Wow! To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement! I thought that my periodic interactions with everyone at DRNR would have answered many queries by now but clearly I was mistaken. I am truly humbled and flattered that you still want to know so much more from me and it makes me question myself – am I really worthy of this?
So I begin with an apology for the delay in responding to DRNR and all its fabulous visitors, contributors, critics and friends and the incredible force called SZ. I was busy (and still am) working round the clock for your entertainment but I promise to satisfy each query – as long as you can bear with me. Tau leejiye – aapke sawaal aur meray jawaab haazir hain!
What are your upcoming projects and do you have any other project with Osman Khalid Butt in pipeline??? It is always refreshing to see u both together.
On Osman Khalid Butt’s birthday…u wished him calling him Harib…so do u have any project with him in future??
HKB: Its strange how sometimes we feel a connection with someone that defies all logic – Obi and I formed that connection the very first time we met on the set of Cinderella. I had been up all night wrapping up my work for Shehr e Zaat, flew to Islamabad and drove up to Murree without having slept a wink and had to rush into makeup to get ready for my scenes with an extremely good looking but a slightly nervous young man called Osman Khalid Butt. Sensing this I took out some time over a cup of coffee just chatting with Osman and getting to know him – and the scenes that followed worked like magic! I think we even took Haissam by surprise 🙂 From then on I have been Osman’s “Hina apa” (a term not many are allowed to call me by) and he is my Obi. Ever since Cinderella and Aunn Zara, people have insisted that we resemble and his family members say I resemble his late mother as well – it is perhaps simply a coincidence but recently when Obi won the best actor award for Diyar e Dil at the Hum Awards, I hugged him for his mum as much as for myself 🙂 Which is why I cannot wait for the airing of “Sanam” – a serial with Maya, Osman (Harib) and myself, directed by Haseeb Hasan for MD Productions. “Sanam” was actually a project Haseeb had discussed with me many years ago at Geo but time went by, things changed and we finally shot for it last year (before Mann Mayal). With just a few days of work remaining, it got delayed yet again but I’m hoping it will be a case of “dair aayad, durust aayad”
Every time you take a character, you always play it so differently, your body language, your makeup, everything.. What drives you to do something different each time with your character?
How do you get yourself so into the character that we are just left amazed by your portrayal?
HKB: Kissi bhi kirdaar ko apnanay ke liye apni zaat ki nafee karni he partee hai and negating yourself really is the toughest part of acting. What helps me is the back story of a character – whether it has a mention in the actual script or not, it is important for me to know “who” that woman is……her socio/economic/academic/ethnic/cultural background; the kind of values she has been raised with; the sort of educational institute she may have attended; if she is poor then how poor and if she is rich, is it new money or old……Once “she” is clear in my head, everything follows and works into how she behaves, reacts, deals with situations, people and relationships. It is my good fortune that most of my directors and writers have always worked with me in this process.
I really used to enjoy Uljhan Suljhan. It was a very quality and thoughtful watch, are there any chances to see you doing any such program?
Geo Hina ke saath brought such a refreshing look to the genre, if that is the right word for it, – the right way to approach the sensitive topics and how to conduct oneself while bringing those topics to the audience. That was such a benchmark moment for me. Would you consider going back to it at some point?
HKB: Haiiiiiii meri dukhti rugg!! Uljhan Suljhan / Geo Hina ke Saath was my life!! It was something I lived, breathed, walked and talked for many years because I knew how sensitive those issues were and how important it was to address them. I’m grateful to Geo for giving me that platform but today unless a channel wants to promote sensible content, I don’t see myself doing such a program in the near future 😦 But if and when I ever get the chance to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat!!
Hajra and Husna are my all-time favorite mother characters whether in reading or watching. Did you feel any kind of extra challenge to come up with expectations of readers, who already read the novel? Or you played it as it came?
HKB: Comparing a novel to a film or drama, generally falls short because what we have visualized while reading it may be quite removed from the director’s execution or the actor’s portrayal. I don’t know if that is the right approach but I prefer to not read the novel. This gives me the freedom to really experience and feel the character. I remember we had already shot most of Mata e Jaan when we got the last episode and I just couldn’t bring myself to agree with it. Fortunately, both Mehreen Jabbar and Momina Duraid gave me a fair hearing and hats off to Farhat Ishtiaq who actually asked me how I felt as Hajra! What followed were some of the most beautiful scenes I could have wished for the character and resonated with women across the board. To quote Farhat, her tears used to smudge the ink when she wrote Hajra’s scenes but I owned Hajra 🙂 With Husna, both Faiza Iftikhar and Haissam Hussain let me play her instinctively – and with Obi as my Aunn, it couldn’t have worked better 🙂
Till now which character that you have played has given you the toughest time and why, and the end result has made you happiest?
HKB: This is like asking a mother to choose between her children! I have been blessed with so many amazing characters and most of them have not been easy to play. Some were emotionally draining, others physically as well. But if I had to choose just one, Appo from Talkhiyaan was perhaps the toughest because she was so layered – unpredictable, intense, contradictory, bitter and cruel and yet so unselfishly giving in her love and so much fun in her flirtations and romanticism. Appo to me was as layered as an onion – the more you would peel her, the more you would cry!
Any plans doing a film again after Manto?
HKB: Insha Allah 😉 when, where, with who – will keep you posted on DRNR as the time comes.
When commenting on Shehr-e-Zaat finale, Mahira Khan said about you: “wish I could learn how to organize my continuity clothes like her, guys that’s a treat to see!” So this has been at the back of my mind ever since!
