May 16-31 – 2019


Versatile actress Sarwat Gilani has become a household name through her powerful performances and advocacy for special needs children.Mehek Raza Rizvi sits down for a candid chat to know more about her work and life at home

Your movie, JPNA 2, was the first Pakistani blockbuster to cross the Rs 70 crore milestone. How does it feel to be part of the industry at a time that may be written down in history as its most transformative phase? 

Yes. Commercial cinema is the need of the hour, most certainly the safer bet, while independent cinema is slowly but surely catching up. In order to elevate our craft the pioneers of the industry must collectively open an institution to educate newcomers about film. It’s important to invest in and groom our talent, so they carry the torch forward. We’re witnessing the re-birth of Pakistani cinema and I’m extremely lucky to be part of this transformation.

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?

Most of our drama serials are about weak women who eventually turn into strong ones. So one could say there’s a kind of feminism involved, but obviously a little twisted since it’s drama. However, I believe as actors we shouldn’t judge the characters given to us.

We’re witnessing the re-birth of Pakistani cinema and I’m extremely lucky to be part of this transformation

As a woman, have you experienced any inherent prejudices in your line of work?

Every profession has its prejudices, but since the entertainment industry is at the forefront it’s very easy for people to create preconceived notions about those who are part of it. It used to bother me initially but eventually I realised it was only a reflection of a limited mindset. I remember a girl walking up to me while I was performing Umrah to ask why I was there and who looked after my children when I was at work. It’s very sad when women pull other women down because of their own insecurities.

Out of all the memorable performances to your credit, which one character portrayed by you remains the closest to your heart? Why? 

Linta from “Khasara” because it portrayed a strong woman who stood against the odds. She faced difficulties with grace and strength, which is an admirable quality. I enjoyed embodying her character as there were various dimensions to it.

We hear you may be producing a film soon. Is that true? 

Yes, it’s a secret right now, but when I’m ready I’ll talk about it.

You were recently awarded for your tireless efforts to promote Special Olympics Pakistan. Tell us about your work for the organisation and why it’s close to your heart. 

Being part of the SOP family has been an honour. I’ve witnessed these beautiful individuals transform from children with special needs into power house athletes, owning and embracing their differences. The rewards weren’t just restricted to medals, but also translated into every aspect of their lives, enabling them to realise their own potential. Belonging to the media, I had the advantage of reaching out to the entire nation for this noble cause.

What’s the secret to a happy relationship with your partner, especially when both of you have demanding careers?

More than anything else you need to accept that your partner’s an individual first and then your spouse. To be in a healthy and happy relationship it’s essential to appreciate and encourage each other. What I love most about Fahad is that he listens to my wildest ideas and gives me genuine advice. On the other hand, if something is troubling him I sit down and try to resolve it for him. This makes us realise that we’re both involved and interested in each other’s lives. Also, I feel it’s crucial to keep reinventing yourself in order to keep the fire burning, especially when you both are working individuals and barely get time to spend with each other. My mantra is: be a friend before a lover, a lover before a companion and a companion before a spouse.

As a working mother yourself, what would your advice be to women struggling to strike the work-life balance? 

Mothers are superheroes — they’re multitasking all the time. I manage my kids and work by being super organised with everything. For example, I have a set weekly menu for them so no time is wasted on thinking what to cook every day or what groceries to buy.

I’ve witnessed these beautiful individuals transform from children with special needs into power house athletes, owning and embracing their differences

It’s important to keep certain days of the week free for family and have one activity that you do with them everyday. It could be a quick game or reading to them, either while dropping them to school or putting them to bed. These are the things they will remember most when they grow up.

In the world of social media, the ruthlessness of trolls is something all public figures are subjected to. How do you respond to them? 

Everyday I get numerous comments and sometimes they can be very hurtful. Since there’s no limit to what anyone can write on social media, it’s up to us how seriously we take it.

At the end of the day I realise they come from people who see me as public property, so I remind myself to not give them undue attention. Whether it’s me jumping from the sky, smoking, wearing unconventional clothes or climbing K2, the trolls will always have a comment that comes from an unexposed mentality.

My mantra is: be a friend before a lover, a lover before a companion and a companion before a spouse

What is Sarwat Gilani like at home?

I like everything clean and in order. I’m often found organising mine and the kids’ wardrobes, the pantry or the kitchen. I love gardening, so I manage my plants with the gardener as well. He thinks I treat my plants as my own children and that’s actually kind of true.

I’m very chilled out with close family and friends and enjoy entertaining at home.


Theater, film or TV? 

Film and now web-series

Three changes motherhood brought in you?


Empathy for special needs children


Your guilty pleasure?

Watching ‘Sex and the City’ every chance I get

One thing you would want to change about the entertainment industry in Pakistan?

Unhealthy competition

Alternate career choice? 

Interior designer

Favourite ‘90s jam?

“Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve

What was the last photo you took?

Of my sons playing in the sand

Your personal style in three words?




