As the boom in the Pakistani pop music industry during the last decade led to the emergence of 24-hour music channels, Natasha Saleem became one of the most visible faces. Her contagious cheerfulness and bubbly disposition has made the video jockey (VJ) a standout media figure. Her charismatic personality shines through in everything she does, be it hosting shows, interviewing celebrities or even acting.
The VJ-turned-actress has a BSc. in Economics and Management from the London School of Economics (external degree) and entered the media industry by chance. “My friend was going for a VJ audition at The Musik and I went along for moral support. While I was there, they asked me to try out and made me an offer then and there!” Saleem had previously gone to McGill University for her B.Com but had to return due to financial reasons. The job offer, therefore, seemed like a great opportunity. “I wanted to contribute towards my education and thought it would be a great way to save up. I never went back to McGill but I did fall in love with what I was doing and eight years later, here I am!”
Not only did being a VJ bring her success and recognition, but she says some of the most cherished moments in her life also came through this profession. “The industry was still in its infant phase; the concept of being a VJ was new – the excitement, the wonderment, it never grew old. I loved the fact that I could walk out on stage and have 8,000 people scream my name. It’s a totally different high. I have so many memorable moments,” she reminisces, “but there was a concert I was hosting in Lahore and the crowd was going crazy, including one guy hanging off the side of the building from above (to access the backstage area) who had his friend holding his feet screaming for me to sign his hand!”
The multi-talented star has tried her hand at modelling, hosting as an RJ and has now turned her attention towards acting. “Since I’ve recently started freelancing, I’ve had the opportunity to host for a bunch of channels, and while it is different from hosting as a VJ, it still comes to me naturally. Acting admittedly is new to me and poses a more exciting challenge.” It comes as no surprise that Saleem is motivated to broaden her horizons. “I was looking for something to challenge myself with and had just come back from doing a course in direction and filmmaking from the New York Film Academy when an opportunity to act in a great production came my way. I was surprised and excited at the prospect of this new challenge and thought it was time to venture into new arenas because as far as being a VJ was concerned, I’d done it all.”
“It has only been a few months since I’ve delved into the world of acting,” she says. “The work so far has involved Don’t Jealous — a soap opera which is currently on air.” Her upcoming projects include soap opera Zip and a serial called Madhosh, both of which are expected to be aired soon. “The experience of working in all these projects has been great. The best part has been to act with some of the finest actors in the industry, like Amina Sheikh, Imran Abbas, Aisha Khan and Mohib Mirza to name a few, because there’s so much to learn from them.”
When asked what she enjoys the most about acting, Saleem replies, “Acting gives you the freedom to express the most intense emotions and the free pass to live life onscreen in a way that you normally wouldn't.” However, acting has drawbacks as well. For Saleem, the downside is “trying to get a regular routine in my everyday life, like going to the gym!”
Her hectic career gives her little free time. “I get to spend a lot less time at home or even with my friends but thankfully everyone knows my workaholic side well enough to understand.” She also tries her best to accommodate her hobbies. An avid reader, the VJ/actress has no qualms about describing herself as a bookworm. “I’m a big bookworm and I’ll even take my books on set with me. Travelling is another passion of mine. I love backpacking through countries, trying out new things, be it the local cuisine of any country or even scuba diving, which I recently ticked off my to-do list!” She also says that she is extremely close to her family.
“My brother is younger than me and is currently studying in Croatia and my mom is a famous tarot card reader along with being my best friend. My dad, a pilot by profession, lives in Turkey and I just got back from vacationing there!”
To do something well, she believes you must like what you do. “You need to be madly in love with what you’re doing. Any profession, be it banking, teaching, journalism or even running the country for that matter, needs you to constantly work at improving yourself. A career in the media is no different. This is not for an increase in pay or the boss’s approval but it’s purely to know you've done justice to your profession.”
Natasha lists “Putting myself through college and knowing at the end of every day that I’ve given 100 per cent at work,” has been her biggest accomplishment so far. As for the future, she’s eager to go wherever life takes her. “Success is not a destination; it’s a journey. The plan is to make the most of that ride by staying hungry (striving for more) and staying foolish (never thinking I know it all)!”
I am looking forward to what the rest of my lifehas in store for me
If you could be present at a historic event, it would be…
The period right after Independence. I think we’ve forgotten what the struggle was all about.
If you had to pick another career, you'd choose...
To be a vet.
If you had to banish one word from any language, it would be...
If you could interview one person (out of anyone that ever lived), you'd love to interview...
Rumi, and maybe try to discover some of that beauty, love and madness he wrote about.
If you had to record the cover version of any song, you'd pick...
Rangoon Mein Khoya by Junoon, or Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch. Of course this is assuming I could carry a note!
If you could change one thing about yourself, you’d change…
My selective memory.
If you could cancel a TV show, you’d choose...
So many! Haha!
You are looking forward to...
What the rest of my life has in store for me.
If you could make everyone read a book, it would be…
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.
If you could change one thing about the world, you’d…
Get rid of sickness in the world. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have kids with lung problems or heart defects. Realistically though, I’d want everyone to be more aware of people with special needs.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2010.
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