How do you organise your continuity clothes? I have no links to the drama industry, but Mahira’s comment intrigued me, hope it’s not a silly question to ask!
HKB: The worst thing ever is to see a character wearing pink lipstick walking out of the house and wearing red lip colour in the next scene in the car! Hahaha! That is why I manage my continuities myself – a simple method I have devised the old fashioned way (paper and pen) of making a chart with the episode numbers, my scenes, the crux of that scene and the corresponding wardrobe. This allows me to plan what I should wear when, for how long a continuity and in accordance with the nature and feel of the scenes. Honest confession – I have OCD!! Lol!
From your demeanour, the way you dress and carry yourself, to your professionalism, you inspire so many of us. Who is your inspiration?
Who is your inspiration? Your role model or who do you look up to in life and profession?
HKB: Without a doubt – my mother! I wish I could be half the person she has been through her life, carrying herself with style, grace, dignity, integrity, honesty and selflessness. Even though she says she was never a working woman, I saw her working all her life to uplift the less privileged, the ailing and handicapped, giving them a sense of purpose and confidence, teaching and training them to stand up on their own feet and take their own decisions. Having lost everything at an early age while migrating to Pakistan in 1948, she also saw many upheavals and hard times later as an honest army officer’s wife but she never compromised on her ideals and patriotism. Brutally honest she would tell us as children – “agar khuda nay tumhain khoobsurat banaya hai to iss main tumhara kya kamaal hai? What you do with your abilities is what you can take credit for”. I owe my mother a lot for giving me not only a good education but also exposure to the arts and crafts, sculpture and painting, music and poetry, theater and cinema from a very early age. And then she always made me spend my summer holidays playing with children at the leprosy center or volunteering at the various charities she worked for. Even today she continues to inspire me through her critique, criticism and appreciation for what I do.
What is your favourite hobby?
HKB: Dancing!!! It makes me de-stress and lose myself in the music and poetry. My only regret is that I don’t get a chance to do it often enough. There was a time when I would just dance to myself and when I performed it for others, I had them conned into believing I was a trained classical dancer. Hahaha. But I guess I just loved it so much that sheer confidence and abandon let me get away with it.
Given that you work day/night shifts, under harsh lighting etc., how do you maintain such a flawless, beautiful skin (MA)? Any tips for the rest of us 🙂
HKB: No botox / nips / tucks, no unnecessary products, facials or beauty regimens – just clean skin, happy thoughts and gratitude to Allah 🙂 I truly believe that as you age, what you think and do reflects on your face.
How do you work on the nuances of a character? For example, the way Zarina (Humsafar) cried for Sara at the end is different from the way Hajra (Mata e Jaan) cried for Aabi. How do you make sure these stand out different from one another?
HKB: However similar some characters may seem in terms of their socio-economic background, circumstances make them different. Zarina’s pain for losing Sara was brought upon by guilt and regret at what she could have prevented but allowed to happen. Hajra’s pain was that of an innocent victim who was forced to bear the cross of someone else’s decision. It is the intricacies of the emotions that come across differently.
We are all quite excited about Mor Mahal, given the names involved and the scale of the production. How was your experience with it? Any memorable instances that you can share with us at this stage?
HKB: The first two episodes of Mor Mahal are out and you must have formed your own opinion about it too. It was not an easy undertaking despite the “big budget” – big perhaps by Pakistani standards but miniscule in relation to magnum opuses like Game of Thrones and Mera Sultan that it is being compared to. Any period piece / costume drama that showcases the lives of ancient royalty, will have some similarities but the fact that it is a fictional piece, set in a fictional time, in a fictional place makes it more interesting. For me personally, it was a risk worth taking – something out of the box, a chance to work with Sarmad again and the opportunity to work with Sania Saeed who has long been a friend but we have never shared the screen together. Needless to say it was one incredible fun ride with Sania’s contact lens giving her trouble, my gold tooth giving me an infection, both of us wheezing, coughing and wanting to die in the dungeon…… it got so crazy at one point that laughing hysterically, we both started singing and dancing to old Jaya Prada and Sridevi item numbers – on set!! We then heard Sarmad’s voice over the mic “and I thought when senior actors would be on set they would work with some discipline and serve as role models to the junior cast!” Ten seconds later, Sarmad was doing his impersonation of Jeetendra along with us! Lol!
When the day’s work is done, do you let go of the character you are playing or do you keep thinking about it? Has any character impacted on you so much that it has refused to leave you?
HKB: They have all lived with me from time to time. It’s just not possible to feel a character so deeply and then walk away from it. But there are a few that stayed (and continue to) stay with me – Appo’s bitter frustration, Mehrunissa’s keeping up with the Joneses, Afia and Husna’s strength of character and Bibi Jonum’s stoic belief and “tawakkul” still hold up a mirror for reflection and make me realize my own humanity and vulnerability.
A fun childhood memory that you enjoy thinking about and reminiscing? 🙂
HKB: My sisters are my world! My happiest memories are of circling my mother, cuddling up under a large quilt around her, playing guessing games and listening to stories that have perhaps shaped our characters and beliefs in the most subtle manner. Many an evening was spent with our parents playing carom, chess, cards and board games or simply making hand shadows on the walls. Many years later, when my mother was recovering from a surgery we all gathered around her, tucking our toes under her duvet, sipping hot tea and just doing nothing!!! Dancing in the rain, playing “ghar ghar”, climbing trees and riding bikes – that was my “bachpan” with the “kaaghaz ki kashti” and “baarish ka pani”.
