When did acting catch your fancy?
I grew up on a heady diet of Disney and classic Bollywood cinema. Although the first time I acted was in a school musical, I only took it seriously on seeing a theatrical adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in Islamabad in 2004. At curtain call, the producer mentioned two upcoming auditions, saying ‘for those of you who want to be on this side of the stage…’ That was the moment when I knew I had to be on that side of the stage. Eventually, I got my first call-back and played the lead in Shah Sharahbeel’s adaptation of Moulin Rouge. There has been no looking back since.
Your video blog is very popular. How did it come about?
It started as an office joke when my colleague mentioned this list of obscene words the PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) was planning on banning from being used in mobile texts. Curious, we decided to download the list and alongside innocuous words like mango, taxi and deeper were some of the most hilarious phrases I’d ever read in my life. That night, I decided to read out some fake texts I’d written using some choice phrases from the list into my webcam. 20 minutes later, I had my first vlog. It became an instant hit and I’ve continued since.
With the launch of Zee Zindagi, do you see more frequent Indo-Pak artistic collaborations?
I think it’s a wonderful initiative on the part of Zee to air Pakistani content. We take great pride in our drama industry and the diverse genres and themes it offers, and I’m excited to see Aunn Zara get such an excellent response from across the border. I think while we in Pakistan are well-versed in all things Bollywood, Indians are finally going to see some of our finest works. It’s good exposure, not just for actors but directors and scriptwriters as well. And judging by the feedback, I see no reason why both countries won’t join hands for the sake of art.
How different/similar are Indian and Pakistani shows to each other?
I think both have their own distinct styles – I have to admit, I haven’t explored much of Indian television. Growing up, Zee Horror Show was one of my favourites. I think Pakistani television has essentially been as pivotal an industry as Indian film. The short series (ranging between 18-25 episodes) instead of soap format has allowed for more experimentation in content.