Humaima Malick is a force to be reckoned with. She enjoys a plethora of social media followers and is simply born to shine. Though she tells me she misses the luxury of having a private life, she’s also grateful for not having one. Malick is living her dream; what a naive 14-year-old set out for, aiming for the stars, is today one of the most notable public figures in the country, yet she’s successfully managed to keep her passion and persistence intact. It’s been a while since I’ve sat down with her for an extensive tete-a-tete, and whenever we do, I know I have an absolute ball!
In our most recent conversation, Humaima is her feisty self as she opens up to The Express Tribune on how she contently likes to speak her mind. She fondly remembers her earlier days of being equally opinionated and just, as she is today. Her most recent internet explosion took over Twitter when she spoke up against double standards in our society post Mahira Khan was captured with Ranbir Kapoor with a cigarette in her hand. She called out singer Momina Mustehsan for lending her support to the Raees starlet, but loathing the late celebrity, Qandeel Baloch.
“I believe you can’t draw your own versions of right and wrong when it comes to women. Too many people have done that in our society for far too many years. It’s not even about a girl that is famous. If women are not going to empower each other and be able to respect their individuality, who will?” she questions.
“It’s our responsibility to speak up as women. And I don’t believe in classifying anybody by their name and fame. Even if it’s my sister, brother or parents, I will speak up against double standards. Maybe that’s why I’m not everyone’s favourite, and I do not want to be either. Nobody feeds me; I am entitled to my own thoughts and opinions,” the star stated.
She continued of her pursuit of feminism and the position of women in our society: “I just feel comparisons between someone who came a long way from a village and very unfortunately died, and someone who’s alive and living a great life is completely bizarre. Whatever Qandeel’s life may have been and how people chose to think about it does not make the murder of an innocent girl acceptable. Our society needs to come out of its shell. Women are not badges of honour that you need to protect. We are individuals entitled to our rights. Be it absolutely anybody, we cannot target women.”
And not only is Humaima vocal, as a performer, she’s also very liberal and open to demanding characters. Though she’s only appeared in a handful of television serials, her film debut, Shoaib Mansoor’s social drama Bol saw her fiercely challenging gender roles and the society’s vexation to women. Yet, she’s danced her way in Bollywood with the quintessential Emraan Hashmi extravaganza, Raja Natwarlal. Malick does it all with equal aplomb.
“I have shown that I can be a Mullah’s daughter, and a bar dancer also. I am a character actor and I will do whatever it takes to make my portrayal realistic,” she says of how she manages to get into the shoes of every character she takes up. “I’ve seen and faced such harsh criticism after my dialogue in Bol, and also when I did Raja Natwarlal. But I don’t care because I’m an artist whose hunger is art, not people’s appreciation and approval. Look at actresses like Saba Qamar; she’s so courageous to have done Baaghi.”
Though she was severely denounced for her portrayal of a chorus girl in the crime-comedy, she tells me her selection of films is entirely determined by the diversity of characters. “I am a good dancer. If required I can do dance numbers, I can romance on-screen, I can make you cry, happy and most of all, I can make you believe, or even disbelieve,” she says, confidently. “We’ve all been inspired by, and grown up on Bollywood. You pay so much to go watch a movie, why would you want to watch an army oppression or terrorism attack? That’s why commercial cinema comes is important, it makes you feel good, laugh and enjoy.”
The ban placed on Pakistani artists from working in India post the unfortunate Uri Attacks hasn’t halted her career across the border; in fact Humaima is expecting her second release in B-Town, Sarman Munja early next year. “Artists are peace-makers. We’re ambassadors of our talent, we create and share art,” she begins, with sheer optimism and buoyancy. “There is no politics. I shot a major of Sarman Munja over a spell of 55-days in one go, and my mother and siblings visited me. I do tend to get very homesick.”
Director Soham Shah’s production, which was earlier called ‘Sher’ is a period film that is titled after, and traces the life of mill-worker-turned-gangster Sarman Munja, and his wife, Santokben Jadeja of the Gujarati underworld. Featuring the seasoned Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt alongside Humaima, the film comprises an impressive supporting cast, bucked up by the likes of Vivek Oberoi, Paresh Rawal, Seema Biswas and Vinod Khanna, who passed away earlier this year.
