ISLAMABAD: Iqra Aziz is a ray of sunshine, to say the least.
The bustling starlet has been lighting small sparks here and there for almost five-years now but it wasn’t until recently that she took center stage in the rather cutthroat Pakistani showbiz fraternity.
The 20-year-old is a zealous, wide-eyed dreamer who confesses to having no Plan B, other than acting. This is as refreshing as it is unusual for actors to be as focused as her, but definitely speaks of her success as a performer.
In her own words, Iqra’s breakthrough came about in the form of a Ramadan special this year, titled Sunno Chanda. The sitcom was a welcome departure from recent narratives that are heavily built upon mirroring the evils of society.
Instead, Sunno Chanda wrapped reality and the culture of inter-family weddings around humor and was applauded for being a truly fresh offering. It broke television records did wonders for Iqra.
“I didn’t expect such a massive response because I was shooting for Tabeer with Ahson Talish (director) and we were already into a project that was very tragic. A lot that went into shooting that,” she told The Express Tribune, when asked how she landed Sunno Chanda.
“And then MD Productions brought forth this lighter script for us to team up on and we just started off with it instantly after that. If anything at all, we were just very happy jumping into it because Tabeer was such an emotionally taxing project.”
In the age of social media, Aziz felt the best part about the success of Sunno Chanda was the fact that it had people hooked to their TV screens again. “And of course, the younger generation kept following it over YouTube,” she added.
Playing the feisty Jiya opposite Farhan Saeed’s Arsal was a first for the actor in the light-mood genre. Yet she says she related to Jiya’s quirkiness, free speech and love for family, which to her, made it easy to get into character.
“It became really easier for me to be Jiya after Tabeer since that took a lot from me. It wasn’t something I related to at all – playing a mother whose husband passes away. I didn’t know how somebody in her shoes would react,” she said.
“Jiya made me feel happy and I was really intrigued by the fact that these two people, married to each other, know each other inside and out, but still don’t want to live their lives together. Then, when I found out about their Tom & Jerry dynamic and absolutely loved it!”
Aziz recalled her most cherished memory from the set, going back to what can be possibly be termed her most demanding day of shooting yet. “I think every scene had a story to tell in its own, but the last scene we shot was extremely challenging,” she said. “It was 6:20am, I was dressed up as a bride and had been shooting since noon the day before! It was Farhan and I and the costumes were very heavy.”
“More than half of the scene was improvised. I think by the end of it, Farhan and I were so used to fighting that we knew how our characters would behave at that point in time,” the actor added, bursting into laughter.
“So the little fight you eventually saw, we managed to add that on our own and people loved it. It was incredibly tough, but when I look at the response and then how we shot that sequence, I feel proud. Farhan is such a fine co-star and human being. It has paid off.”
But things haven’t been all hunky dory for Aziz. She recently made headlines when PR mogul Fahad Hussain accused her of having breached a contract she signed with his agency Citrus Talent. Though she denied the allegations, the case made its way to the High Court after which, the duo announced that they have resolved their issues.
“Everybody felt it would just get worse by the day, but the two of us sat down and talked about where we faultered. We cleared our misunderstandings. I’ve started off my career with Fahad Bhai and he, actually is my mentor,” Aziz maintained.
For Aziz, controversies are never welcome. “They aren’t good for health and affect you personally and mentally. You think a lot about how to go forward considering there are thousands of people who follow you. How do you make them understand?” she questioned. “It’s difficult to solve personal issues while being scrutinised constantly. But I’ve learnt who my real friends are and aren’t. I figured out where I need to invest my energies. I’m a very positive person, doing my thing and learning along the way.”
At such a young age, Aziz has already proven her mettle through a wide range of characters from the exuberant Jiya to a vampish Naima in Khamoshi and the titular character of Tabeer – all within one year. According to her, over-exposure is a myth for as long as quality scripts are being offered and there’s no other reason to not take those up.
“Acting is my passion. I’m 20 and very scared of the fact that there’s nothing else I can do it really does take me aback at times because I have no backup,” she said.
“When Khamoshi came to me, the first thing I asked was what makes her negative because people see me as a girl-next-door on-screen. Being a witch for the people who love you is a decision I’d only take if I was fully convinced. Tabeer was downright depressing, but it was a reality-check and a story we don’t hear very often. I guess if I find that valid reason as to why some character is the way she is, I do it.”
Aziz knows it in her bones that female representation is increasing and improving in the Pakistani entertainment industry.
“I do believe our dramas play a vital role in portraying our society. However, I believe we have begun seeing great roles, played by powerful actresses now, which are not conventional,” she said of how the growing trend is being taken forward by gifted thespians.
“I urge our writers to write more of such characters and for that, I strongly believe that female writers should be promoted and given opportunities as well.”
‘Breaking Through 2018’ is a series of interviews with promising female artists that are to be kept an eye out for.
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