Have you always had this confidence and positivity? Or is that something that’s come to you over the years? Did the environment in your home when you were growing up encourage you to be so confident and assertive?
HKB: I was a shy child – Ami’s tich-button – becoming even more attached to her when my eldest sister got married and moved to the US. For me it was almost like my mother got married and left 😦 I missed her immensely and for days I would express my emotion through writing her long letters. I may have become a loner but for my parents who always encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and express myself in art, painting, poetry, prose, dance and debates. I always say I come from a family of liberated conservatives who allowed us to think and question and liberate our minds but within the boundaries of our cultural and religious values – rights with duties, responsibility with privilege. That taught us to be confident, assertive and responsible.
How you research or prepare for your roles. Honestly it is the mark of an excellent actress when the audiences really feel for that character or love or hate them due to how they have been played.
Do you consciously put an effort and how much planning or character sketch do you do for each project?
HKB: Many people have told me that I should have come into acting much earlier when age would have been on my side and I could have been cast as the “heroine” 😉 But I firmly believe that we only get where we are meant to be when we are ready for it. Years and years of research involved in anchoring a show gave me the exposure to all kinds of people, from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, mind sets, values and behavior. When I build upon a character’s back story, somewhere, somehow I feel these references come into play because nothing, absolutely nothing, surprises me any more – least of all, people! But despite this exposure, when I visualize a character I do think it over and research where necessary. I remember a gentleman walking up to me and speaking in Farsi because he had seen me in Tum Ho Keh Chup and when I told him I couldn’t speak Farsi nor was I an Irani he exclaimed “but you wear your Choddar like an Irani”! I was over the moon because I had noticed that Irani women carried their chaddar in a distinct manner – I just didn’t expect anyone else to notice my doing that!
You are also in the new drama based on Maha Malik’s novel Tum kon piya..can you tell us about your character? And what makes you take up a project, what attracts you into something new?
HKB: I had not and have not read Maha Maliks’ novel but when the character was pitched to me as a negative one, I realized that she was actually a woman that a lot of people would relate to. Women like Sharafat go through life trying to survive and whatever they do is justified from their standpoint. Sharafat does not think she is doing anything wrong because she really believes that she is right. What I liked about the character was the fact that with all her negativity, Sharafat would actually leave a positive message. That for me is very, very important – the final message. Television is a medium of great responsibility because unlike cinema we beam into people’s homes, uninvited, all day and night, reaching out to all age groups, genders and demographics. So while the script, director and cast are huge considerations for me to sign on a project, the importance of the character and what is being conveyed through it, is what makes me decide if I want to take it on or not.
Who are your favorite people to work with– is it important that you know them from before or you’d rather go beyond your comfort zone?
Do you have any directors or actors or writers you’d love to work with? Who are your most favorite ones from those you’ve already done shows with? 🙂
HKB: Now you are going to get me in trouble!! Lol! But honestly, I never understand why people criticize others for working with the same people? Is it not the same in any profession that people who work well together form teams (even dream teams) because they share a common goal and vision? I would be lying if I said that I don’t have preferences because right from the script to its execution, the individuals involved do bring something of themselves to it. So yes, I am tempted if I am told that the script is penned by Khaliur Rahman Qamar, Umera Ahmed, Farhat Ishtiaq, Faiza Iftikhar, Noorul Huda Shah, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Mona Haseeb, Sarmad Sehbai or Bee Gul but that doesn’t mean I will not consider other writers’ work. Nevertheless, the best of scripts can get destroyed in the wrong hands, while an able (and appropriate) director can take it to another level. All these writers are fabulous storytellers but why does my character from Mera Naam Yousuf Hai, Shehre Zaat, Humsafar, Aunn Zara, Ishq Gumshuda, Tum Ho keh Chup, Jalpari or Talkhiyan stand out head and shoulders above the rest? Not only because Mehreen Jabbar, Sarmad Khoosat, Haissam Hussain, Haseeb Hasan or Khalid Ahmed are amazing directors, but because they are directors I can relate to! Unless the director allows an actor to interpret the character and yet is clear in his/her vision of what he/she wants, the characters are never realized to their full potential. My decision to do the soon-to-be-aired Deewana depended largely on who would direct an unusual (read risky) script like that. I knew it had to be someone who could understand and interpret the undertones and undercurrents with finesse and class otherwise it would become a tacky project at best. I said yes when Aehsun Talish accepted that challenge and my gut feeling says I won’t regret it 😉 I don’t shy away from taking risks – albeit calculated ones – and scripts like Talkhiyan, Manto and Mor Mahal can be potentially risky “magar darr darr ke jeeya tau kya jeeya” 😉
I am never averse to acting with new people either because that in itself opens up a whole new world to me as a performer but there are those few I cannot (hopefully will not have to) work with again. :p And then there are those I can’t wait to work with again and again and again – Maya, Osman, Umair Jaswal, Adeel, Sanam Saeed, Sania, Noman Ijaz, Waseem Abbas, Shamim Hilali, Samina Peerzada, Javed Sheikh, Mahira and Asif Raza Mir are some of the stellar co-actors that truly bring out the best in me. Amongst the directors too, it was after Uraan and a gap of many years that I worked again with Yasir Nawaz on Tum Kon Piya – so happy that I did!
Do you have any plans to go into direction/production or perhaps writing? I think we all need to see new storylines in dramas since nowadays every other play deals with the same issues. What is your take on that?
