While a 23-year-old woman in the normal world would still be trying to find her ground, Madhu is not your average 23-year-old. Covered in layers of make-up, and wearing a plain black shalwar kameez, she sits inside the Bari studio with the confidence of a woman who already knows who she is and what she wants in life. And in her case, it’s the dream to make it big in Lollywood despite its many barriers and challenges.
The Express Tribune sat down with the actor who is appearing in the yet to be released Punjabi film Acha Gujjar.
“I remember watching Nargis for the very first time on stage and I absolutely fell in love with her. That’s when I developed an interest in acting,” states the actor. Having gotten her break four years ago, Madhu has already appeared in 13 Pakistani feature films.
But getting to that point for any female actor in Lollywood is never easy. With a conservative background, this Multani girl had to struggle to balance her family’s traditional values and still do what she loves in life. Speaking about her background, she says, “My parents were so strict that they wouldn’t even let me watch films or go to the cinema.”
While her real name is Asha, Madhu became her stage name after her first play at Al-Hamra Cultural Complex. She had to forgo her real name as it was common amongst female stage actors. Regarding her name choice, she reveals, “One of my directors said that Madhu was a unique name and no one had it, so that’s how I got it.”
From her first stage performance at Al-Hamra, she slowly and gradually started appearing in other popular Lahore-based theatres such as Naz, Tamaseel, Mehfil and Al-Falah. And that’s when director Maqsood Butt spotted her on stage and decided to give her a breakthrough role on the silver screen. On being discovered on stage, she says, “I think I was pretty lucky because I never had to go knocking on doors for work.”
While Madhu may be passionate about acting, she says that not all girls who appear on stage have the same sentiment about acting. Considering the fact that stage acting for women is not considered a respectable occupation in Pakistan, most women are in it to pay the bills.
The dark side of the industry
Talking about some of the problems experienced by actors breaking into the film industry, Madhu states that a lot of times female actors are blackmailed and cruelly discriminated against by big-scale productions.
“Had it not been for such directors and producers, our industry would have progressed. They have robbed the field from all that is good,” says Madhu. She also recounts some of the nightmares that other stage actors were put through by directors to get screen time with leading stars. Directors lure innocent women into paying large sums with promises of fame, but then disappear, says the actor.
Experienced actors monopolising lead roles
With a career on the ascent, Madhu is now only looking for lead roles in films. Besides acting, she has also set-up a dance studio for upcoming artists where she hopes to provide training in the art of performance.
Talking about young actors interested in the field, Madhu states that it is extremely difficult to break into the film industry as experienced actors like Saima continue to dominate the silver screen. The only way this can change is if talented and young people venture into the field and gain experience and exposure. In order to do this, she plans to produce low-budget films through her studio.
On the desperate need for change in Lollywood, she concludes, “The public is tired of seeing the same faces over and over again on stages and in films.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.
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