ISLAMABAD: In the age of social media, one’s flair and aptitude corresponds to one’s internet presence. Budding actor, Ghana Ali dares to defy that. She doesn’t believe in over-exposure, and persistently chooses to be judged on her talent alone. In a little over three years in the industry, Ghana has had a number of hits (and misses) that have only added to her progress. Talking to The Express Tribune, she sheds light on her now-cinematic inclination and how writers pen roles for women.
“It was a really good year. It obviously marked my film debut with the musical drama Rangreza. I got to meet a lot of great people and learnt so much from great actors like Nauman Ijaz and Saleem Miraj, whom I dreamt to work alongside,” she said. “I gained so much and I’m very thankful to God that I am where I am today.”
And one cannot disagree. Ghana had a number of television hits last year, and she also made her foray into Pakistani cinema with Rangreza, which unfortunately didn’t fare as well as one had expected. The film also received a lot of flak from the critics and what perhaps added fuel to the fire was the fact that the film was touted to be the knight in shining armor for an otherwise disastrous year at the movies, but failed to impress.
Speaking about it, Ghana inculpates the length of the film. “I think the duration of the film couldn’t do justice to the detailing of the script,” she remarked, pointing out the lack of blooming in the final product. “There were actually certain time-limitations imposed because of which a lot of portions had to be chopped off, otherwise I still believe that the story was very well-written and I’m sure it could’ve been something else altogether if some of the scenes weren’t removed.”
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Nonetheless, is she satisfied to have made her debut with Rangreza? “Of course,” she responded. “I’m happy because every single reviewer wrote such high praises for my performance. They couldn’t highlight it any further because the movie itself didn’t impress them, but I’m happy that people noticed my work and liked it. If I were given a larger margin, I’m sure I could’ve made everyone proud.”
Ghana starred in the recently released colourful entertainer Maan Jao Naa, alongside Adeel Chaudhry and Iranian model-turned-actor, Naaz Norouzi.
When asked what made her take up the project, she said, “The director, Aabis Raza. Even if you look at his drama serials, you will see he is somebody who is really focused on developing characters. I think his forte is that he defines his characters very well. I’m a director’s actor and I firmly believe that a director can either make you or break you. The story and intricate details come later. I wanted to work with Aabis and that’s a major aspect of why I signed the film.”
Having played versatile roles, ranging from villainous to docile, within a very short span of time, Ghana has successfully mastered every disposition she’s taken up. However, in her films and several small-screen projects, she’s dared to either essay the antagonist or the second lead. Rangreza, Maan Jao Naa and her next, Kaaf Kangana, all see her playing character roles.
Does she feel the industry tends to typecast actors, especially females, a certain way? “Yes,” she replies, pragmatically. “Which is why I did Savera, it was a very positive role. Even in my films that I’ve done and am doing, I’ve played very pleasant, affable characters. I don’t want people to think about me a certain way only, I cannot allow them to. I keep working hard for that, sometimes I have to convince a lot of people to let me explore if I’ve already done something similar.”
Nonetheless, one wonders if it’s actually as momentous to take the female lead as it is perceived. “It’s important, but it needs to have that vitality in it as well. Sometimes, when I’m offered a certain script where I feel the parallel lead is stronger than the lead, I ask the makers to give me that part instead,” Ghana said. “I want to explore my acting skills more and hone my craft further. I think I’m stuck somewhere and I want get out of there. It’s not that I don’t want to become a ‘heroine’, but I’d rather become someone who’s versatile.”
It is indeed true that more often than not, female portrayals in popular culture are not only regressive, but unbearably one-dimensional. From the weeping damsels-in-distress on TV to serving as nothing more than eye-candy on the silver screen, the very norm of having writers pen such roles is beyond questionable. Who does she blame? “Exposure,” the Besharam actor stated.
“In person, I blame nobody. I feel we don’t have a lot of business or an established market here. Writers are still finding their place, and we do need people who can write stories that have well-written characters. There are people like Adnan Sarwar then. I don’t know him personally, but I think we have the same school of thought,” she said, hoping to collaborate with the Shah director soon. “I feel now writers who’ve been working for years need to become script-doctors, and the new blood with a newer vision need to come forward and get their scripts approved by the veterans.”
Following the release of Maan Jao Naa, Ghana will begin shooting for her next venture, Kaaf Kangana that is being helmed by industry veteran Khalilur Rehman Qamar and stars Sohai Ali Abro and Sami Khan in a refreshing love-triangle. The film chronicles the love story of a Pakistani man and an Indian woman. Speaking about the film’s screenplay and diegesis, she said, “I loved my character and her dialogues when I read the script. They’ve been written so beautifully by Khalil Sahab.”
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Ghana added, “My character, Gulnaaz is of someone I’ve never played before, she’s a girl from androon Lahore, who’s an absolute romantic and she’s very zealous that way. It’s very intense, but I think she brings the lighter mood to the film.” She feels Kaaf Kangana is different from other films because the narrative offers a lot more than mere propaganda. “I feel we’re all very positively moving forward, because Kaaf Kangana is a great effort by Khalil Sahab at actually bettering Indo-Pak relations.”
Open to all subject-matters, Ghana Ali may not be a bonafide superstar yet, but she’s well on her way to the path taken by the likes of Meryl Streep. She says she will not confine herself to a certain genre and aspires to work on a historical saga, not necessarily a periodic epic, but something educational that is as relevant, real and raw as it gets. One doesn’t come across many like her and only if she continues to stay true to herself in a desultory fraternity, she can do wonders.
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