NEW DELHI: Veena Malik, responding to criticism of her Ramazan show ‘Astaghfar’ on Hero TV, has said that entertainers have the right to talk about their religion and has rejected the perception that entertainment and religion should be kept separate. She was speaking during an exclusive interview on Express News with Munizae Jahangir in New Delhi
On being told that entertainers talking about religion was akin to a ‘maulvi’ wanting to be a hero in the entertainment industry, she lashed out at the ‘maulvis’, saying that they do portray themselves as some sort of heroes on television, wearing gaudy clothes and makeup, entertaining viewers.
She added that religion is a very beautiful thing and everyone, no matter anywhere in the world, has the right to learn about their religion.
Flirting with the camera
“No man can look at me the way the camera looks at me because the camera makes me look really pretty. The way I flirt with the camera, I can never flirt with anyone,” said Malik.
Reflecting back upon her career as a once shy girl when she joined the entertainment industry, the bold actress said that the ‘shy girl’ will always be in her and that her first love will always be the camera.
Talking about her struggle in India’s entertainment industry, particularly the film industry, Malik said that the struggle was the same as in Pakistan but she had never shied away from hard work, although she did face opposition from certain quarters here, including the Hindu extremist lobby and Muslim community as well.
“If you talk about India, a lot of people do love me, but the fact is that being a Pakistani does offend the sentiments of a particular Hindu extremist lobby,” narrating an incident that took place while she was shooting for a Kannada film in Bangalore, adding that during the shoot of ‘The Dirty Picture’ remake, a Hindu extremist group protested against her being cast in the movie instead of an Indian.
Malik, however, said that she had also received a lot of love in India, adding that on both sides of the border, there were people who were liberal and welcomed change, while at the same time there were those who equate patriotism with anti-India or anti-Pakistan sentiments.
‘No plans to settle in India’
Answering a question on whether she would settle down like many Pakistani celebrities had in the past, including singer Adnan Sami, or whether did she intend to return back to Pakistan, Malik said that she had never ‘set boundaries’ for herself and would continue to work in Pakistan and India, as long as she was offered beautiful and interesting projects. She had no plans to permanently settle in India.
On her Kannada version of the film ‘The Dirty Picture’, she said that working in a Kannada film was a very different experience for her as she was not familiar with the language, and that she would also be singing in the film on the director’s request, for which she would start recording soon.
When asked to sing a Kannada song, she was reluctant, but instead sang a popular song of Pakistan’s legendary singer Madam Noor Jehan, ‘Mujhse pehli si mohabbat...’
‘Parents cannot be upset for long’
On her estranged ties with her father who was upset with his daughter’s exploits in India, also allegedly disowning her, the confident actress said that as of now he was upset but then parents can never be upset with their child for long.
Speaking about living alone in India despite threats from Hindu extremists and the Muslim community, who had also issued an edict (fatwa) against her in Bhopal, Malik said that she had faced the same challenges in Pakistan too, reiterating that she had critics and lovers alike all over the world.
Although, she misses her family, Malik said that she had been living out of a suitcase since she was 14 years old, and hence didn’t miss being at home, and was instead enjoying her life’s beautiful journey and looked forward to achieving a lot more. She said that everything comes at a cost in life.
On threats from Taliban member Ahmed Masood, the defiant actress said that she had received threats in past but none lately and would most probably spend Eidul Fitr in Pakistan.
'Politicians are the biggest comedians'
Responding to a question, with reference to an interview wherein she had called TV anchors as the biggest comedians, an amused Malik said that she had never said that, instead she had called politicians the aforementioned.
According to Malik, veteran politician Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed was the biggest comedian amongst politicians.
‘Veena ka Vivah’
On talking about her show for an Indian channel, ‘Veena ka Vivah’, for which she received much flak from the local Muslim community with an edict issued against her, Malik said that everyone should be happy now since the show had been cancelled and she was enjoying her single status for now.
She however defended the show’s concept calling it beautiful, saying that every religion encouraged the woman to choose her life partner.
The edict had accused her for making a mockery of the institution of marriage in Islam and that the Muslim community would socially boycott her and the show, so as to avoid the actress from influencing women and girls of the community.
Talking further about the show, Malik said that she had received over 75,000 entries from all over the world and was looking forward to meeting her Mr Right on the show. She quashed criticism that choosing a life partner on a television show were risky, adding that she was a public figure and wanted to share this joy of her life with everyone and that eventually when she does marry, ‘it will become national news anyways’.
On being questioned whether there was someone in her life she wanted to get married to, Malik said not as of now, however during the interview she did mention that she was in a relationship but did not want to divulge much information about it since she did not want to jinx it.
“I always need a lover,” added a shy Malik.
On talking about her controversial shoot for an Indian edition of an international men’s magazine, FHM, and allegations that she insisted on a revealing shoot and posing semi-nude, Malik said that she had taken legal action against the magazine for allegedly morphing pictures over a semi-nude body and questioned why the magazine had not been able to prove to date the authenticity of the pictures.
