It’s impossible to ignore Hareem Farooq. Unconventinally glamorous, she is not your average beautiful face but carries an enigmatic air of intelligence that is almost intimidating. She has intimidated both television and film with her presence in hit films as well as popular drama serials and while she has an undeniable movie-star presence, she has no plans of quitting television anytime soon since it gives her the opportunity to “cater to a larger number of people.” Farooq, who entered the cut-throat world of television three years ago, has time and again proved her acting prowess with her choice of characters.
She brought Bushra Ansari’s character Jahaan Ara Begum to life ages after the original comedy aired in Anwar Maqsood’s theatrical rendition. She didn’t shy away from playing contemporary actor and real-life friend, Osman Khalid Butt’s aged mother in Diyar-e-Dil, she played disturbed single mother, Zainab, in Dobara Phir Se and she continues her journey of picking the most unconventional of roles as we see her play a bipolar, slightly psychotic Aaila in the ongoing Sanam.
And if that wasn’t enough, Hareem partnered with the producer of her debut flick, Siyaah, Imran Raza Kazmi to produce one of 2016’s highest grossing Pakistani films, Janaan under the banner of their now-joint-production house, ‘IRK Films’.
“I’ve become more diplomatic,” she immediately responded when asked how being a producer had changed her as an actress. “I have become more cooperative and patient. As an actor you don’t know what’s happening behind the camera and you don’t realize what the production unit has to go through. I think I now have a different standing in the industry; for some weird reason people have started taking me more seriously,” she added jokingly.
Parchi, IRK Films’ next venture, features Hareem as the female lead in a story of “four men who get into a certain situation and seek help from a woman who has the solution since she has the authority and the power.”
Interestingly, Janaan kept Hareem behind the camera, allowing Canadian-Pakistani actress, Armeena Khan, to step in as the female lead. “I was completely into the production process,” Hareem responds. “Even though I wasn’t physically present in the first spell since I was shooting for Dobara Phir Se, I did know of what was happening behind the camera and it was a huge learning curve for me. With Parchi, I now have an idea of how it all works.”
Coming back to Parchi, the film is said to be something along the lines of Andaaz Apna Apna, Delhi Belly and Heri Pheri. Having a political element (that is quite evident with the title of the film), Hareem promises that “nothing will be in-your-face, it won’t target any particular person.”
“The film is about friendships,” she informed. “It has a love angle, it has family, it has subliminal messages and above all, it has a lot of surprises technically and in terms of direction and acting. Parchi narrates the story of what a common man goes through when he’s going through some sort of difficulty, it’s about day-to-day issues that are dealt in a comic way.”
The film has been in pre-production for the last three years and the script’s final draft is still being worked upon. Directed by Azfar Jafri and penned by Shafqat Khan, Ali Rehman Khan and Usman Mukhtar are all set to return with Parchi, while the other two male leads are yet to be finalized.
“Risks have always worked for us,” claimed Hareem. “Siyaah was a risk, and we consider it to be a milestone for us to have made a film when it all seemed alien. Janaan had a lot of risks, especially because we mildly dealt with child abuse. And now, Parchi is a risk as well.”
“The kind of character that Parchi offers me has never been done before,” she continued. “Nobody has had the guts to do a role like that. I play a very strong woman who I personally related to a lot. We’ve given equal mileage to the men and the woman. It’s more about what suits the story.”
Hareem hopes to be able to take IRK Films to new heights with Parchi and beyond. “We eventually hope to produce two films a year. While Imran will work on the post-production, I’ll start working on the pre-production for our next or vice versa. It’s easier to divide,” she says. “I think cinema has the ability to provoke thought processes. It has the power to influence. The reason we think of India as a very vibrant and colorful country is because of Bollywood. So our goal is to show people what Pakistan and its talent is capable of.”
Hareem also aspires to open an institute in Pakistan to groom and guide raw talent; IRK Films did indeed introduce us to several new, zealous actors in Janaan: Bilal Ashraf and Hania Aamir to name a few.
As far as acting goes, Hareem’s last outing was Mehreen Jabbar’s Dobara Phir Se, which failed to leave any impact on the box office.
“I never expected Dobara Phir Se to be a huge commercial success,” she responded to the statement. “I knew that it might or might not click with the audience. It was a gamble. For me, it was a good film and that’s what matters. I was very confident of it being critically acclaimed. A lot of people, however, couldn’t relate to the film. The masses don’t have a clue of what struggles people have who live abroad.”
However, more than the film itself, Hareem blames the ban on Bollywood films in Pakistan for the unfavourable response to Dobara Phir Se. “We don’t have enough content locally to pull enough people to the cinemas. The cinema-going culture had finally taken off and we do need Indian films for foot-fall.”