lived up to his artistic reputation. He speaks to Mehek Raza Rizvi about married life and what he’s learnt so far. The gorgeous Myrah chimes in as well

Tell us about how you two met and the journey from love to marriage.

I first saw her at a fashion show in Islamabad and something just told me she’s the one; I just followed my instinct.

Have your expectations about marriage changed from what they were when your were single?

Yes, of course! I could’ve never imagined what a huge impact your partner can have on every aspect of your life.

How do you make sure your bond is continually nurtured and grows with time?

We both try to give each other love, respect, time, and most importantly,  space.

Do you believe it’s important for partners in a marriage to maintain their own separate lives and identity?

Well, I believe that’s a personal choice. However, one should always remain supportive of their partner.

What’re the things you two have in common? And the things that set you apart from each other?

We have a lot of things in common. We always have the same opinion about people when we’re judging them for example! What sets us apart are our sleep patterns for sure.

What has been your fondest memory together so far?

Travelling together to Rashakai to procure fabric.

Tell us about your beautiful wedding — who was more involved in the preparations?

We planned everything in three days only. My amazing team and I were in charge of most things, but I have to say, more than any other detail, getting the shade of a giraffe sculpture right was the prime concern; this was Myrah’s responsibility. She had to pull a few strings, get a few factories to open and have it painted on time.

What aspect of marriage were you most pleasantly surprised by?

The fact that it’s made me calm and wiser.

How do you envision your lives together ten years from now?

We want to grow old with each other and just live happily ever after, together forever.

If you could give one piece of advice to couples about to tie the knot, what would it be?

Please respect each other’s personal space.


Who’s the better cook?


Who apologises first after an argument?

We haven’t really had any massive arguments yet. Let’s wait and find out.

What’s an activity you two enjoy doing together?

Hisab Kitab.

Ali, do you have a say in putting together your wife’s wardrobe?

I like her personal style and don’t want her to be an extension of me. However, there are a few minor tweaks that I make here and there.

Myrah, do you ever give input to Ali on his designs?

Yes, he always asks my opinion.

If you could, which one trait would you change about each other?

We’ve embraced each other the way we are. Even if we have shortcomings, we accept them as part of the package.

What are the traits you value most in each other?

Ali: I admire her spirituality

Myrah: Honesty and creativity

What do you think is your greatest strength as a couple?

Our love and admiration for each other

What’s the most challenging part of being married?

Knowing there will be no days off—you’re married for the rest of your life.

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