She refuted the magazine’s claims that she had approached them, adding that in India, she only worked with people who approached her.
Questioning the magazine’s claims that there was a video of the shoot, she asked why was it not released yet. “Is it being cooked up?”
Addressing allegations on her being labelled as ”Shock Queen” and “Controversy Queen” , Malik said that whatever she was doing as an actress, is no different than what other Indian actresses or her peers across the border were doing, adding that had the FHM incident occurred with another actress, then she would have been considered a ‘victim’ but since this happened with Veena Malik, then it was considered that ‘she must have done it.’
Malik clarified that she had never posed topless or nude in her life. On whether she expected justice from the Indian courts here, she said that one always gets justice when one is right.
Talking about her item number ‘Channo’ in a Hindi film, she said that it was a beautiful song and concept, questioning what was wrong with the clothes.
“Who will determine whether what is vulgar and entertainment? The same thing another actress does, is entertainment, but if Veena Malik does it, it is ‘something else’?"
She said that people need to end their double standards and that they just liked talking about her.
Even Malik’s endorsement of an aphrodisiac product for men was not off limits in the interview. Defending her decision to endorse the brand 'Power Prash', she rejected the notion amongst people that she had done this because ‘times were tough’ for her in Bollywood.
She said, “If Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan could sell a pressure cooker, why could not I sell Power Prash?” adding that celebrities endorsed everything from ointments (balm) to utensils.
Malik said that she was not having trouble finding work in India and was on the contrary shooting for five films, adding that shes working both sides of the border and that critics should ‘just chill and relax’.
“I have a bright future ahead of me. I am an actress and I am going to give my 100% in promoting my endorsed products.”
Malik further said that she did not fear her image as a serious actor being affected by this endorsement.
Responding to a question about her alleged affair with Indian filmmaker Hemant Madhurkar and the leaked pictures pictures of them both at a party, Malik dismissed the whole affair as a rumor, saying that Madhukar was just a friend and a very talented director, with whom she had shot a 3D film, adding that one develops a personal relationship with people while working on a film and they become a part of one’s social life.
She said it wasn’t her fault if people wanted to give the wrong impression by cropping out other people in the picture, leaving out only her and Madhukar. When asked whether had she seen the pictures, she admitted she had , adding that everyone has their own way of perceiving things, “a dirty mind sees dirty things while a beautiful mind sees beautiful things.”
On her alleged affair with actor Ashmit Patel, whom she met on the Indian reality show Bigg Boss, she refuted the allegation that it was just an act, Veena said that she found it surprising that people actually believed that she would fake her affection for someone on national television.
Malik also raised questions over an interview of Patel’s friend to Mumbai Mirror, wherein he had said that it was a one-sided affair and that Patel actually used to get upset on reading stories about his alleged affair with her, asking whether Patel had said any of this.
She said that she and the Indian actor will always have mutual respect and regard for each other, however they were not together anymore.
‘Love me for who I am’
On talking about working after marriage, Malik said that she was not a piece of furniture, a sofa, which can be replaced any time just because one loses interest in her, terming marriage as a long term friendship and that one who loves her would never stop her [from achieving her dreams and goals in life]. She said that the definition of love had changed a lot over the years and that being protective did not mean that one ruins the life partner’s life and lose trust in the person.
Admitting that she was a flirt, when not in a relationship to someone, she clarified it in the same breathe that she was very loyal when committed.
She refused to stop working after marriage and would never accept such conditions from her future life partner, adding that relationships could not survive on ‘conditions’.
“Today he might object to my work, tomorrow I might lose my hair or beauty!... so the person should love me for who I am.”
On being asked about match-fixing in cricket and former boyfriend cricketer Mohammed Asif’s alleged involvement in it, Malik admitted that she had never witnessed a deal wherein a match was being fixed.
She however said that the house in Lahore where Asif and she lived had a basement, where the cricketer usually met his friends but she was never allowed to meet them.
Answering a question about whether her parents ever objected about her relationship with Asif, Malik said that being an independent adult, was a matter of concern for parents, however she narrated a conversation with her mother wherein she had strongly forbade Malik from marrying Asif.
Malik added that she had no regrets about the failed relationship and that everything happened for a reason.
Return to Pakistan?
On responding to a question asking whether Pakistani society will accept her after her exploits in India, Malik said that she has kept her roots intact and had not ended her relation with Pakistan.
“When you are a celebrity, there is propaganda and controversies related to you which are often exaggerated, but I have never crossed my boundaries. Pakistan is my country and I will go back.”
Malik said that whenever she took on a project or any step, she always remembered that she was a Pakistani [woman] and will have to return back to her country.
She said the image of the Pakistani women was misconstrued, since despite being shunned from voicing their opinion, they were politicians and professionals too, who wore both a burqa and jeans.
Paying homage to her late grandmother, Malik said that she owed her self-belief and confidence to the latter, saying that her grandmother was a liberal, who always supported her.