HKB: Uffff I so, so, much want to take that plunge, magar himmat nahin partee! Samajh he nahin aati keh kahaan se shuroo karoon. I have all these stories and characters in my head but I know that’s not enough. Direction I have sort of dabbled in while doing Geo Hina ke Saath and very recently I almost served as a surrogate director when we had to go on a two-camera shoot for Teri Meri Jori. I do want to tell stories my way but for that I will have to give acting a rest – and right now I’m having too much fun with all these women inside me 😉
You have been in showbiz for a long time now… and you’ve always stayed out of controversies or gossip which is very hard to do and really commendable. Are you friends with anyone in the industry?
HKB: Even before I entered showbiz, I almost always made it a point to keep my social and personal life quite distinct and separate from my professional one. I share great working relationships and personal respect and regard with almost everyone I have worked with from channel managements and producers, to directors, actors, technicians, even spot boys but my “friends” are either those who were my friends or I had family terms with before I came into media (Misbah Khalid, Satish Anand, Marina and Kuchu to name a few) or are literally a handful of people like Sarmad, Haissam and Rubina Ashraf whose company I seek out whenever I get the opportunity.
What would you have been if not an actor? Did you have a passion for acting from childhood?
HKB: Drama queen to main bachpan se thee….magar woh jo raqs ke zariye jazbaat ka izhaar kartee thee! lol! Jokes aside though, I never acted while at school or college and even in my wildest imagination I never thought I would be on TV, leave alone acting for it. But yes, I was always creatively inclined and having qualified as an Industrial Designer I got involved with television, developing a show on creative expression in all its various forms. I always tried to give my best to whatever I was doing, wherever I was at that time in my life. So one thing led to another and here I am today.
It is an interesting fact though, that from my teenage years both Haseena Moin and Bajia wanted me to act in their dramas. Bajia in particular always told my mother that “humaray gharon ki bachiyaan aayain gi tau mahaul badlay ga”. But at that time academics were a priority and since I didn’t come from a family connected to media or TV, it simply wasn’t an option. Much later when I did appear on TV, Bajia would see me and say “tum wahaan aa he gayee jahaan main tumhain daikhtee thee”. Personally, my only ambition was to “make a difference” – something I strove hard for many years as an anchor and producer, so that I could give back a little to my country and my people. Glamour was never an incentive because I remember my father refusing permission even for me to do a TVC, simply because he didn’t like the idea that “unki beti ki tasweer kaheen lagi ho aur loag uss per buri nigaah daalain”. When I eventually entered this field that was my firm promise to him that I would ensure “keh unki beti ki tasweer kaheen bhi lagi ho, loag ussay izzat ki nazar se he dekhain gay”. Even today, after he has passed away, I try to uphold that promise I gave him.
Would like to give any advice to people/new adults who are still figuring out what to do in life
HKB: Firstly, educate yourself. Then whatever you do, do it with honesty, integrity, sincerity, respect and a strong work ethic and Allah will open doors for you that you never knew were there. It saddens me to see egos and unbridled ambitions wasting potential – it isn’t enough to want to be up at the top, it is important to have the will to toil for it, to earn it through dedicated hard work. Being in the public eye may make you a familiar face but it doesn’t earn you recognition and respect!
You did a series of telefilms where you played a psychiatrist and that was the only time I saw that kind of role being played to perfection and it felt and looked real. It was a good step in showcasing mental health problems. Since you are also involved in many philanthropic acts, do you have plans in taking up any such issues in the future?
HKB: That series was a God send for me – the perfect combination of my passion and my skill, which had the potential to impact people positively and effectively. Unfortunately, it fell prey to channel politics but there have been suggestions by others of perhaps doing something on similar lines. I live in hope!
Currently Hina is acting in Geo’s Teri Meri Jodi, as a very proud-of-her-roots choudhrayan. How refreshing / different was this project?
HKB: I was extremely excited about TMJ! It had all the elements of a meaningful entertainer, with room for performance and an insight into the very different cultures of Gujrat and Punjab. A first time joint venture between Geo and Zee, it seemed very promising and could have opened the doors for bigger and better things to come. Sadly though, poor planning and wrong decisions didn’t allow it to capitalize on its potential.
Does she think light serials like Teri Meri Jodi should be done more? Did Punjabi came to her naturally or she had to prepare for the role?
Watching you in your Punjaban avatar was quite a surprise, and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that you speak Punjabi and fluently too!
HKB: Punjabi is such an expressive language, so colourful and vibrant. Even though I do understand a fair amount, I had never spoken it and really had to work on my accent and fluency to make it believable. The lightheartedness of the script was an added incentive because in today’s stressful world, we really need laughter and mirth in our lives. And if through a few smiles and chuckles we can convey serious messages then that’s a match made in heaven. Good comedy has to be meaningful and witty – slapstick is just not my cup of tea.
Does she approve of the violence, especially towards women, should it be shown in such explicit details? Doesn’t this constitute to more violence?
HKB: Violence for the sake of violence is something I can never endorse. But if it is shown with the purpose to discourage it, to empower possible victims, to create awareness and understanding of such situations and there handling, then it is imperative that it is shown with restraint and sensitivity. Television is a medium of great responsibility and unless it is used responsibly the impact can be extremely damaging.
I want to ask about ur future projects..
