From producing films, fighting online trolls and moving towards a healthier lifestyle,Â this superstar reveals it all
The trailer for your upcoming movie â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ has audiences excited. Tell us about your role and how the plot is different from a typical rom-com.
â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ is not just a rom-com, but a feel-good movie with an important social message. Heer is a happy-go-lucky, high-spirited girl with big dreams, but from a conservative family â€” a character many will able to relate to. She wants to keep everyone happy, but once she undergoes a transformation, the real story begins.
You mentioned in one of your interviews that your relationship with your father inspired the father-daughter dynamics in â€œHeer Maan Ja.â€ Please elaborate.
That’s my absolute favourite part of the movie. Weâ€™ve shown a very healthy and positive father-daughter relationship â€“ one thatâ€™s similar to my own relationship with my father.
Iâ€™m also extremely grateful that the venerable Abid Ali agreed to play the role of my father. We previously worked together on â€œDiyar-e-Dilâ€ and it was great to work again.
â€œEid is a festive occasion and a big business window for Pakistani movies. It’s always good for the industry to have more than one release to the exhibitorsâ€
â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ is going to be released on Eid-ul-Azha, coinciding with the release of some other big budget movies. Does that make you feel any pressure?
Eid is a festive occasion and a big business window for Pakistani movies. It’s always good for the industry to have more than one release to the exhibitors. As a producer, I know we need more cinema screens in Pakistan for the industry to become sustainable, which weâ€™re not. Weâ€™re dependent on foreign content when Pakistani films are not releasing.
As far as the other movies are concerned, I believe they are catering to an audience much different than â€œHeer Maan Ja,â€ which is a comedy. They’re all projects from incredibly talented people and I wish them all the best.
The majority of your work has been with either Ali Rehman Khan or Osman Khalid Butt. Does being old friends or being raised in the same city have a part to play in that?
It’s a simple equation â€” the more you enjoy your work, the better a job you end up doing. Having a good team and people we are comfortable with, is probably our strength as a production house. To be honest, Ali & I have worked on various projects together and we have a whole bunch of fans, but Heer & Kabeer’s relationship in â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ is very different from what our fans and audiences have seen us play before.
How has your journey from â€œPawnay 14 Augustâ€ to â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ changed you as a person?
It’s been a wonderful roller coaster ride. I feel, I’ve grown exponentially as an individual, realised Iâ€™m a workaholic and love my job, both as an actor and as a producer and have accepted that my strength lies in my family and close friends.
So while Iâ€™m calmer, more focused and working non-stop, Iâ€™m essentially the same Hareem.
â€œActors are also humans and we have good and bad days â€” we have skin issues, weight issues and all other imperfections that any other human hasâ€
When answering why you ventured into production, you’ve spoken about the shelf life of an actress. Don’t you think a growing film industry demands female characters to be written differently?
Of course it does and there have been many projects in Pakistan that focus on women of all ages. However, that doesn’t mean that if the opportunity arises one shouldnâ€™t broaden their horizons.
In order to grow professionally, you need to explore your options and keep on learning. Producing wasÂ just a natural next step, even if I keep the age and gender factor aside.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a woman in the public eye?
The best thing is that you represent Pakistan and can be a role model for Pakistani women.
The worst is always being under scrutiny in a judgemental society. Actors are also humans and we have good and bad days â€” we have skin issues, weight issues and all other imperfections that any other human has.
You’ve spoken very candidly about your weight loss journey, advocating fitness over an unrealistic obsession with being skinny. What motivated you to change your lifestyle?
As we grow older, I guess it’s natural to want to be healthy â€” and that’s what triggered my decision to start this journey. At some point I actually started enjoying it all, the exercise, eating healthy and just feeling fit â€” it just became a way of life for me.
At the same time, because it wasnâ€™t an attempt at becoming skinny, the journey has left me feeling good about who I am, instead of being in a race to be a certain size or shape.
â€œIâ€™m blessed that my family is super supportive and loving. Both my sister and I have been brought up with the mentality that we can achieve whatever we set our minds onâ€
How do you unwind?
By listening to music and exercising.
Everyone knows you as a skilled actress and credible producer, but what are you like at home? Tell us about your family and childhood.
I come from a small family. I have aÂ younger sister whoâ€™s studying abroad and together we had a very normal childhood. Our parents always encouraged us to follow our dreams. Iâ€™m blessed that my family is super supportive and loving. Both my sister and I have been brought up with the mentality that we can achieve whatever we set our minds on.
Other than my family, I have a very small circle of friends that Iâ€™ve known since my school days. Theyâ€™re not from the industry and keep me grounded.
Ali Rehman Khan and Osman Khalid Butt
A role of yours you think you couldâ€™ve performed better?
