It’s been a year since Mawra Hocane made headlines with her film and Bollywood debut, Sanam Teri Kasam. It’s been a year since this VJ and television artiste shot to stardom and became one of the most desirable celebrities on the horizon. Today, Mawra has an accumulated figure of almost 3.5 million followers on social media; she is one name that is impossible to not be aware of in the epoch of individuality. It would be unfair to call her a social media sensation as she is starring in drama serial Sammi these days; she’s also made numerous runway appearances over the year. Is there a film in the pipeline, or has Mawra Hocane decided to sit things out for a while as she completes her LLB degree in Islamabad? Mawra has enrolled in a University of London external program and is studying at the Institute of Legal Studies these days.
In this Instep exclusive she speaks her heart out about work, Sammi and her inner energy that is currently Zen. Is she anything like the weak and oppressed women she plays? Does she enjoy being referred to as tragedy queen? She believes otherwise as her inner power speaks volumes on her strengths. From her successful stint in Bollywood, her latest role in Sammi, its critique, and things in her life that make her human, Mawra Hocane proves she is a force to be reckoned with.
Instep: Sanam Teri Kasam is one of your highest achievements; you must have been disappointed with the ban that prevented you from doing more work in India.
MH: To give you a boring answer, I am Zen and these things don’t really affect me. Sometimes in a blue moon they do, but usually I am very Zen. I truly believe with all my heart that whatever’s happening is for the best. Of course, I had to turn down a few things or rather projects that I couldn’t do given the situation. But I am glad that I did a film when the situation was better and I am sure the good times will come back.
I am not disappointed or irritated as long as my own country is giving me the work that it is giving me. For an artiste, it is important to vent out or apply their art somewhere on some project. It rarely matters which country it belongs to; it is more important to perform and be given platforms.
Instep: Cinema is the biggest platform for any artiste. What’s stopping you from signing any films in Pakistan? Have you received any film offers?
MH: I do not think that after working for years in the best of projects, it’s a big deal to get offers. So, there’s nothing to flaunt about that. What I want people to know is that right now, I am solely working on Sammi and nothing else at all and I don’t have any problem sharing that with anybody because I am a very secure actor. Until I don’t find a project that enriches me, I will not accept a role.
Instep: What do you keep in mind while selecting a new project or accepting a role?
MH: I already give too much to the projects I work in. Honestly, even in Bollywood, I haven’t done a film with a director that everyone is dreaming about, so I had to give a gargantuan amount of time and sweat to make the project shine. Even in Pakistan, I don’t think I have worked with directors who people write about in their wish lists. I have always given so much to my projects and sometimes alone. There have been projects where I was the sole saving grace, so I do feel that all of that has emptied me a little and I deserve to be enriched by the directors I work with now. So, I will give it a little time to select my next project.
Instep: Who are your dream directors in India and Pakistan?
MH: Dream directors in India would be Imtiaz Ali, Ayyan Mukherjee and Karan Johar. Dream directors in Pakistan would be Asim Raza, Nabeel Qureshi and Nadeem Baig.
Instep: Do you feel that you’re under the microscope all the time, especially on social media?
MH: My publicist and friends keep telling me that I underestimate myself and the power, which lies within my hands. However, I am also a normal person; I can also feel something and write it. I can also crack jokes and try to be funny even if it only makes me laugh. I am not a stand-up comedian or someone who has to be right always; I can also just be who I am. I wish my tweets that have a positive message also get as viral as the ones in which people are hating on me.
Instep: That said do you think your social media following contributes to your stardom?
MH: Of course it does. But it cannot come from the intention of being a social media star. I started using Instagram when people asked me to start uploading pictures there. It came from the intention of actually liking social media platforms as a hobby. I used to passionately use social media when people really didn’t. I think that’s why I have a huge following. But sometimes I am stuck between the choice of writing about things that affect me or writing about things that people would enjoy.
I do have to self-censor to make sure that I don’t write anything that harms anybody. I refrain from putting up anything that may harm people or affect them in a negative way. I don’t do things, which I know will create a situation for people. Some days, I do feel that despite being so careful, people draw what they want to out of the things I write, to make their own connotations. I do get people being hateful but that’s a select few in comparison to people who write good things, but you’d never see that written about in publications because everyone wants masala.
Instep: Do you feel social media has also made nobodies into celebrities. Is social media following enough for one to be considered a star?
MH: I say, good for them. I say this because probably the year I started and those before me, they didn’t even have social media platforms. Maybe, if I would have joined this year, I would already have had an Instagram and had some followers and I would have used my social media to get popular. So I feel there’s nothing wrong with it but I do feel work and social media go hand-in-hand. I don’t mind it; people should totally use it for their benefit!
Instep: Coming to Sammi, people have complained that your role in Sammi is too regressive. Does it get inspirational at some point in the story?
MH: A lot of people ask me this question, but then one must realize this is not about people like you or I. We might find this regressive because we live in another world, where we may not even come across such a problem. But when we go and shoot in a village and see where such problems happen, or simply just search it online and see the number of wani cases that happen, we’ll realize that it’s not regressive but the truth that we close our eyes to intentionally or unintentionally. We may not wake up and question about how many honour killings happened today; we don’t even give it a thought, so when we watch a project like this, we find it regressive. It’s not about a girl living in Karachi, who woke up to face an electricity outage or a water shortage; it’s about someone living in a village that isn’t allowed to take a single decision herself. She’s stuck with the fear that someone will make a decision for her and she has to abide by it because she has no other option.
The whole point of bringing a show like Sammi on air was to shed light on topics we may not understand. When I first read the project, I asked why was [Sammi] so helpless? She never spoke. For a girl like me, I was questioning the writers, since she didn’t speak a word in the first many episodes of the script! Why wouldn’t she question her brother and her father and I realized girls in the villages may not do so. I kept questioning why was I surrendering to their every decision and whim?
Instep: Did we need an organization such as the Johns Hopkins Foundation to make us realize that such things happen and need to be exposed on television?
MH: It’s not that we need them to remind us to make something on this, but it’s just a benefit when an organization comes in and takes charge to highlight a social issue. It’s not even about doing that in Pakistan alone, it’s worldwide. There are so many places where rights aren’t given; I just feel that we get offended too soon. It happens everywhere in the world. People raise issues.
Instep: Social media queen, Bollywood debut, and a television presence, we’ve all heard of the good stuff. What are the chinks in your armour?
MH: There are many, but they are the chinks in the armour because you don’t show them. Otherwise, they’d be headlines of Mawra’s life and they’d no longer be just the chinks. I try to really cover them with a lot of beautiful words and write the least I can because I would not like it to become the reason why people would know me. But I am as much of a human as anybody else.
I think I do put my private life out there a little, to show that we actors are as human as everyone else because we need compassion from the fans as much as we give. I do share bits to show people that we do not always get away unaffected even when we try to.
Instep: Is there space for love and a relationship between all the things that you do?
MH: I think everyone has space for a relationship and love and love in any form is welcome. Without it life would be boring.
Instep: On a parting note, any thing else that you’d like to add to the conversation?
MH: There is something that I’d be happy to share today; it’s something that I have never spoken about. I want to share how some of my projects have emptied me but not enriched me enough. So, I am glad that was shared. Now, when I look back, I realize that I have not worked with a single director who people say are career-makers. It’s unfortunate, but, it also makes me think that whatever I have built is on my own and that gives me a sense of satisfaction.
Also, I do feel it is important do what you want to do instead of stopping because of what others say. We tend to believe others and we stop because we always have pre-conceived notions from others. I say, a dreamer is limitless, because once you start dreaming, you can do everything you set your mind to.