If ex-cricketers can critique athletes, veteran artists can comment on actors: Rubina Ashraf

In a recent interview, the actor was brimming with advice for the next generation of stars

Entertainment Desk June 05, 2024

No-nonsense screen veteran Rubina Ashraf is a woman of action who abhors self-pity, a fact that will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the ambitious actor’s brutal analysis of her peers on YouTube. With her long hair tumbling down in loose waves on the couch of Fuchsia’s Gup Shup, the Hasrat star took the time to explain her code of life, the reason her drama analysis show is necessary today, and what young actors can expect from the field.

“I don’t like people cribbing,” declared Rubina within moments of sitting down. “My strategy in life is, if you don’t like a situation or the way something is being done, then change what isn’t working. Complain – but then fix. Get it right.”

Life-changing impact of Covid-19

If anything has sharpened Rubina's laser-focus on not wasting time complaining, it was her brush with death during the pandemic. “See, the joy of life is in the smaller things,” explained Rubina. “All I want in life is a cup of coffee, a glass of water and good conversation. That’s it.”

A tremor entered Rubina’s voice as she ventured back to four years ago when she lay convinced she was on her deathbed with Covid-19. “Before that happened, I always used to say that I’ve achieved everything I want and I wouldn’t mind if I died tomorrow,” she recalled. “But when you lie there and struggle to breathe – that is when I realised that there was so much I still hadn’t done! How could I have thought for one minute that I was done with life?”

Having pulled through, the concept of gratitude took on a whole new meaning for Rubina. “I didn’t even know you had to be grateful to God for the air you breathe!” she said in wonder. Altered forever by the trauma of almost losing her life, Rubina added, “The paradigm shift that I had after Covid was that I am grateful to everything.”

Making an impact

Naturally, any actor who has prevailed in the world of showbiz for four decades will not have her cup filled merely by coffee, water, and conversation. Having come this far, Rubina is adamant that the one thing she wants more than anything – after ensuring the needs of her close-knit family have been met - is to leave a long-lasting impact, which is why she has decided to hit the pause button on putting on a director’s hat.

“I’ve decided against taking on another directorial project,” explained Rubina. “I wasn’t making a big difference when I was directing, and it was proving to be a tough task. Home comes first. I haven’t received the right script, you see. Good scripts are being made, but I haven’t got them yet. My mission in life now is to make a big difference, and that wasn’t happening when I was directing.”

On analysing actors

One area where Rubina has received flack has been her drama critique show Kya Drama Hai on YouTube, where she critiques the work of her peers. Rubina has come under fire from the showbiz fraternity for being “unethical” in her analysis of their work. With her serene outlook, however, she remains unperturbed by any of the criticism flung her way.

“I always say you should self-question,” illustrated Rubina philosophically, always looking inward before making a decision. “Ask yourself why you are doing something, and if you stand on sensible ground, you should do it. When I was told about doing such a show, I loved it so much that I didn’t even care if I'd be getting paid for it. Having a technical discussion of what is going right and wrong is something I’ve been dying to do, and something we should have started long ago!”

Likening herself to former athletes analysing current-day sport, Rubina is not bothered by the backlash she has received since the show’s inception. “If ex-cricketers, who are experts in their field, can offer correction, we, in the same way, can do it with our actors,” she maintained. “We know what goes into the craft and what is fixable. Our opinion is valid because we are experts. We need to get out of this dictatorship mindset and stop accepting everything without question.”

Rubina added that the opinion of those in the field carried more weight than a layperson. “Let me give you an example,” she said. “If a viewer is wondering why a character wakes up with perfectly applied lipstick, and I go and say the same thing on my show, people will find it more relatable, because it’s now coming from me. As experts, we need to shape people’s views.”

Advice to young actors

As the resident showbiz expert, Rubina’s advice to the next batch of actors cropping up is to be prepared for hard work. “Merely looking good will not get you far,” she warned. “A good actor has to be able to pick up emotion from a script and get the viewer to feel that same emotion. If you can’t do that, you’ve failed as an actor. Today, everything has become a status symbol, such as your screen presence, but you can absolutely lead in a minor role.”

Rubina also urged young actors to question their director if a role could be improved, but at the same time, advised them to take on board instructions from their seniors. “Everyone here is self-taught,” pointed out Rubina. “Seniors in the field are like elders at home. We don’t have training grounds here. The people who taught us were our seniors, and now we teach our juniors.”

Lest any seasoned actors develop an inflated ego, Rubina was quick to caution that being a senior did not automatically merit blind obedience. According to her, any senior actor commenting on the work of a rookie actor has to offer carefully worded constructive criticism, and always have a solution for whatever problem they have pointed out. In return, junior actors need to take their advice on board, and let the torch be passed on to the next generation.

Rubina’s words in her analysis show may cut through the thick skin of any actor who avoids reading reviews of themselves, but the advice of an ambitious veteran who has been in the industry for four decades must surely be worth its weight in gold.

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