HKB: “Sanam” I have already mentioned, is awaiting completion. And while I am responding to your queries, “Mor Mahal” has already aired and “Deewana” will be following shortly. Right now I am in Bahawalpur shooting with Owais Khan for “Muntazir” a soft, romantic story of essentially good people whose only conflict is the circumstances they are faced with. Owais Khan is a very sensitive director with an aesthetic eye and with Qasim Ali Mureed as the DoP it will be a visual and emotional treat. Hasan Niazi, Anum Fayyaz, Javed Sheikh and a mix of new and seasoned actors form the cast with myself in yet a different role. Other possible projects may be from the pens of KRQ, Faiza, Farhat and Umera but till those actually take shape, my lips are sealed 🙂
If you could have a group of 3 people for tea (dead/alive and national/international acclaimed) in the following fields, who would you choose?
HKB: Quaid e Azam, Ayub Khan, Z.A.Bhutto
– film fraternity
HKB: Waheed Murad, Sanjeev Kumar, Mani Ratnam
– tv fraternity
HKB: Aslam Azhar, Shoaib Hashmi, Shehzad Khalil
HKB: Jahangir Khan, Mohd. Ali, Nadia Comaneci
HKB: Bahadur Shah Zafar, Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz
HKB: Ismat Chugtai, Bano Qudsia, Jhumpa Lahiri
And please feel free to choose only one category from the above, if u wish to as well.
HKB: My choice of guests is my wish list of having the 3 together in each group. Can you imagine the conversations that would flow?? 🙂
How was your experience in working with PTV legends like Noor ul Huda Shah in Ishq Gumshuda, Zaheen Tahira in Teri Meri Jodi, Shamim Hilali in Talkhiyan?
HKB: Jungle on PTV made me a Noorul Huda Shah fan when I was still at school. Imagine my feelings when I was offered Ishq Gumshuda – her script!! Though I never really met her while shooting for IG we eventually built up a great relationship while I was at Geo and the short time that Noor apa was there. Despite the fact that we worked in entirely different areas, we had so much in common that was spent discussing over endless cups of tea. The one thing she did tell me about IG was that originally she had written it as a film script to be directed by S.Suleman. But the film industry was on the decline and the script remained unused and intact till Suleman sb suggested that she should adapt it for TV. I think that in itself must be a first!
Zaheen Tahira I literally grew up watching – and working with her, I found her to be every inch the warm and affectionate soul that we see on TV. And what a professional! A day after her surgery, she was on set, shooting for the wedding sequences in TMJ till the wee hours of the morning. This in an environment where young divas don’t show up on set because they slept late after partying all night!!
And what do I say about Shamim Hilali – my Shameemo apa!! What a gem of a person – genteel, elegant, warm, caring and oh so classy! Not only is she a committed professional, she is also an incredible housewife and bakes and cooks like a dream, spoiling us rotten on the set of Ishq Gumshuda. But it was time spent with her in Bhurban for Talkhiyan that really cemented our relationship – our late night cup-a-soups and early morning coffee and breakfast in the lawns of Golf Hotel. I can never forget our scenes in Talkhiyan – how smoothly they flowed after casually rehearsing in the makeup room as we dressed and changed from one saree into another. Khalid sahib insisted we were both meant to be on stage – and that too together. Maybe one day………..
Do you have any wish to work with people like Haseena Moin and Anwer Maqsood?
HKB: Is that a trick question?? Who in their right mind would not want to work with these two magicians of their craft? Any day, any time! It would be an honour to work with them especially since I couldn’t work with Haseena apa all those years ago, and Anwer sb was the first person ever to tell me I needed to be on radio if not TV – as an anchor!!
As an actor, how much say do you have in the dialogues that are given to you? For instance, if there is a dialogue or phase that you think is inappropriate, do you get it changed? And how receptive are directors to such requests?
HKB: Luckily for me, all my directors that I mostly work with are always open to suggestion and discussion, allowing me to “be” the character. Hence if I feel really strongly about it and they are convinced, then it is never a problem. But interestingly, most of the time we don’t even need to discuss it – we are already on the same page!
For you, what are the three script-related deal-breakers in any project offered to you – three elements in a script that make you refuse the project?
HKB: 1) a bland, clichéd character, 2) misinformation or misrepresentation of legal and/or religious facts in particular, 3) anything which projects a negative message or glamourizes it
Out of all the characters you’ve played, is there any one which you now feel you shouldn’t have played? And why?
HKB: I always pray for guidance and for the best, with every new undertaking. When it doesn’t come through, I believe it is better for me and when it works out contrary to my expectation, I still never regret it because I know I have given it my best. Yes, some projects have disappointed but I see it as a part of my learning and growth and a reality check, that I’m not infallible 😉
Hinaji you were quite candid on SZ’s “Chit Chat & Chai” where you expressed your frustration about the scripts you receive and the current trends in dramas. As a fan I am rather dismayed at these trends. Shows like Dillagi, Bhai, Mera Yaar Mila de, Gul e Rana with well-established actors portraying thug-like characters. What’s worse, some of these characters are glamorized, romanticized, and normalized. Well, Noman Ijaz’s character is offset by Affan Waheed’s and perhaps it could be argued that Feroze Khan is new and needs the exposure and/or money but someone like Humayun Saeed is himself an established film-maker.
Are these trends (and some of the others discussed on Chit Chat & Chai) part of the discourse within the community of actors? Is there such a discourse at all? It appears that the Pakistani film/tv industry is at a critical juncture. Are these issues part of the conversation in the community of actors/writers/directors? Or are the TRP/money counting executives calling the shots with the creative teams becoming puppets to that kind of a system? If so, what’s your prediction? Will this trend push the creativity/social commentary etc., into a “parallel” drama universe?
