After being a voice for the society against issues such as extremism, oppression of women and sectarianism in movies Khuda Ke Liye and Bol, Shoaib Mansoor is back with yet another strong narrative in Verna. We talk to the lead actors, Mahira Khan and Haroon Shahid about their characters and what makes Verna different from Mansoor’s previous movies
What did you think of Verna’s script when you first read it?
Haroon: I read it for the first time around two years ago and since it was the first time I was reading a script, I honestly didn’t know how to go about it. The first thing that strikes you when you read a Shoaib Mansoor script is how natural it is – nothing seems too made-up in his scripts and that’s what I loved about it.
Mahira: The script is always great if Shoaib Mansoor has written it because he writes so well. I had an issue with the ending and I kept bugging him about it – he wrote three different endings so that it could make sense to me.
How would you describe your character?
Haroon: It is a complex character, largely because he has physiological issues that obviously affect his mental health. So, yes it’s not a straight-forward character!
Mahira: Sara is an educated, well-exposed and serious girl who questions the system. We all have issues with the system but she is someone who isn’t passive about it. She aggressively wants to do something to change the system. She’s strong but also fearless!
How did Verna challenge you as actors?
Haroon: Since it was my first movie it was an entirely new experience for me but I can definitely say I have grown. I’m also happy that I got the chance to work with one of the best directors in Pakistan and a very experienced co-actor. However, to find out where I stand as an actor we’ll all have to wait for November 17.
Mahira: There was a lot going on when I started shooting for Verna; Raees was about to release and I was away from home living in Islamabad. Due to these pressures, I told myself I won’t let the role of Sara take over me. I never got into real method except for a few scenes maybe because I didn’t want to carry her emotional baggage. However, I have to admit, by the end of the movie, it took over me involuntarily because of the depth and strength of her character. So, yes it was a new experience and made me grow as an actor and as a person.
The trailer shows you as a woman in love, a woman who’s revengeful, betrayed and a woman who seeks justice. How challenging was it to switch into these different forms?
Mahira: It was not that difficult because my character evolves pretty quickly in the movie and the storyline doesn’t focus on romance too much.
What should the audience expect from the movie?
Haroon: The audience should expect a lot of hard-hitting stuff – stuff they haven’t seen or heard before. To me that is Shoaib Mansoor’s forte, he doesn’t present you with regular run-off-the-mill ideas.
Mahira: It is a Shoaib Mansoor movie but it is different from his other movies. Khuda Ke Liye and Bol shed light on multiple issues and topics whereas Verna focuses on one subject which is what makes it different from the other Shoaib Mansoor movies.
What are your views on the #Metoo campaign?
Haroon: It is an issue that needs to be talked about as much as terrorism or corruption needs to be talked about. However, in light of recent events, I feel we tend to take things in the wrong direction, so we need to be very careful with how we address these issues.
Mahira: It’s very very cool! It’s amazing how it has encouraged and empowered people to share their stories.
Are there any exciting projects in the pipeline for you? Anything we should be looking forward to?
Haroon: A lot of opportunities have popped up for me but I haven’t accepted any of them because I still don’t know where I stand as an actor. It is the audience’s response that will tell me where I’m headed after Verna.
Mahira: Maula Jutt is next and then another project with Dawn Films starring me and Sheheryar Munawar.
What did you enjoy most while shooting this film?
Haroon: Working with Shoaib Mansoor not just as an actor but more so as a musician was a dream come true and the most memorable experience.
Mahira: My crew and the pulao I was served day and night!
A trait your character has that you wish you had too?
Haroon: Nothing! I wouldn’t want anything from that character and that is probably why it was so challenging for me.
Mahira: Her decisiveness!
Any memorable moments while shooting for the movie?
Haroon: There were many memorable moments but one that will probably stick with me forever is the part where I had to go through military training for some scenes. There were some outdoor scenes that were done under water which were really challenging for me.
Mahira: When we’d just be chilling and having a good time on the set.
A character from any movie you wish you could play?
Haroon: I’m a huge cricket fan so Aamir Khan’s character from the movie Lagaan.
Mahira: Cate Blanchett’s role in Blue Jasmine.
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