Despite a hiatus of a few years, Zhalay Sarhadi’s career seems to have come full circle with the advent of new-age Pakistani cinema. Since the release of her 2015 big screen debut Jalaibee, Zhalay claims to have refused eight Pakistani film projects. But that bout has ended with the Umer Adil-directorial, Chalay Thay Sath which features Zhalay alongside her contemporaries Syra Shahroz and Mansha Pasha.
“I have refused eight film scripts here in Pakistan, all because they seemed to be half-baked ideas,” confessed Zhalay, speaking with The Express Tribune. “I always work on intuition. I enjoy my work when my focus remains on acting.” Zhalay, who essays the role of Alina in the film, shed some light on the character and storyline. “Alina is a small character who comes on screen following the interval, I believe. She is a sarcastic, witty and self-assured character in her late 20s,” she revealed. “Chalay Thay Sath essentially revolves around a group of friends that travels to Northern Pakistan and meets me there. It’s a romantic comedy — a coming-of-age film.”
Written by Atiya Zaidi, with Vaneeza Ahmed-Ali and Sheikh Sheraz Mubashir serving as producer and executive producer respectively, the film promises to be a wholesome entertainer. Although the shooting is yet to begin, Zhalay already has ample expectations attached to it. “Whenever I start a project, I make sure to enjoy the process. I enjoy all forms of art,” she said. “It all depends on how much satisfaction I get from the work. One needs to focus on the role assigned to them. With Chalay Thay Sath, I’ll be working with a healthy group of actors and am sure I will enjoy myself.”
According to Zhalay, her crew’s approach to filming is already very meticulous, despite this being their first project ever. When asked if this was what encouraged her to accept their offer, Zhalay replied, “I get to play different characters. But a character as real as the one I am playing is very rare to find. That attracted me to the project and I liked the script also.”
The dusky beauty has been working in the field for nearly a decade now. Prior to Jalaibee, she worked on various drama serials, the most popular of which are Madiha Maliha, Digest Writer, Uraan and Aks. There has also been an offer from across the border but Zhalay was apprehensive of what it entailed. “A decade back, yes,” she said, when asked if any Bollywood opportunity had come her way. “I was offered a character that wasn’t up to my standards at that time or even now. Just being present in a film or regarded as a sex symbol is not what appeals to me. I am an actor who is here to act. Acting is what appeals to me.”
Having said that, Zhalay is open to any solid opportunities that might come her way but she has certain limitations she is unwilling to compromise on. “I have major issues with showing skin on screen,” she stated. “I am not here to show off my beauty. Personally, I don’t like to do it at all. If others do want to, it is their prerogative.”
So will Zhalay’s fledgling acting career culminate in a break from modelling? “Ramp modelling is secondary to me. I do miss walking the ramp sometimes but I get to taste it more often when I do the celebrity walks at fashion weeks.” In the meantime, she is focusing solely on acting, both on the big and small screens. “I have been recognised for my dramas and am very proud of them,” she claimed. “I could never stop acting on television. Yes, I will take one project at a time but I will do television and films, side by side.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2016.
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