On Wednesday morning, an email in my inbox read: “An Isloo-based friend just told me that Frieha Altaf got married to director extraordinaire Saqib Malik? What’s the story?”
Bewildered, I first called Frieha’s manager. I then rang up the former model herself, who has also been the owner and CEO of event management company Catwalk Productions, for over 20 years. “Have you just married Saqib Malik?” I asked. After laughing uncontrollably for several minutes, Frieha invited me over to her office for a casual chat. She also said I should speak with Saqib, whom she said is an old friend of hers.
When I made my way to her office located in Defense Housing Authority, I found a relaxed and calm Frieha. “Saqib and I have been friends for the past 20 years,” she began, continuing in the same composed manner: “People have too much time on their hands to spread rumours like these! Larkay, larki ko saath dekh lein tho baat bana dain gay (when people see a man and a woman together, they start circulating idle gossip).”
Denying that any wedding took place, Frieha said: “I would like to go on the record and say I last met him two months ago.” She reiterated that they are close friends and have been for decades, adding that they also discuss their common professional backgrounds. “Creative people feed off one another. We worked on Fuzon’s ‘Khamaj’ video in 2001. I was on the team and involved in production design. We are two individuals; creative and financially independent.”
While Frieha said that the rumour requires no explanation, she does find it hilarious. “We probably would have talked about it [marriage plans] 10 years ago; but not now, for sure,” she said. “It’s too hilarious to believe.”
In a frank way, Frieha explained that their group of friends consists of mostly single people, including Deepak Perwani and Tapu Javeri. “Fifi Haroon was part of it a long time ago and so was Tariq Amin,” she said with a smile. “Now we have Rukaiya Adamjee, my sister Neshmia Ahmed and also Atiya Khan, who is the latest entrant in our group.” Being single allows these individuals to travel and not worry about too many responsibilities, she said. Saqib is a bachelor and not involved with anyone, whereas Frieha has been married before.
She then picked up the phone and dialed director Saqib Malik’s number. Like a young child, she burst into giggles as she informed him about their rumoured marriage. That’s when the jokes and laughter became uncontrollable.
“Let’s sign a pre-nup!” Frieha joked, telling Saqib that she wants his haveli in Gurumander but that he can keep his video cameras, because she doesn’t want those.
Saqib referred to her as the wealthy one, saying she should be the one who signs a pre-nuptial agreement. “My house belongs to my kids,” Frieha said, trying to control her laughter. “But you can have my old car — it will go well with your haveli!”
Saqib also added that even though they fight a lot, she is his best friend. “When I first heard the news of our ‘marriage’, I was thrilled!” he said. “I do love her very much, but as a friend. We have not gotten married yet because with marriage, there comes a lot of baggage.”
With famous couple brandings like ‘Brangelina’ and ‘Saifeena’ doing the rounds on a global level, the two friends wondered out loud: what would they want to be called as a couple? They both laughed hysterically and threw suggestions at each other: ‘Saffy’, ‘Freesaq’ or even ‘Freesa’ is what they ended up with (doesn’t the last one sound like a lawn brand?). Amidst the jokes, Frieha pointed out: “We don’t consider ourselves stars; we are the ones who make stars!”
Saqib preferred to continue the mirth. “If I were her other half, I would ban half of her outfits,” he said. “I would love to be protective about her.”
On a serious note, Frieha said that she takes the notion of marriage seriously. “Years ago, when I got married there was a lot of societal pressure involved. But not anymore,” she said. “Marrying a friend is not a bad idea at all. You don’t need to hide anything from a friend. The good, the bad and ugly is all out in the open.”
Although Saqib said that marriage ruins a relationship, Frieha believes otherwise. She explained that having a long-term relationship (friendship) is better than having a short-term relationship (a broken marriage) which can end at any time.
“Nani aur dadi ka dour samajh main nahin ataa hai (I can’t understand the era of our grandparents),” Frieha said, bewildered. “How can you marry someone you haven’t seen or talked to at all? I am flabbergasted.”
At the end, Frieha said that her marriages didn’t work out because of certain “wrong” decisions she made in life. But she does feel that it is a special bond between two people, leaving us with the words, “Marriage is a relationship of flesh and blood.” More power to friendship!
Photographer Tapu Javeri
[If I heard they got married] two things would be on my mind; I would laugh my a** off! Besides, they never invited me!
Fashion designer Deepak Perwani
[According to the rumour mill] Saqib Malik was marrying Meera, Resham and Saima. Meera is a good one!
Socialite Neshmia Ahmed
It’s crazy. If they were to marry, they would have done it 20 years ago.
Event Manager Frieha Altaf
Years ago, when I got married there was a lot of societal pressure involved. But not anymore, Marrying a friend is not a bad idea at all. You don’t need to hide anything from a friend.
Director Saqib Malik
When I first heard the news of our ‘marriage’, I was thrilled!” he shared. “I do love her very much, but as a friend. We have not gotten married yet because with marriage, there comes a lot of baggage.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2012.