Pakistan’s most recent export to Bollywood, Mawra Hocane, has managed to woo audiences and critics alike with her acting skills in Sanam Teri Kasam. It’s been two weeks since the film released worldwide and even though it has failed to do any business at the Indian box office, Mawra has garnered immense praise for her performance on both sides of the border.
The VJ-turned-actress has some of the most popular TV plays, including Maryam and Main Bushra, under her belt. In a rather short span of time, the 23-year-old actress has shot to fame more on the basis of her acting skills than by just being a pretty face. It was soon after her plays hit Indian TV channels, all thanks to Zee Zindagi, that she caught the fancy of Bollywood filmmakers Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru and was roped in to play a lead role in their romantic saga, Sanam Teri Kasam. This was a good opportunity for a Pakistani actress of her age; she would get to play a “prominent lead character” in the film as opposed to a trivial, objectifying role that most Pakistani actresses like Meera, Veena and even Humaima have landed in the past.
“Films tend to have more male dominant scripts and this role was more concrete than just being eye candy; it meant having a role that had some substance to it,” Mawra told Instep of her decision to sign the film. “When I was offered Sanam Teri Kasam, I knew it was a film based on a woman’s journey; and that it wasn’t a bad role and if I would be able to deliver, I’d be able to prove myself to the best of my abilities.”
One wonders why she chose a medium-budget Bollywood film to make her debut when there were so many great and diverse films being made in Pakistan.
“It’s not like I was sitting in Pakistan and rejecting Pakistani films. I was being offered films in Pakistan but I just felt that they weren’t the right kind of characters to begin my film career with,” Mawra explained. “It was not a conscious decision to debut with a Bollywood film.”
“I was offered wonderful work on TV and I had been doing the best serials. But in order to take the plunge, I needed a script so good that I could compromise four serials for, it” she added. “After Sanam Teri Kasam was offered to me, I knew it was a meaty role and I might not get such a role in a long time.”
The movie has received a lot of criticism on being nothing more than a clichéd love story and for glorifying stereotypes with no substance in the content. Indian Express critic Shubhra Gupta wrote in her review, “Sanam Teri Kasam, not to be confused with the ’82 film of the same name, is a manual of how not to make a contemporary romantic film.”
While critics remark that Mawra deserves a second chance in Bollywood and that she could have gone for a better film to debut with, the actress chooses to ignore criticism and focus on the positive. She is delighted that her performance is being appreciated. “If an actor is being applauded, the actor doesn’t go out and look for bad things that are written about them. I kind of ignore them,” Mawra stated, irked that the film’s reviews should even be brought up.
“I feel that if I am appreciated by leading critics in both India and Pakistan, I should cherish that. Everyone has really appreciated and applauded my performance and I am very happy about it since this was my first film and the whole burden of the film lied on me,” she exclaimed.
When asked if she ever regretted her decision to work in Sanam Teri Kasam, she asserted, “I think it was a wonderful start and I was fortunate enough to do a lead character in my first film unlike plays where I had to do six plays in a supporting role to reach that position. Any actor who would have done the role would never regret it at any point of time and I think I will never regret it.”
Mawra’s performance in Sanam Teri Kasam is the film’s actual strength instead of the storyline. However, this wasn’t the first time we saw Mawra playing the damsel in distress as she has played similar roles in almost all of her plays. Explaining why she opted for a similar role in her debut film as well, unlike most actors who look for diversity in scope, Mawra said that she felt tragedy was her USP; this is what people loved her for.
“They know me for crying really well. I thought if someone has called me because of my USP and because of something that people have always connected to me, I should utilize it.”
“It’s never a choice, and once given a project, then you stop thinking about how to make it different. You just want to nail whatever is given to you,” she added. “A worldwide release is something that no person experiences in serials and the audience is also limited. This was cinema exposure and this was my first performance for cinema goers so I thought I should give it my best. From here on maybe I should try something different.”
Avoiding to comment on the intolerance debate in India (while she was shooting for her film), Mawra chose to gear the conversation to her overall experience of working in Bollywood. “[It] was wonderful. From the day I stepped in India till the day I exited, I didn’t face any problem shooting there. It’s been a great learning experience in every way and I am not the same person who stepped into Sanam Teri Kasam.”
Elaborating on the experience of working with Indian actors as opposed to the local co-stars, she shared, “I feel it’s no different. When you work on a script, your whole spirit is for the project where your major concern is to deliver your best.”
The actress who is known for speaking her mind on social media didn’t seem comfortable talking about it in print. She politely refused to talk about the #BanMawra campaign initiated by Shaan in response to her support for Phantom that raised a lot of questions on her patriotism.
More understandably, Mawra doesn’t want to disclose anything about her
future projects either. Though she revealed that currently she is working on some projects, she didn’t name any of them and said that she would disclose details once things were finalized. However, she noted that she would go for a good script whether it be a play or a film in Pakistan or in India. “It’s not like now I have done a film so I won’t be working in plays. I feel that our serials are our pride and they are a dominant medium of our country. We are known worldwide for our serials and not for our films,” she maintained.
“I will see whatever works for me better as an actor but for now I just want to talk about Sanam Teri Kasam which is still going strong. I am happy that it is critically acclaimed and doing reasonably good in cinemas,” she concluded optimistically.