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?Â
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 werenâ€™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 fiancÃ© that I speak to Mani. He was okay with me talking to Mani. Maybe because he knew that I donâ€™t have any bad intentions. He knew that I was just a fan. However, I didnâ€™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 donâ€™t know yourself whether itâ€™s love or infatuation. I used to think that I was in love with my fiancÃ© and that Iâ€™m just Maniâ€™s fan. But this was not true at all. Not even one bit. My fiancÃ© was chosen by family for me. I guess I had been in love with Mani all along, I just didnâ€™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, Iâ€™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 itâ€™s better if you marry me because I donâ€™t want to alternatively marry someone I donâ€™t love. Itâ€™s better to feel secure in a marriage with someone you love, rather than marrying someone you donâ€™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. Thatâ€™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 youâ€™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 Iâ€™d be watching a movie, the house would be a mess. However, since Iâ€™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 Ibrahimâ€™s, and this hour is for cooking or organizing etc. Itâ€™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: Itâ€™s not that challenging for me because Iâ€™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 doesnâ€™t get messed up. My sister used to do theatre. I started theatre back in 1995 also. So I donâ€™t think itâ€™s that much of a challenge because this is our normal. Iâ€™ve seen it in my home growing up. I know how it works. Sometimes weâ€™re both busy. Sometimes Hira is busier than I am because currently Iâ€™m only focusing on production. I do that from home. Itâ€™s a bit more challenging for Hira right now because sheâ€™s acting in plays. Sheâ€™s doing back-to-back dramas and theyâ€™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 Iâ€™m the bad cop and Hira is the good cop. Hira tries to fulfill their every wish. She feels a little guilty because she isnâ€™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.Â 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 doesnâ€™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. Theyâ€™re giving us attention right now because theyâ€™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. Weâ€™re street smart too. Our parenting is very aligned with our own lifestyle. Hira obviously feels guilty at times, she feels like she isnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 weâ€™re both not parents. Parenting is a condition. This can fall upon anyone â€“ be it parents, kids or siblings.
Iâ€™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 Iâ€™ve done something wrong. Iâ€™ll tell you a story. A little while ago I was scolding my maid. I didnâ€™t speak to her nicely. Muzamil was listening and he intervened. He said, â€˜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.â€™ 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.
Whoâ€™s the first person to say sorry and make up?
Hira: I donâ€™t know why but Mani never gets upset with me. He doesnâ€™t have a problem with anything. Yes, the only thing he doesnâ€™t like is my overspending. Thatâ€™s it. Iâ€™ll get a call randomly and heâ€™ll say. Was there 25000 withdrawn from your card on Wednesday at 9:30PM? And Iâ€™ll say I donâ€™t know Mani! He wants me to be a better money manager. To take care of my finances better. So saying sorry doesnâ€™t matter between us. Even if we have an argument, we start talking again. If Iâ€™m mad, heâ€™ll crack a joke thatâ€™s bound to make me laugh.
Mani: There is no saying sorry when it comes to us. When youâ€™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, heâ€™s very emotionally intelligent. He handles everything very smartly. If Iâ€™m getting upset heâ€™ll say to Hira, â€˜Mama, wo Mani Baba ko ghussa aaraha hai tou aap zara chup hi rahienâ€™ 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. Theyâ€™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 donâ€™t show it. I feel like when youâ€™re married to someone you really get used to them. We have a habit of always being with each other.
Hira, youâ€™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 weâ€™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, â€˜Look, Jackie Chan had to break 800 bones to win an award. What did you do?â€™ So we roast each other so much at home that if someone outside even says anything it doesnâ€™t matter. Weâ€™re public figures so this comes with the package. We have to accept it. So Iâ€™m very honest with my audience â€“ whether itâ€™s the truth, or a lie or complexes â€“ I always try my best to be organic with my fans. So I feel like, if youâ€™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 doesnâ€™t matter to me. When someone criticizes my acting, fortunately a drama will come up where Iâ€™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. Weâ€™re lucky that Allah has given us so much. People that havenâ€™t been as lucky as us have to take out their frustration and exertion somewhere. So I always say, if youâ€™ve had a fight with your mother in law, come swear at me. I donâ€™t mind it at all!