First and foremost, speaking of the Munna Bhai actor, Humaima was all praises for Dutt, or Sanju as she prefers to call him. “Sanju simply has all my love. What a co-actor he’s been to me! He is so very caring, yet he is the bhai, he has this terror in his aura,” she chuckles. “But he’s just simply amazing. His religion is humanity; such a pure soul.” She also very affectionately shed light upon her escapade as she shot the film in Rajasthan with the rest of the cast and crew.
“I got to share the screen with people like Paresh Rawal, Seema Biswas, the ‘Bandit Queen’ herself and of course, Vinod Khana Ji. I remember when my makeup artist and I landed in Jaipur; Vinod Ji came up to my room to meet me. I wasn’t expecting him, in fact I didn’t know he had also arrived, and I was literally shivering,” she tells me with a great deal of gaiety. “Sanju, Vivek, my director and his wife, our producer; we all stayed at the same hotel in Jaipur. The food there was just delicious. We would go sightseeing together, visited the Jodah Akbar palace. It was all just magical; such lovely memories.”
Santokben Jadeja’s intriguing journey of taking over her husband’s legacy and being the first woman to head an underworld enterprise in India has been developed by several film-makers into films. Shabana Azmi-starrer Godmother, and veteran actress and Sanjay Dutt’s late mother, Nargis’ Mother India have been inspired by her life, and Sarman Munja is yet another ode to herself and her husband. Humaima, not only had to pick up and completely grasp the Maheri dialect, but was also transformed by her makeup artists into a cold-blooded avatar.
“I would wake up at five in the morning, and it would take two hours for the tattoo artist to get all the tattoos on me while I rehearsed my scenes for the day in the vanity van. They’re all just so prompt and efficient; I had a team of thirteen people, just with me, and they all just became my family,” she recalled of getting into the skin of Santokben’s disposition. “It was truly the biggest opportunity for me to redo such a powerful character. I know I haven’t been able to do half of what she’s (Nargis has) already given us, but I guess Shoaib Sahab had already tuned me into doing challenging characters after Bol.”
Sarman Munja is nearing its release, finally – after almost five years in the making, post an almost-shelved status due to Sanjay Dutt’s incarceration. Malick began shooting for Raja Natwarlal instead, which ended up launching her in Bollywood. “Everything happens for a reason. Highs and lows are a part of one’s journey and career. Nothing gets frustrating for me; in fact India’s like my second home,” Humaima candidly responds. “I’ve made some amazing friends there, who are more loyal to me than people here.”
“I’ve learnt so much more of professionalism there, I really admire how they believe in healthy competition during release clashes and even otherwise. And in my heart, I’m a very religious person and I believe that whatever God has decided is always in the best, and in our interest. This was destined to be Sarman Munja’s time,” she adds.
That’s certainly not all – it’s reassuring to know that Humaima hasn’t forgotten her roots. She is exclusive when it comes to films, but is always looking inwards, playing an array of characters. Shaan Shahid’s remake of Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth sees the light of day this December and one can barely wait to see what the team has in store. “Arth is my baby. It has been made with so much love, pain and passion. The love came from within and the pain was kept inside me for so many years that I now got to show on screen and the passion I feel, Shaan definitely brought it out in me,” Humaima maintained.
Apart from Arth, Humaima has also been busy shooting for Bilal Lashari’s highly anticipated reboot of the cult-classic Punjabi film Maula Jatt. Featuring Fawad Khan, Hamza Ali Abbasi and Mahira Khan alongside Malick, the period endeavour will see her add another feather to her cap by venturing into action and making her Punjabi Cinema foray. What’s also impressive is how Humaima has gained mass for a more accurate depiction of ‘Taani’ that originally won Indian actress Seema great acclaim.
“I want our industry to accept that. If Aamir Khan or Vidya Balan can put on weight for their roles, or Randeep Hooda can lose weight to an extent that he looks sick, why can we not do the same? This is how you create an actor,” she expressed. “If I start looked the exact same in every film, why would people want to watch me? What would I have done for my own growth? I need to train myself accordingly. You’ll get to see a size-zero in Arth, but then in Maula Jatt, you’ll get to see a Chaudhrain in the truest of sense.”
Even though Malick has a lot in store, her gruelling schedule for Maula Jatt is rather punishing, yet one must laud her for her zeal and tough grind. “Maula Jatt has been a rollercoaster ride for me,” she shares, as we conclude our conversation on a high note.
“My producer Ammara keeps me on my toes. Either she’s making me work out, or she’s making me eat, or I’m training for my fight sequences or I’m riding the horse, and if I’m not doing any of the above, my tutor teaches me Punjabi,” she confessed.
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