Of late, there are many drama serials with questionable concepts. And mostly, we see writers (and writers only) being blamed for them. As someone in the industry, can you tell us who ultimately finalizes a script and screenplay for any serial and as such who should be held accountable apart from the writers? If any change is to be brought in terms of serials that give out a positive message, who do you think needs to take the first step forward – writer, director, producer, or channel heads?
HKB: Channel heads, without a doubt! Producers need to sell their product to the channel and directors and writers have to work within the confines of what the producer wants – or is told that this is what the audience wants!?! “More tears, more TRPs” is what the advertiser dictates and the channels follow. The “rotee dhotee” victim apparently sells more detergent and FMGs to perhaps “rotee dhotee mazloom” housewives. Frankly, I disagree! As a producer of my show I knew that ratings were not reflective of what people wanted – even if they were not manipulated they were inaccurate at best. As for the glorified anti-heroes – again it’s a concept as misunderstood on our television as the concept of morning shows! I have always taken a stand on this – that if a character is negative, if a social norm or belief is incorrect, the final message must convey that. We cannot reiterate beliefs or clichés that are detrimental to our society and endorse them as correct. As I said earlier, television is a far greater medium of responsibility than cinema, beaming uninvited into homes across all demographic, economic, age, cultural, religious and social segments of society – it is ultimately up to the channels how they wield this power. For many actors, this is their bread and butter, for others the focus is money but there are some who love their craft and are conscious of the moral and social responsibility that comes with it. It is a marvel that against all odds we still have writers, directors and actors who manage to find some middle ground without compromising on their integrity. It is extremely frustrating and challenging to uphold one’s ideals and beliefs in this environment but then it compels us to be more creative. I don’t really see a parallel drama emerging but I do see some sensible, responsible entertainment coming through in the future because even though its limited, the discourse is there.
My favourite character has to be Husna. Do you have any projects in the pipeline with Haissam Hussain?
HKB: Hina, Husna, Haissam – the H factor definitely has some magic or karma working for it 😉 But on a serious note, right from Ishq Gumshuda, HH (as I call him) and I have shared a very special friendship. This is perhaps why when we do work together, our communication as actor/director is almost instinctive. It came as no surprise when we found out much later that our family associations went back 4 generations – infact a house constructed in Mansehra by his great-grandfather was named after mine! We share the same values, the same mindset and a personal relationship that doesn’t depend on my being in all his projects. I have even refused a project he was associated with because he told me he wouldn’t exploit our friendship and compel me to compromise on my stand. Our friendship has outlasted that project with no regrets on both sides – except that we are missing working together and when that will happen, we don’t know 🙂
You’ve been an onscreen mom to all the following (quite a star studded list). What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you think about them?
– Mahira Khan
HKB: Mummy aap kya keh rahee hain?
– Adeel Hussain
HKB: Aabi / Oedipus
– Fawad Khan
HKB: Salam tau banta hai bhai!
– Osman Khalid Butt
HKB: mera bachcha
– Umair Jaswal
HKB: mera nawab naushah
– Sarwat Gillani
HKB: tinkling laughter
– Naveen Waqar
HKB: untapped potential
– Ushna Shah
HKB: problem child
– Maya Ali
– Aamina Shaikh
HKB: sheer talent
Loved almost all your roles, but here are my favourites:
Sana, Ishq Gumshuda; Appo, Talkhiyan; Husna, Aunn Zara; Aabi’s mom Hajra, Mata e Jaan
Manto, your role was small, but it was so much fun to watch. Which one of these is your favorite? Okay, you can choose more than one.
HKB: OK! This is one question that I simply cannot answer. I feel just so blessed to have played all these intricate and incredible characters – picking one is simply impossible!
What attracts you more to a project, the writer, director, production house or the cast?
HKB: It has to be a combination of all but what I am most attracted by is my character and its role and significance in the entire story. In that respect the writer’s name is significant (how can I not drool at the thought of KRQ, Beegul, Farhat, Faiza or Umera) but eventually, the deciding factor is the director. It is very difficult (if not impossible) to do justice to a character if the actor and director are not on the same wavelength. So when Haissam, Haseeb, Sarmad or Mehreen say “jump” I ask “how high” 😉
I know you’ve worked with them more than other writers & directors. In a word/few words, describe:
– Mehreen Jabbar
HKB: Still waters run deep
– Haissam Hussain
HKB: Romantic realism
– Sarmad Khoosat
HKB: Sensual sensitivity
– Faiza Iftikhar
HKB: Intelligent humour
– Umera Ahmed
HKB: Spiritual connections
I have been watching some old dramas and see women portrayed and presented a lot more differently there than they are in current dramas. I see more short hair cuts, sleeveless, and more urban-looking women in those older shows than I do now. I read a piece somewhere recently, where a woman said she doesn’t watch these dramas because there are no women like her (urban in lifestyle, dress, career etc.) on them. Can you speak to this transformation?
