In conversation with Mehwish Hayat | Instep

Mehwish Hayat is riding high these days… higher than anyone else. From being named one of the most beautiful faces in the region to starring in Pakistan’s most successful film, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani, Hayat has seen it all. Throw in the success of Actor in Law and you have a formidable film star in the making. Instep on Sunday caught up with Mehwish Hayat to know more about her upcoming projects, her return to TV and her singing career.

Instep: Your recent release, Actor in Law, is doing great business these days. How do you feel about its success and consequently your own?

Mehwish Hayat (MH): I have always believed that if you give your best to a project then good things will follow and we gave Actor in Law more than our best. It was a brilliant script, executed in an excellent manner and it addressed issues that not many films have touched upon in recent history. I am glad that I was part of a film that is not only doing well at home but is also making Pakistani cinema proud outside the country.

Instep: You’re doing Punjab Nahin Jaongi with the same team that produced Jawani Phir Nahi Ani … thoughts?

MH: I am super excited about the project because a) it’s with the same people who produced and directed the biggest blockbuster of Pakistani cinema and b) because it came after the success of Dillagi, with the same duo. The only difference between PNJ and JPNA is that of the writers. Khalil ur Rehman Qamar sahib has penned the script of PNJ while Vasay Chaudhry was the man behind JPNA script.

Instep: Punjab Nahin Jaongi was offered to Iman Ali but finally landed in your lap. Has that fact made things awkward?

MH: Not at all. On the other hand, I am getting the same feeling that I got when I was offered Actor in Law. That film was my second with Nabeel (Qureshi) and Fizza (Ali Meerza) who introduced me to films with Na Maloom Afraad and working with them again was like a dream come true. Similarly, when Humayun (Saeed) and Nadeem (Beyg) with whom I was doing Dillagi approached me for PNJ and showed me the script, it was impossible to reject it. It is such a wonderful script; the story revolves around me and I couldn’t have asked for a better offer.

Instep: Don’t you think that after starring in the most successful Pakistani film of all time, you returned to TV very quickly with Dillagi?

MH: Some actor or actresses might not return to TV this quickly but I was confident of the TV serial’s success. The script was well-written and Nadeem (Beyg) was at the helm. What more could I have wanted than to make a comeback on TV with my successful co-star Humayun Saeed, who was also doing the same thing. Plus, the drama was all about my character Anmol and the rest had good characterization but I was the main lead and that too like never before.

Instep: Generally, films in Pakistan have male centric titles like Maula Jutt, Buddha Gujjar, Main Ik Din Laut Kay Aaonga … how does it feel to play the title character in a female centric film?

MH: I am not going to tell you the details of my character but yes, I play a strong female in the movie around whom the whole story is based. My character has a lot of margin to perform and like Actor in Law, I have tried to do something different. This girl will neither be like Meenu Screwala nor Anmol but something else; you’ll have to watch the movie to know that!

Instep: Out of these three characters – Meenu from Actor in Law, Anmol from Dillagi and title role of Punjab Nahin Jaongi – which is the closest to Mehwish Hayat?

MH: It seems more like a question of ‘which song is closest to you’. (Laughs) All the characters were written by different people and directed by different directors so I got to learn a lot from each of them. It’s not just about playing strong women but making people believe that your character is strong in reality. Anmol was the one that got mileage since it was on TV while the rest were in films, but that doesn’t mean that the rest weren’t equal; they were.

Instep: Don’t you agree that filmmakers in this part of the world have started taking characters seriously?

MH: Yes, they have and I am glad that the realization came at a time when I am acting in films. Writers in Hollywood emphasize on characterization and that was something we lacked until recently. Now we have writers who explain the characters to you, what they eat, what they wear and above all, how they speak. They give us time to practise as well as observe which is the reason why acting in our films has gotten better. Building characters is the key to building a better film industry and I believe now we are on the right path.

Instep: Due to the current situation at the border, distributors and cinema owners have stopped the release of Bollywood films in Pakistan. Do you agree with the decision or not?

MH: I wasn’t in the country when the situation escalated at the border but I believe that through this decision, our film industry will benefit. Pakistani films currently playing in cinemas will get more shows and people will get to watch films easily now that there will be seats available. I have been told that some recent films might also be screened and if that happens, then I would be the happiest person as my first film Na Maloom Afraad as well as my biggest hit Jawani Phir Nahi Ani will be screened alongside Actor in Law. What else can an actor ask for!

Instep: How do you manage to juggle between films and television roles?

MH: After JPNA, I was sort of missing TV and my fans were missing me. I enjoy the medium of television as it has given me my identity. I accepted Dillagi as a challenge as it was going to be my first play in three years and it did wonders for me, the biggest one being my next film Punjab Nahin Jaongi with the same team.

Instep: Your entry in Coke Studio didn’t yield the same results as your acting projects …

MH: Coke Studio was a new thing for me but with Shiraz (Uppal) backing me, I managed to give it a try which was liked by many. Usually people go for covers in Coke Studio but I was appreciated for going for an original composition and that’s the reason why it got more than 3 million hits on the Internet. Yes, it came at a time when so much was happening for me but even then, it was the most watched video of that episode. I have learnt a lot from this experiment and who knows I might appear again in the next Coke Studio or sing a song in my next flick; anything can happen in the world of showbiz.

– Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]


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