Ayesha Omar: Naturally talented, Effortlessly chic

Published: April 27, 2015
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PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

KARACHI: Ayesha Omar is gorgeous, she is multi-talented (an actor, a singer and a dancer) and she is honest. “I am sorry, I know I have to reply to your text,” she said, when we met for the first time at an event that I was covering. I had texted her the day before to schedule an interview but did not receive a response. She said she would text me after the event to set up a date and time, but I didn’t believe her. To my surprise, she texted a few minutes after I got home that night.

“That’s not a bad way to introduce someone,” I thought to myself, en route to Karachi’s Koel Cafe for the meeting. It is hard work to schedule an interview with a celebrity — it takes days, sometimes weeks — but Ayesha humbly obliged. We were supposed to meet at 3:00pm for lunch and once again I misjudged her by assuring myself she would be late. Ayesha was not only on time, she was there before me. And that’s when I realised I wasn’t in the presence of just another egotistical celebrity.

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

The talk of fame

Ayesha is such an approachable superstar, it’s quite extraordinary. Despite the fame that surrounds her — a string of successful serials over the past and the hugely popular sitcom Bulbulay which made her a global star — Ayesha is grounded and pleasantly straightforward. “I don’t think there is anything in my life that I would want to hide,” she says as we sat down for lunch. “I had a great, fun-filled childhood. I was top of my class and at the same time I was taking dancing and singing lessons doing painting. I wanted to excel.”

Ayesha’s father passed away when she was just two years old. “My mother was a single parent so she was scared and protective. For instance, I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at a friend’s home,” she shares. “But at the same time she has always been a progressive parent. Even now she keeps telling me to go for my Masters,” she adds, explaining how her mother has always been her greatest support despite being a typical “beti ki maa (the mother of a daughter)”.

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

It was her mother’s encouragement that allowed her to ultimately pursue a career in the entertainment industry. “We had family friends in the business so my brother and I were cast in a lot of roles as children,” she shares, explaining how it all began. In college, she was part of the sitcom College Jeans after which she became a regular face on television. “I did a lot of sitcoms in Lahore with the NCA (National College of Arts) lot. That’s the best training you can get. I did a lot of theatre, mime and television as well. People noticed me and I was eventually singled out for serials.”

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

Although Ayesha was a part of major productions, it was Bulbulay, which premiered in 2008, that pushed her to the top. “When I started doing Bulbulay, I thought to myself, ‘what is this meaningless comedy I am doing?’ But then the response was overwhelming,” she says. “We are making people of all ages and from different backgrounds laugh in times of tragedy and sorrow in the country. It’s a service to humanity,” she adds. When she was in Kalash, during one of her yearly trips up north, the entire village gathered around her shouting “Khoobsurat”, the name of her character in Bulbulay. More than the news, they claimed to be watching Bulbulay, she shares. A similar incident took place during the shooting of her upcoming film Yalghaar. While shooting at army training camps, all the jawans stood around her in awe. “I can’t leave my house and be normal. I can’t go grocery shopping or to the mall. Even on the streets of London there is no escape from it.”

But Ayesha hasn’t let all this fame go to her head. While having lunch, we were interrupted by a group of girls who wanted to take a selfie with the star and she happily obliged.

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

Work and Play

“I have never planned anything,” says Ayesha, as she took her seat after taking several selfies with fans. “I did Grease (Pakistan’s first licensed production of the highly acclaimed Broadway musical) just for the love of it. Even though I knew I couldn’t do anything else for the four months that I was rehearsing for it, and there was very little money, I still went ahead with it.”

But this does not imply that Ayesha is reckless. As compared to the early phase of her career, she lets passion dictate her choices more now. Although Ayesha’s mother never forced her to work, it came to her naturally, she explains. “After graduating l was taking up projects that were making me money so I decided that I didn’t want my mother to be working anymore. She has been teaching all her life. She has worked hard to raise us.”

Ayesha’s entire life has not always been about work though. It is important to maintain a balance between one’s personal and professional life, she insists. “We forget to have fun in the things we do. Travelling and getting to know people, for example, is far more valuable to me than designer clothes.” 

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

The best of the rest

The battle of egos is a norm in the entertainment industry but Ayesha does not have a problem with other artists, she says. And it seems her colleagues don’t have any issue with her either. “Although I have a lot of friends in the industry, my closest friends are not in show business,” she says. “I think that is what makes me non-competitive in the field,” she adds. While most artists overtly display professional jealousy, Ayesha claims she doesn’t envy anyone.