HKB: Drama has always been a reflection of its time. Pakistan of the 70’s is a far cry from what Pakistan is today. The politics of Bhutto, Gen. Zia and their protégé has affected Pakistani society and its mindset, thus also impacting peoples sense of style and fashion. The majority of Pakistani women today do not wear sleeveless clothes though they may wear cropped pants. In fact, now the abaya and hijab has become fairly common. Short hair too is not as popular today, with most women sporting long, well blow-dried styles. So when we as actors portray the modern, urban Pakistani woman she dresses like “Humsafar’s Zarina” or “Shehre Zaat’s Mehrunnisa”. As for career oriented women – well, there’s not much room to explore that since most storylines are about the “mazloom aurat” or typical girl-meets-boy love stories. Mature characters with ambitions and careers are rarely the central figures of our drama today.
Mehereen Jabbar recently tweeted her enthusiasm for being part of Zee Entertainment’s Indo-Pak Peace Initiative – Zeal for Unity. What kind of outreach is this initiative implementing that side of the border, and what kind of projects are emerging under this banner?
HKB: Initiatives for peace and collaborative efforts in this regard are always good news but how effective they are, is another story. Despite the fact that we in Pakistan have opened up to Indian media and software, unfortunately it hasn’t been reciprocated except for Zindagi channel showing Pakistani content. I’m not very aware of the kind of projects being done for this since I’m not involved in any of them so like you, I too will wait and watch.
In Mor Mahal, you play the dignified Badshah Begum, a woman of formidable strength and determination. How easy or difficult was it for you to channel her without being judgemental?
P.S. I’d like to think, being regal came easy!
HKB: Trying to be regal in non-breathable brocades, velvets and satins in the stifling heat of Lahore, definitely doesn’t come easy but the fun I had with Badshah Begum’s eccentricities, compensated for the discomfort 😉 I just took her as a woman who has had to hold the reigns of the state and the household and now, she is simply used to it. Hence it is her survival and a battle for her own existence. Her determination and strength cannot and should not, be judged because her actions are justifiable to herself. I saw Badshah Begum as a woman who despite her femininity has a masculine strength, even in the way she carries herself or sits on the throne. She takes decisions not just for the mahal but for her state and its subjects and uses any means to implement them. But unlike the deceptions of Farrukh Zad, she never loses her dignity by stooping to lowly manipulations. She is royalty!
The hardest part though was being tough on the “good son” Nawab Asif Jahan. Umair Jaswal was just such a pleasure to work with that being nasty to him felt wrong on every level – hopefully I’ve pulled it off 😉
In complete contrast to Badshah Begum, you played Shamshad Bibi in Dareecha. Gracious, religious and broad-minded, who helped others using clairvoyance all her life. How was the experience?
Do you suppose most television portrayals (esp. when it comes to religious individuals) are cementing the notion that a religious person cannot be a well-read liberal or vice versa?
HKB: Shamshad Bibi was a complex character because her spirituality and mystic leanings made her almost other-worldly. It was a fine line I had to tread because with her gift of seeing dead people, she could easily have become a character that would scare viewers instead of being loved by them. That is another cliché that Mohd. Ahmed, the writer wanted to address – clairvoyance is not a negative trait and can actually be used in a positive manner to benefit people. Contrary to the portrayal of religious people as rigid, harsh and backward individuals, people who are genuinely religious and spiritual are the ones who are well-read and liberated in their thought. Such people carry a positive aura and emit positive vibes. I’m very happy that I was able to portray Shamshad Bibi as an unconventional, yet pure soul that viewers still remember fondly today.
“Bollywood Bound” seems to be the hottest fad in Pakistani showbiz; have you been approached by Bollywood production houses? If you were, what would be the three things that you would look for before finalizing a project?
HKB: 1) an important, significant role, 2) no anti-Pakistan sentiment, 3) a credible team of producer, director, writer and cast. I am not “Bolly desperate” so unless it is worth my while, I’m happy to be where I am.
Given the deterioration in drama standards have you seriously thought of venturing in to the production side of things.. some position where you could be directly involved with a project since its inception?
HKB: There are times that I get so angry and frustrated with the kind of drama being churned out, that I truly want to get into production. But what deters me is the dictates of the channels, the attitude of some of our young divas (both male and female) and the general lack of professional ethics that prevail in the industry. Having said that, my involvement with my directors, writers and producers allows me to contribute in some way towards improving the project – that for now is enough.
In recent years there has been an increase in drama review sites and blogs, social media is abuzz with drama related discussions, drama related twitter trends are proudly shared on various media sites, and media related personalities are actively soliciting feedback … while all this seems to point to the fact that public feedback is welcomed and valued, how seriously, if at all, does the industry take our critique? And is it ever taken into consideration when future projects are being planned?
HKB: There are always pros and cons to every situation. While it is great to have people reviewing and discussing Pakistani drama, it is a commonly accepted fact that certain channels have certain bloggers working for them – to promote their work and trash that of other channels. Though there are some that are taken seriously by viewers, channels and production houses rarely pay heed to criticism, so driven are they by TRP’s and their sales and marketing teams.
We here have always appreciated your attention to detail in terms of characterization… is this an effort that you put in of your own accord or do the directors and producers expect and encourage such input from their actors?
Related to the above question:
How welcoming are writers/directors/producers of any critical or creative input from their actors?
HKB: 50% of a character’s believability is its appearance – the rest is performance. I cannot speak for other but yes, to me it is crucial that every character I play should look and feel different, even if they are similar. To create that I play with the back story of that character, even creating one if necessary. If the director is clear in his/her visualization of a particular character, it makes my task easier. Through an exchange of references and ideas, we create the look and feel of the character which is then defined through subtle nuances, expression, attitude and carriage. Most directors I have worked with welcome creative and critical input but then, I share a rapport with them which allows us to debate and discuss and arrive at a collective decision in the portrayal of the character.
