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The box office darling

Mehwish Hayat is a certified crowd-puller and all her films have been declared hits.

The box office darling

Mehwish Hayat is a certified crowd-puller and all her films have been declared hits.

She sits down with Instep and talks about the upcoming Load Wedding, which also stars Fahad Mustafa and is destined for success too.

 

If we speak of one actress who has constantly ruled the local box office with every film she has appeared in, it’s Mehwish Hayat. From Na Maloom Afraad to Jawani Phir Nahi Ani to Actor In Law and the most recent Punjab Nahi Jaungi, she has played pivotal roles in these films that generated huge numbers at the box office. Her skills as an artist have won her both fanfare and awards and she has been comfortable crossing over the different realms of film, television and even music.

Mehwish is now gearing up for her next film, Load Wedding, that is scheduled to release on Eid ul Azha alongside two other films including Parwaaz Hai Junoon and Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2. Directed and produced by Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza, respectively, the film is a social satire that comments on society’s obsession with the idea of marriage, particularly of daughters, and sheds light on multiple issues surrounding the subject.

The film’s recently released trailer, that has attracted great reviews, features Mehwish in a traditional setting as she essays the role of a young Punjabi woman, Meerab, aka Meeru. She is apparently a polio worker who is the childhood sweetheart of Raju, played by Fahad Mustafa, who earlier starred with Mehwish in Na Maloom Afraad and Actor In Law. The actress has been portraying strong roles lately; from Anmol in drama serial Dillagi (2016) to Meenu in Actor In Law (2016) and Amal in Punjab Nahi Jaungi (2017).

How does this one (Meerab) add to the list of strong characters that she chooses to play onscreen, I asked as we sat down for an interview.

“Sometimes I feel there should be a variation to those strong portrayals,” Mehwish responded. “We, as individuals, have our strengths and weaknesses and same is the case with characters that we portray onscreen. We just need to pick the right elements and bring them to light with our performance. Meerab is a desi, Punjabi girl who may appear to be a damsel in distress but she has her strengths. She has been brought up in Punjab; she has a different life, different exposure and has her limitations. She is not as headstrong as Amal in Punjab Nahi Jaungi but she has her strengths as well as her vulnerabilities. She is beautifully flawed and that’s what makes her unique. She has multiple shades and dynamics but she is a sweet and sensible young woman.”

Reflecting on how she acquired the accent and body language of a Punjabi girl that she is portraying in the film, the PNJ actress added, “We have so many Punjabis around us and we aren’t unfamiliar with the language. But being an actor, I obviously worked on polishing it and adding finesse to it. I worked on the accent, body language and other things to look the part. I love to get into these roles that challenge me as an actor.”

Those who have watched the trailer of the film must have come across a scene in which Meerab slaps Raju. In drama serial Dillagi and film Punjab Nahi Jaungi, Mehwish was slapped by Humayun Saeed while in this one (Load Wedding), she will be seen slapping the male lead, essayed by Fahad. If we look back at some of our recent films, a tight slap has become an important twist and also a major point of criticism as well. While we aren’t in favour of a woman slapping a man either, we asked Mehwish how integral it is to the upcoming film.

“The slap is very well justified,” she asserted. “It’s a moment where viewers will have goosebumps. Though, it was very difficult to slap Fahad.”

All of the films that Mehwish has starred in have either been directed by Nadeem Baig or Nabeel Qureshi. Why doesn’t she work with any other director(s)?

“I do get offers from other directors but one thing or other lacks,” she shared. “Either the character isn’t good or the script is weak. It’s not like I have made a conscious decision to not work with anyone else apart from Nabeel Qureshi and Nadeem Baig. What happens is, while I am finishing one film with either of them, the other one calls me. This is how I have been busy with projects offered to me by the two of them, one after the other. The characters and scripts are amazing so why wouldn’t I want to work with them? So far, there are two directors who are making good films and have proven their mettle time and again. They don’t disappoint viewers. I have developed a comfort level with them and I am glad they trust in my acting capabilities. I am honoured and blessed.”

When asked if she was offered a role in Jawani Phir Nahi 2 that is releasing on the same day as Load Wedding and also features her co-star Fahad in a prominent role, she informed that once viewers will watch the film they will know why she is not a part of the film.

While Mehwish is in talks for her next big screen project that she will announce soon, she confirmed that a biopic on Benazir Bhutto is in the works. However, it will take some time before it goes on floor. “A project of that magnitude cannot be done too soon,” she maintained.

On a parting note, we spoke of the sexual harassment controversy that has polarised the industry. Being a female member of the industry, what does she think of it?

“I have been speaking about women empowerment and sexual harassment for some time,” she emphasized. “The best part is, now we have the guts to speak up about it unlike the past when it was considered a taboo. People have realized that it’s very important to speak up. It all began from Hollywood with the Harvey Weinstein controversy so it’s not just Pakistan. Women from Hollywood, who we think are very modern and advanced, even they couldn’t speak up at the time it happened to them. Women are suppressed all over the world. But there is a new wave that has begun with the #MeToo movement and its effects can also be seen in Pakistan.”

Speaking of setting boundaries, Mehwish said on a parting note, “How do we do that? In some countries, even running the AC high if a woman is sitting in the car is harassment. So we need to decide what our boundaries are. But one thing is for sure, wolves are everywhere and we need to stand up and speak up against harassment until we can ensure there is no room for wolves anymore. That’s what all women need to do. That’s happening and I am very happy with it.”

Buraq Shabbir

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