The superstar of the millennial generation talks to Instep about feminism, finding balance between work and home and her upcoming films Verna and Maula Jutt. That’s basically everything you need to know!
In an unruly, myopic social landscape where culture flounders against the currents and your appearance in the mainstream media is contingent on the number of followers you have on various social media platforms, the ethereal Mahira Khan has no counterpart. The higher you fly, the more they want you to fail goes the old adage. But Khan is continuously rising because she has a significant following made up of fans who are fiercely loyal. It is why she wins awards year after year and it is why she always makes it a point to tell her fans how much their support means to her.
One of Pakistan’s biggest stars, Mahira Khan may be living a life of privilege but it has not made her blind to the polarizing reality of Pakistan. Hounded by the press for interviews, the first choice of brands and adored by industry insiders and co-stars, Khan’s meteoric rise is indicative of a new kind of a superstar, one whose narrative is not seeped in criticism of others but is about finding inner strength and carving a path that is punctuated by moving performances; she doesn’t always get there but she is certainly trying.
All this and more became obvious as I finally managed to track down Mahira Khan for an interview. To accommodate this conversation, Khan cleared her day but not before helping her son Azlan with his homework. Planning to spend early summer vacationing with him, Khan explains that time management is not her strong suit as she juggles work and family. “I wish I could manage my time better; I’m pretty much lost in time,” she begins.
Seven-year-old Azlan, confesses Khan, wants to join the entertainment industry. “Azlan is focused on writing and wants to direct,” she says. “He can do whatever he wants to but for now he wants to make films. He saw Raees and approved of it, probably because of the action sequences but he’s is very biased; I’m his favorite.”
As her son grows up, Khan finds it easier to take on work but is aware that finding a balance between home-life and work is necessary. “Now that he’s a little older, I’m more settled in taking up more work. Even then I know that next year, he’ll have more homework and it will only get harder and I need to be around. So I have to find a balance. There are a lot of films I don’t take up because they’re being shot abroad. Most of my professional decisions are based on whether it is in Pakistan, in Karachi.”
While some continue to dwell on Khan’s debut Bollywood film, Raees alongside Shah Rukh Khan after all this time, in the real world and at the present moment, Khan has her dance card full with three films. Currently dubbing for Shoaib Mansoor’s upcoming film Verna in Lahore, Khan’s other films include Bilal Lashari’s Maula Jutt reboot and Farjad Nabi and Meenu Gaur’s third film, Saat Din Mohabbat In with Ho Mann Jahan co-star Sheheryar Munawar.
First up is Verna that will push Khan out of her comfort zone and solidify her credentials as an actor. Like Mansoor’s previous film Bol, Verna is expected to be woman-centric thematically and apart from Khan, features musician-turned-actor Haroon Shahid and Zarrar Khan. Having worked with the acclaimed director in Bol, going back to working with him in another film was life coming full circle for Khan.
Reports suggest that in the film Khan will be seen in the role of a school teacher who falls prey to an influential figure’s son. “The character was demanding, but I won’t say she’s a victim. Verna is an important film for the women of Pakistan, and simultaneously for men as well – just like all his (Shoaib Mansoor) films are.”
Apart from Verna, Khan will also be starring in Maula Jutt’s untitled reboot. Helmed by Waar director Bilal Lashari, it comprises Fawad Khan, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Mahira Khan and Humaima Malick.
“I’m very excited yet extremely nervous; I am always nervous before starting any new project,” she says.
Discussing Maula Jutt further, Khan explains her reasons for signing the film. “Maula Jatt is a challenge since it is poles apart from the conventional stuff. I have to adapt a completely new dialect, the body language is also very different from what I’ve done before and then there’s comedy as well. So for me, I know I will really have to push myself to the fullest.”
Furthermore, Maula Jutt will reunite Khan with her Humsafar co-star Fawad Khan and the pressure will be on the stars as they taken on iconic roles. “I am a little apprehensive. There are all these expectations from us. There is pressure, but then we also need to understand that creating magic is based on what we are given. Maula Jatt is not Humsafar, but I hope that even if we don’t have a conventional love saga going on, we should be good enough actors to be able to create some sort of magic.”
In a society that encourages conforming to the norm, Khan is clear about who she is. “I am who I am, I don’t mince my words,” she observed. “I am opinionated, but I don’t like to comment on topics that I am not fully aware of. When I feel strongly about something, I say it out loud and I always will.”
Reiterating her view further, she states: “What I do as a person has nothing to do with the characters that I play. I surrender to the character that is given to me. What I do is I make sure that I give them strength.”
Vocal about feminism, Khan says on a parting note, “I believe everybody should be one (a feminist); there’s nothing to think or ponder over. It’s like asking me if I want peace or war in the world. Peace, obviously. And do I want equal rights for men and women? Obviously.”
With three films with three fundamentally different filmmakers in the pipeline, rest assured that Mahira Khan is not going anywhere and her next few films will hopefully give fans and critics plenty to cheer about.