There’s always room for improvement in everything you do
Your default response to trolls?
I generally don’t bother responding
Biggest pet peeve?
Do you have a hidden talent?
I can make you laugh on the worst of days
Wardrobe essentials you can’t live without?
If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Flame-grilled chicken and biryani (I guess those are two)
Tell us your most embarrassing moment.
Postponing the filming of a scene because of a gazillion retakes, thanks to my fits of laughter
Three things on your bucket list for 2019?
1-Make â€œHeer Maan Jaâ€ a success
2-Start working on my next film
3-Go on a vacation with my close friends (without my phone)
What traits of yours do you credit your success to?
The will to give my all to anything I set out to achieve
Interview: Â Mehek Raza Rizvi
Photographer: Â Shahbaz Shazi
Makeup & hair: Shazia Rashid
Â Wardrobe Stylist: Â Faiz Rohani
This Independence Day we celebrate the little delights that make up the quintessence of Pakistan, whether itâ€™s enjoying a plate of gol gappas or spotting our famous truck art among heavy traffic
Model: Marvi Shabbir and Leyla Shabbir
Photography: Aadil at Guddu Shani
Coordination: Batool at Guddu Shani
Styling: Areesha Chaudhry
Make-up: Tubah Zafar
Location: Chai Kadah
Whatâ€™s the one thing about Lahore that makes it your favourite city?
The atmosphere created by Lahoreâ€™s lush greenery, coupled with the monsoon rain in the summer is the epitome of home for me. The beautiful red brick layout of Lahori architecture, combined with the petrichor of rich Punjabi soil is like no other.
Whatâ€™s your favourite historic place in Pakistan?
Itâ€™s unfair to choose just one, as we have such a rich history â€” ranging from the 800-year-old Baltit Fort in Hunza to Jehangirâ€™s Tomb in Lahore, to the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh. For me the most significant is The Lahore Fort though: whenever I go there I like to visualise how life must have been back in the days of the Mughal grandeur â€” the river running by it, the hustle and bustle of the walled city â€” it represents a magical era to me.
How important do you think it is to look after our national treasures?
I think itâ€™s imperative that we look after our national treasures. It breaks my heart to see whatâ€™s become of places like Tollinton Market. However, Iâ€™m glad that theyâ€™ve started to conserve older landmarks and bring back the essence of old Lahore through restaurant experiences that also highlight other significant landmarks like the Badshahi Mosque and the Fort.
The historic quintessence of Lahore always has captivated me. Being one of the oldest cities, it has held ancient civilizations for over 7000 years old. Previously, Lahore was called Kachi Sehr, preceding the Mughal empire and carries meaningful antiquity. So itâ€™s highly important to protect these cities, because they carry the last link to our former heritage. Thereâ€™s more to Pakistan than being a country that got separated from India. What we have is absolutely precious and it should be a top priority of the government to preserve it.
Describe your perfect day out in Lahore.
Itâ€™ll have to be a winter day, where I leave early in the morning to visit Badshahi Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque and the rest of the inner city. Iâ€™ll then have a picnic in Lawrence Garden, followed by a nice dinner at Coocoâ€™s Den. Soaking up old Lahore in all its glory is the perfect day and thankfully I make it a point to do that almost every year.
What is that one eastern dish that you cannot go long without?
My motherâ€™s biryani, which she makes without potatoes mind you. I love halwa puri and chicken karahi also, but the biryani for sure, because itâ€™s super spicy.
Whatâ€™s that one place that you think holds the most amount of cultural heritage in Lahore?
Lahori culture has varied so much from the Sikh to the British and the Mughal reigns, so I donâ€™t think there is one place that I can pinpoint. Anarkaliâ€™s Tomb, which was a Mughal building, later turned into a church and taken over the by the Sikhs definitely holds a lot of culture and is very significant because it represents different eras of rule.
The lushness of Punjab or the beauty of Sindh?
The lushness of Punjab. I have a bias since my roots are from Lahore. I was lucky enough to explore a bit of central Punjab (Pak-Pattan) and the Sufi heritage there was mesmerising. Iâ€™d love to go deeper and explore Malika Hans as well.
How important do you think it is to understand the ethnicity that comes along with every culture?
Recognising and appreciating our diversity is vital. The traditions, clothes, food and cultures that have trickled down from the pre-Islamic pagan era, to now of people from Hunza, Kailash and Naran are so distinct. The splendour of the Sindhi culture and the simplicity of the Pakhtoon culture have so much beauty that it completely consumes you. The folk tale shrines of Punjab carry so much multiplicity that it is a tragedy if we donâ€™t appreciate the elements that make Pakistan what it is.
What is your favourite tradition since childhood?