Hira, how and when did you realize you had a passion for acting?
I honestly donâ€™t know what my passion is. I still donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m a good actor or if itâ€™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 someoneâ€™s problem. So coming back to the question, I honestly donâ€™t know. It probably seems like I donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m saying. But I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m a good actor or not. I became an actor by chance.
What, in your opinion are the challenges of being an actor in todayâ€™s industry? A female actor especially Hira?
Hira: None really. I can only speak about my own experience. I donâ€™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. Itâ€™s a great industry for women, I believe.
Mani: The industry has changed a lot. There are a lot of rewards. Before, there wasnâ€™t such a big reward. In terms of money also. There is a lot of money in the industry now. Millions. But thereâ€™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. Itâ€™s a whole mission. Itâ€™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, theyâ€™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 weâ€™ve changed our strategy. We donâ€™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 hasnâ€™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, sheâ€™s a great cook. Sheâ€™s a full gharelu maa at home and outside sheâ€™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 thatâ€™s all that it is, a drama. Itâ€™s just acting. Iâ€™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 thatâ€™s real life. I know that acting is just work. The limitations are her own. I donâ€™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?Â
I like crying. Since the beginning, Iâ€™ve always liked playing sad characters. Dukh jis dil mein hota hai wo dil bara hota hai. When youâ€™ve seen distress in life, even the smallest of happiness seems big to you. I feel like relax and chill are words that I donâ€™t like at all. You only relax when youâ€™re sleepingâ€”
Are you able to cry easily during scenes?
Hira: No. Just because I like it doesnâ€™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, Iâ€™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 â€“ 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 Iâ€™m able to cry that means that Iâ€™ve successfully put myself in my characterâ€™s shoes. I like this whole process. I like sad characters. I like the word sad itself.
Iâ€™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 itâ€™s very wrong. Itâ€™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 theyâ€™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 didnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t like it. However, you shouldnâ€™t let these things bother you. These things happen. Everyone edits their photos. Iâ€™ve made my persona so accessible that when young girls look at me, theyâ€™re able to see themselves in me and relate to me. Soon, Muzamilâ€™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, â€˜bhaag saali, tu pictures edit karti hai.â€™ 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 Iâ€™m working with Ahmed Kamran on a play, he listens to all my advice. That gave me a real boost. After youâ€™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: Iâ€™m sure everyone has seen Kashf that was directed by Danish Nawaz. It was a beautiful project. Thereâ€™s another play just like that called â€˜Ibn-e-Hawaâ€™. In which we show war between man and woman. The script for that is just amazing. Iâ€™m doing another play with Hum TV. Iâ€™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. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™ve never been able to do a negative role. I did a play called â€˜Mein Hari Piyaâ€™. I was actually offered Sumbalâ€™s role first. After shooting for two days, I thought this is too much. It made me so anxious. I just couldnâ€™t do it. So I asked them to give me another character.
Mani: I did a few films a little while ago including â€˜I Love You Babyliciousâ€™ which also stars Shahroz Sabzwari and Syra Yousaf. Iâ€™ve played the villain in that. Iâ€™ve produced that film also. Iâ€™ve also done another film called Lafangay with Sami Khan. Thatâ€™s a horror-comedy. Iâ€™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. Iâ€™m also working on stuff for social media. Iâ€™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 shouldnâ€™t live someone elseâ€™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. Thatâ€™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 havenâ€™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. Hiraâ€™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. Donâ€™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 donâ€™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 Iâ€™m not scared anymore. Iâ€™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 sheâ€™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. Itâ€™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, â€˜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.â€™ Iâ€™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. Thatâ€™s all I would like to tell them.
Photography: Mohsin Khawar
Styling and concept: Aarinda Noor
Wardrobe: Maria Osama
Jewellery: Kundan Co.