Image: Lux Style Awards by Tom Parker
By Anam Mansuri
Mahira Khan’s relationship with her fans is probably as real as it gets. No frills or pretenses. They’ve seen her evolve from the innocent Khirad in Humsafar to the feisty Saba in Bin Roye. They’ve been with her when she first gave birth, through divorce, and now through one of the biggest challenges she has had to face as the hot new import in Bollywood during a political crisis.
It can’t be easy being a punching bag for two nations at the brink of war, especially when your contribution to the bitter exchange was nothing but unflinching commitment to the arts. Despite all the drama, when we sit down with Mahira Khan who is set to make her Bollywood debut amidst turbulent political times this December, she seems surprisingly calm.
Here we sit with her to talk about everything she’s excited about in the next couple of years, from Shoaib Mansoor’s new film to maybe producing her own romantic comedy. Mahira tells all:
How are you dealing with everything that happened the last two months?
I’m doing nothing. I’m just spending time at home with Azlan. I haven’t really been on set for a year, and I’m beginning to get withdrawals. I haven’t ever been addicted to a drug but I feel like I know how it feels now. I can’t wait to start working on my upcoming projects again.
What I’m focusing on these days is moving forward. I have never stopped to think about my journey. In these five years so much has happened. My entire career. Loss. A lot of personal loss. Work has been such a great escape for me but for the first time in a long time I’m dealing with life. Asim Raza, the director of Ho Mann Jahaan called me recently and told me about a legend of a girl who turns into stone if she looks back. “So don’t look back because tum pathar ki hojaogee,” he said.
Tell us about theater classes you took over the summer. How was it different and what did you enjoy about it?
Honestly, I don’t know what it’s like to act on stage but I’ve been wanting to for a while. So I went to an acting instructor at NAPA, Sunil. It was unreal. I had to unlearn whatever I knew and act with kids and learn from them. They were really surprised that I was there in the first place, but we all had such a good time.
You recently spoke at a Ted Talk about online trolling. How much has that affected your life and how are you dealing with it now?
It affected me quite a bit for a while. Obviously it would affect anyone but I understand it for what it is, now. Researching for this talk was an eye opening experience. Children as young as the age of eleven are affected by cyber-bullying! As much as the internet is a good thing, it can be really horrible as well; there is so much information and nothing we really truly know. Also just the business of fake headlines, headlines that humiliate people, is becoming worse by the day.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a film directed by Shoaib Mansoor with an all new cast. After that I’m working on a really light comedy written by Vasay Chaudhry. I have also signed on a film with Azaan Sami Khan, so I’m going to be doing a lot of cool stuff.
It’s a very exciting time in Pakistan for film. You can’t imagine the kinds of scripts that are being written here, and I’m talking about underground stuff! Unknown directors and a new, young film-making crowd.
I’d also like to produce and direct myself very soon. I just don’t know if I’d be able to handle actor egos. I wouldn’t make a film that’s too serious. I like commercial films, something to do with youth. Romantic comedies are my favourite.
How are your thirties different?
Very different. I was 24 when I had Azlan. And I feel like everything for me has happened way too soon. 24 I had a child, 24 was the time I got Bol, 25 I had Humsafar. Today in my thirties I feel way more confident. I’m still shy and get nervous but I’m confident about who I am and how I want things to be. I still stay up all night, I still survive on two hours of sleep and I don’t look as fresh as I used to look in my twenties. I need to start eating right, I need to put on some creams on my face. But I do wish I had done a lot more. I feel like I didn’t work enough on myself.
I have a whole bunch of lines on my forehead that never used to be there before. And as much as I am pro getting whatever one needs to get done to look fresh, it hampers with acting and expressions, so I’ve never touched my face. But I have gotten all kinds of suggestions to get stuff done: to fix my nose, to get my lower lip tucked in.
Is it difficult finding love as a single parent?
It’s very difficult. It’s especially difficult for a single mom. And I’m not taking into account that I am who I am and that I come with baggage as a famous personality. If you want to know about me someone can just Google me and find out my favourite colour my favourite food etc. Everything. So it’s easy to impress me and that’s scary.
If you talk to other single moms, you’re ok with trusting someone with yourself, but you’re not okay with trusting someone with your child. And I keep saying this that I’m never going to get married again. But who knows maybe someday. That’s the only place where my fears come in. I’m actually OK with never getting married again.
What does motherhood look like for you? What new things do you keep learning?
I’m learning all the time. Azlan keeps me grounded and on my toes. He is also my bud, I feel like I have a friend who I can chill with and talk to.
What does success look like from the inside?
It’s a hazy place, which one doesn’t really fully understand. At times it makes you feel extremely good, humbled and a lot of times it’s a lonely place.
If you didn’t have your acting career what would you do?
I’d be working for sure. I don’t think I’d ever want to stop working. Most probably in this industry, probably behind the screen.