I havenâ€™t gotten to see this particular tradition in recent years, but our home in Lahore was near one of the signature canals and I remember on 12 Rabbi-ul-Awal the canals would be decked out with decorative floats and people would make really nice colorful decorations outside their houses. The festivity wasnâ€™t dissimilar to what I grew up with in Canada around Christmas. Neighborhoods, especially the inner city ones were lit up with candles and oil lamps and I would always insist to help around.
Hair & Makeup by Nabila Salon
Styling by Salmoon John Daniel
Shot by Abdullah Haris
Coordination by MINT PR
Outfits By: Souchaj
49-XX, main khayaban-e-iqbal,Â Phase 3, DHA Lahore. By appointed only: +92-316-8181811
Designer: Nauman Afreen
Photography: Fayyaz Ahmed
Make-up & styling: N-Pro
Models: Yasmeen, Subhan, Ehsan,
Mansoor, Kamran, Wasif & Haris
Pakistan â€” the land of the pure â€” is a nation that has in its few decades of existence seen massive political upheavals, nationalisation, military regimes and wars. Over the past couple of decades it has also seen its global value fluctuate from important strategic partner of stronger countries, to one relegated to the blacklists. However, the nation and its citizens, despite adversity have survived and maintained a fierce sense of patriotism.
But what does this patriotism entail? Is it only just the act of jamming roads on 14th August, waving flags from car windows? Is it only the intense debating on political parties and their merits? Or is it simply the act of defending our sports teams against that of our neighbour to the east? Somehow or the other, what patriotism is has been diluted and relegated to a select few moments throughout the year; at best, this patriotic spirit is merely performative.
Patriotism is defined as vigorous support or devotion to one’s country. However, this support shouldn’t only be reserved for special occasions. When I asked around what Pakistan meant to people and what patriotism meant, the answers I received weren’t exactly encouraging. Most of the millennial generation seems to be disillusioned with the direction the country is taking, they’re holding out hope for a better future, while planning on securing their own futures elsewhere. Despite this, they’re all excited for the 14th August celebrations.
This complicated relationship my generation has with Pakistan prompted me to write this article. I remember when I moved back around five years ago, almost everyone my age felt that I was making the wrong decision. That I should have stayed abroad and by hook or crook found a way to stay there. I’m a firm believer in seeing where life takes you and going with the flow, so I didn’t mind moving back at the time. Funnily enough, moving abroad was less of a culture shock than moving back to my hometown that had changed so much since I’d left (that is a story for another day though).
Every day on social media I see more and more people complaining about the life they’re living here and ironically they’re rallying against those trying to bring actual positive change. While the political side I’ll leave to more informed minds, on the social side I just see unrest at any change that takes place in this country. We reject our national heroes for asinine reasons (sorry Malala and Dr. Abdus Salam), we cry out against minority movements that are trying to shed light on pressing issues (sorry Aurat March) and actively try to derail any such progress under the mantle of “this isn’t Pakistani.” What is Pakistani though? We are a land of myriad cultures and a plethora of languages. We are a people that are as varied as the landscapes from the mountains to the plains and the coastline. That’s always been the beauty of Pakistan to me. However, somehow that beauty seems to be lost on people. Our patriotism has limited itself to only the identity that we associate with. We aren’t able to accept our fellow countrymen with all their diverse beauty – and that is what makes me sad to be a Pakistani today.
Moreover, patriotism for me also entails being a model citizen. Yet, when I see people toss out candy wrappers from their cars while blaring the national anthem on Independence Day, I wonder whether they truly understand what it means to be a citizen of a state. Our love for our nation is so warped that we only find it in actions that rarely speak louder than words. And what’s more, we rarely accept any criticism as a nation. Anyone who highlights problems with the country is immediately labelled a traitor and someone to be distrusted. Yet, we will never stop to pick up that candy wrapper and throw it where it’s supposed to be thrown.
As the country goes through its regular tumultuous political affairs, we must turn to ourselves to fix what’s broken. Relying on those we voted in to swoop in and remedy everything is idiotic. We need to do better. We need to clean up after ourselves in public spaces, we need to respect basic traffic laws, we need to instil a sense of civic duty in our children and we need to remember that this country is only as good as its citizens. It’s imperative that we listen to the heretofore suppressed voices and not be myopic in our thinking. We must allow space for every citizen of this nation to be an equal part of Pakistan.
This Independence Day I urge you to not just paint your face the colours of our flags and go out on the streets, chanting national slogans, but to remember what those slogans stand for. I urge you to pledge allegiance to being a model citizen and upholding the values of humanity and tolerance that this nation was built on. More importantly, I urge you to pick up the candy wrappers and remember that this simple act can go a long way.