You’ve been a part of several high profile projects and have worked alongside the best in the business … any fun incident, painful memory, or a memorable story that you would like share from any of your projects
Any fun incident or blooper from any of your projects that you’d like to share?
HKB: Every project has its own share of memories – me requesting Haissam to re-shoot the bathroom scene in Ishq Gumshuda so I could do it without makeup and Haissam (who I had just met) giving me a spontaneous hug for suggesting that; arguing with Babar Javed on the set of Jhumka Jaan because I was “getting too involved with the character”; crazy puns on the mother-son Oedipus complex inspired dialogue in Mata e Jaan with Adeel; laughing in sheer frustration while shooting scenes with a certain “actor” (??) in Shehr e Zaat; experiencing being buried alive in Tum Ho Keh Chup; being followed by street urchins in Hyderabad chanting “Khala aa gayee, khala aa gayee” in Gar Maan Reh Jaaye………but what tops them all is how I became Appo! Khalid Ahmed cast my niece Mehak Khan for the role of Zoya and since it was her first project, she asked me to go through the script. I remember reading it all night, like a novel that one cannot put down. The next day I took Mehak for her meeting with Khalid sb and in the course of conversation I asked him about the rest of the cast. For Appo they were still considering options and before I knew it I blurted out – “ Khalid sb agar abhi consider kar he rahay hain tau mujhe bhi consider kar lain”. And the conversation that followed was thus: KA: “would you play Appo?” HKB: “in a heartbeat”. KA: “why?” HKB: “because she is fascinating, talkh like an onion…..the more you peel, the more you cry”. KA: “hmmm….let me have a word with the writer and producer”. Three days later, when I was feeling like an utter fool, embarrassed by my own eagerness, I get a call. KA: “the producer Raziuddin Ahmed will be calling you regarding budget etc” HKB: “for Mehak?” KA: “yes, and also for Appo’s character” HKB: “does that mean I’m in?” KA: “if you agree”. Agree??? I was jumping for joy! Later I found out that they had someone like Durdana Butt in mind but when I made the suggestion, it completely changed the way they were viewing the character. Beegul rewrote some bits with flashbacks, while Imran Mahboob (who was heading the project for the channel) actually had to smoke a few cigarettes before he could conceive me as Appo! hahahaha
Were you to produce your own project who would you sign on as a writer, director, DoP, and co-actors?
HKB: Now that would be telling but my dream team would definitely include some of the “usual suspects” I love working with 😉 😉
Complaining about TRPs being the reason for the downfall of dramas is a very common complaint that we hear from everybody associated with the drama industry … how much of an impact would it make if there was an understanding/unionization within actors and directors and they refused to participate in below par projects?
HKB: I don’t think that would be possible because every individual is free to decide what kind of projects they want to do. Not everyone is concerned or pushed about the quality of work, for many it is their source of income, for others it is their majboori. But what we are working on is formalizing an Actor’s association that will help to standardize things for the actor fraternity and generally work towards the uplift and betterment of the industry. That would involve working as a pressure group, engaging with channels and producers and working in collaboration with them. This may in the long run, impact the quality and content of drama – at least we hope it will.
When signing a project do you look at your character only or does the project as whole matter as well .. .say for instance if you were offered a great project but with little or no space for your character or vice versa… which one would you opt for?
HKB: The character and its significance in a project is definitely my priority but the project as a whole matters a great deal too. The director, cast and whether there is a margin for developing a character, also has a bearing on my decision. Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai are two projects where I felt I would have to work on my character and create some kind of a graph for it to develop beyond what was in the script. But by the same token, even though I knew Diyar e Dil and Mann Mayal would be great under the captaincy of Haseeb Hasan, I declined to be a part of them because I felt that the characters being offered to me, weren’t compelling or tempting enough for me as an actor.
Women in our dramas exist solely in terms of the men in their lives – as sisters, girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughter-in-laws and finally as mother-in-laws – what would it take for our drama industrialists to see and depict a woman as an entity in her own right? And on that note, I understand these depictions are reflective of a broad based social mindset, but if we cannot get a narrative shift in dramaland, where we have women-led channels and productions houses, then is it hopeless to expect a change in our desi setup any time soon?
HKB: Two years ago at the Karachi Literature Festival, in a session being moderated by Sarmad Khoosat and with Sultana Siddiqui, Haseena Moin, Seema Tahir and Atiya Dawood on the panel, I asked a question: “when would I, Hina Khwaja Bayat, get to play a character like Sultana Siddiqui, instead of the poor mommy dearest in every drama?” I got thunderous applause from the audience but I didn’t get an answer from the panel! And in a way, I don’t blame them. Is it not a point to ponder that both the Oscar winning documentaries by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy depict the misery and plight of the Pakistani woman. Would she have won an Oscar for a film on the apricot-growing women of Swat, the papar-making entrepreneurs of Karachi or even a personality like Zubeida Jalal? Personally, I doubt it very much. Nevertheless, the eternal optimist that I am, I hope that the viewers will compel the drama industrialists to bring about a change – because every time I feel like giving up, I remember it is this very audience that made Aunn Zara and Mera Naam Yousuf Hai milestones in Pakistani drama history!
I began with an apology and I end this Q&A with one – I know I talk too much! Thank you for bearing with me and do keep me in your prayers. I love what I do and I want to do it for you, for as long as you want to see me and as long as I can entertain you without compromising on my principles. Bless you all!
~Hina Khwaja Bayat