Last impulsive buy?

Shoes for the kids in Poland

Most prized possession?

My father’s antique watches

What was the last lie you told?

“The dessert was great”

Do you have a nickname?


A decision you regret?

Not a single one

Favourite movie quote?

“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t look around once in a while you’re going to miss it.” From “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”


Photography, hair & makeup:

Akif Ilyas


Soraya B, Nitya Bajaj & Vesimi

Styling & Coordination:

Ella Hussain — Emergency Room 19

Bushra Ansari is a true living legend who has continued to dominate the entertainment industry for over five decades. From acting, to singing, hosting and writing, she has done it all and aced each undertaking. This icon has received all major Pakistani awards, including Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Pride of Performance. She is celebrated in particular for her impersonations of Madam Noor Jehan, Tahira Syed, along with her impeccable performances in Fifty-fifty, Angan Terha, Raja Ki Ayegi Barat and Udaari. Sana Zehra sits down with Ansari to have a candid conversation about life and work.

You’re celebrated as one of Pakistan’s living legends. Do you think your success has put pressure on your children to live up to your name? 

I’ve never put any kind of pressure on my daughters. I worked in media because that’s always been my passion. When it comes to my children, they’ve been free to follow their own dreams. My husband and I have been strong advocates of female empowerment and I’m glad my daughters are carrying on that legacy.

My husband and I have been strong advocates of female empowerment and I’m glad my daughters are carrying on that legacy

Tell us about your relationship with your daughter Meera.

Meera and I are best friends and spend a lot of our free time together. I enjoy our conversations, as neither of us enforce our ideas on the other. Despite my hectic schedule, I ensure I’m in touch with her via calls or WhatsApp. We cherish our relationship and that’s why we’ve balanced and managed it so well.

How did you manage motherhood with your professional commitments?

Being a mother of two beautiful girls, a full-time housewife and working in showbiz wasn’t easy at all. My family lived in Lahore, while my in-laws lived in Islamabad, so I never had the privilege of leaving my children with their grandparents. Despite this, I was always there for them — from school pick-and-drop, tuitions, parent-teacher meetings and all other activities. If I were travelling abroad, I’d take them along. So, I feel content knowing that I never neglected my girls because of work.

A lot of working mothers feel guilty while at the workplace. What’s your advice for them?

My best advice is to try to appreciate time for what it is. If you’re at work embrace your time without the kids, where you can focus on your own ambitions and goals. When you’re home, have fun playing with them. The trick is to find the silver lining in the chaos.

How have your notions of what it means to be a woman changed over the years?

I’m so proud that I’m a woman. Surviving in a man’s world is not easy for us. But then what is life, if it’s not tough and challenging? And I love challenges. I’ve never compromised on my principles and moral values and have received so much respect, love and acceptance for just being who I am, which is an achievement in itself. Women today are empowered and a lot more open to the curves life throws at them.

Surviving in a man’s world is not easy for us. But then what is life, if it’s not tough and challenging? And I love challenges

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

I’ve always chosen my characters mindfully. However, my role in “Udaari” as Sheedan is closest to my heart, because the concept is completely different from typical Pakistani drama serials. Sheedan doesn’t embody the common ‘log kya kaheinge’ (what will people say?) mentality; she has a heart of gold, but is also undiplomatic and fears no one. It’s about a woman who earns for her family by singing and dancing at weddings and is fiercely unapologetic about it. She’s rather proud of it.

Tell us about your video to promote peace between Pakistan and India. 

My inbox is filled with viewers’ feedbacks who say the song is the voice of their soul. The idea was to promote peace and harmony and to make everyone know what a common man from both ends of the spectrum wants. The general public from both sides of the border genuinely wants peace, but politics and warmongers create distances between them.

Have you ever felt the pressure of being an influential figure for the masses?

Not pressure but responsibility I would say. When so many people look up to you and follow you it becomes your responsibility to raise you voice for issues that are important. It’s no less than a privilege that God has bestowed you with and one should definitely strive to make a change by taking a constructive advantage of their position in the society. When you’re a public figure you generally have a heavy influence and impact on individuals and society, as many people follow you and you can change people’s perspectives and beliefs in few minutes. Therefore, you have to act responsibly because you’re accountable for your words.

You’ve seen the entertainment industry evolve since its early PTV days. How do you think it’s changed you as an artist? 

As compared to yesteryears, television in Pakistan has grown dramatically. The production of satellite channels and cable TV networks has made it possible for a large number of Pakistanis to have access to TV entertainment. Today, the content is completely changed from how it used to be in early years.  To be honest, it hasn’t changed much for me as an artist, because I’ve always been open to roles with substance — I never shy away from challenges. Yes, the audience’s approach is different towards the content today, but one thing that’s remained constant in my career is that I believe in quality over quantity.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t hold back on doing what you really want, because it won’t bring you far in life. Correct yourself, empower yourself and most of all love yourself.


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