LAHORE: Aisha Khan has been making sporadic appearances on television for well over a decade and fortunately, her limited contributions have proved quite lucky for her. The actor – best known for films such as Waar and Jawani Phir Nahi Ani – has had everyone talking of late, thanks to her portrayal of Jeena on popular serial Mann Mayal.
But according to Khan, she took up the role upon the insistence of her friend Sana Shahnawaz, who co-created and co-produced Mann Mayal alongside Momina Duraid. Aisha also never expected the show to blow up the way it did. “I think the ingredients for Mann Mayal were all just right. Besides, whenever Hamza and I do something together, it always gets noticed. We joke that we are each other’s lucky charms,” said Aisha, about co-star Hamza Ali Abbasi.
In fact, shooting the serial was double the fun for Aisha as both Hamza and Gohar Rasheed – the second male lead on Mann Mayal – are her childhood friends. Writer Samira Fazal is also amongst Aisha’s loved ones. “Samira has written some of my most prominent works, so I trust her.”
But friendship was not the only factor attracting Aisha to Mann Mayal. “I did not want to play the bechari girl role anymore as I have done that enough already. As actors, we have to dare to be different, grow and prove ourselves as being versatile. Jeena seemed like a good challenge to me,” she shared.
Nonetheless, the character did not seem as negative to Aisha initially, as it turned out to be on the series. “When I first came on set, I didn’t understand why Jeena had to be so negative. I thought she was just a girl who is in love and so, became a director’s actor for Mann Mayal,” Aisha recalled. “I did exactly what I was asked and it worked, because Jeena became different, powerful and truly hated.”
And so, the overall depiction of Jeena would have been a lot more subtle and genuine, had it not been for the show’s director Haseeb Hassan. “People would probably have sympathised with Jeena more and wanted it to be a Salahuddin-Mannu love story.”
The star went on to say that when she is not acting, she feels lost and lacking purpose in life. “When it comes to dramas, I haven’t wanted to do a script wholeheartedly yet. It is sad that I’ve had to compromise on scripts. Everyone seems to have lost the plot now. They just want to go into film-making,” she stated.
To Aisha it feels as though Pakistani scriptwriters are stuck in a rut because the audience does not seem to enjoy stories about female empowerment. “Whenever they do try and touch upon the theme, they are criticised. As much success as Mann Mayal has brought me, there has also been a lot of negativity and honestly, I am disappointed with the audience, who can’t separate real from reel.”
She further added, “I get a lot of hate for Jeena, even on pictures of me doing other things. But my life doesn’t revolve around Mann Mayal and I don’t revolve around Jeena.”
Despite her soaring popularity, however, Aisha prefers to keep her public appearances numbered. “I want to become someone who is recognised for her work. I don’t think there is a need to be seen on television, where I am already working,” she said. “As far as awards are concerned, they aren’t fair! I’ve won some but there is still so much of my work that is unrecognised. There is much about award shows I don’t believe in, to get dressed and just sit there.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2016.