This is perhaps because she does not compete with anyone and makes an effort to appreciate the work of others in the industry. She was even present at the trailer launch of Mahira Khan’s new film Ho Mann Jahaan. “I love Mahira, she is an old friend. I am really happy for her success. You cannot think of being successful if you cannot be happy about other people’s success,” she explains.

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

And she wants her future husband to display similar qualities. “You need to be with someone who supports you and encourages you and makes you feel it’s all okay when you’re going through difficult times,” expresses Ayesha. “But not a lot of men are brought up that way in our country.” Although marriage is not on the cards right now, Ayesha does plan on settling down eventually.

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

A bright future

Ayesha may not plan things but she is booked for this entire year at least. She is currently working on two feature films: Yalghaar, directed by Hassan Waqas Rana, and Karachi Se Lahore, directed by Wajahat Rauf. Yalghaar features an ensemble cast which includes Shaan, Hummayun Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui, Sana Bucha, Ayub Khosa, Umair Jaswal and Sikander Rizvi. “It was the first film I signed. I play a Swati girl in it, kidnapped by terrorists,” reveals Ayesha, adding that the character she is portraying is intense. Karachi Se Lahore, featuring Javed Sheikh, his son Shehzad Sheikh and Rashid Naz among others, on the other hand, is a romantic comedy. A teaser of Ayesha’s dance number in the film, which was released last month, created quite a stir. “Since Wajahat is a really good friend I said yes without reading the script. Yasir, the writer, is amazing. I gave my suggestions on how my character should be but I was really open to Yasir and Wajahat’s take on it because, for me, it was very important to break out of Khoobsurat’s character for this role.”

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

There is also a third film, Ayesha discloses, which she has already signed up for. Its shooting will start after the release of Karachi Se Lahore in July, she reveals. But this is all that she will share for now. “I am in talks and we are trying to figure out the dates. It will be filmed in August in a foreign location,” she lets slip. Additionally, she is going to get back to singing soon. “I am going to be working with Noori on some projects.”

 

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

It’s a wrap

After lunch and a round of green tea, I popped the only logical question, “Any message for your fans and followers?” Ayesha pauses and responds, “All that glitters is not gold.” People don’t understand that celebrities are regular people with emotions, she explains. What’s worse is that most people are quick to judge, laments Ayesha. Although she is open to criticism and has received her fair share, Ayesha adds that “being out there” shouldn’t be reason enough to be mocked and criticised.

Before I tuned off my recorder Ayesha made a rather profound comment on how there is too much negativity surrounding all of us. “Even when we are describing people, we highlight their weaknesses,” she observes. “As a nation we need to be more accepting, tolerant and learn from the mistakes others make. Even our religion teaches us to hide the flaws of others. So live and let live.”

PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO

On further studies: I plan to go to film school next year insha Allah, probably in New York. It’s one city everybody should live in once in their lives. Just be alone and live there. It teaches you a lot about yourself and the world.

On Pakistani artists working in Bollywood: I think this is fantastic. I am over the moon with what is happening. It’s better for our reputation as a nation. In the past people have gone and misrepresented us.

On Pakistani dramas’ popularity in India: They want people from Pakistan. They are loving our dramas. Anil Kapoor called up Hina Dilpazeer (co-actor in Bulbulay) and said he is huge fan.

On working in Bollywood: I would not leave Pakistan and settle there for work. But of course, if I was approached I will consider it. I would love to work in Bollywood.

Favourite Bollywood actors: I am a big Shah Rukh Khan fan but I fell in love with Aamir Khan when I watched Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. If I had to pick one person I want to work with then it would be Aamir Khan. I love Ranbir Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar as well. I am a huge fan of Deepika. Talent and beauty put together. She has worked really hard to be where she is. Priyanka as well.

On Pakistan: I am who I am because of Pakistan. My mother wanted me to shift and move to another part of the world but I want to be in my own country. Travel, learn, come back so you can make a difference here. And use that awareness, lessons, experiences to enlighten people over here.

On health: I don’t work out. I have never worked out in my life. This is my life; running around. I am so active during the day, that’s my work out.

On food: It’s not about being conscious about what you’re eating it’s about being aware. It’s all in my head. I know what I don’t have to eat.

On passion: I am passionate about a lot of things and I want to indulge in all of them. I am passionate about food and health. I would want to live on an organic farm one day and grow my own vegetables. And sell them maybe. There’s so much I want to do but I don’t know how and when I will be able to.

Hassan Choudary heads Life and Style’s web desk at The Express Tribune.

He tweets @hassanchoudary

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 26th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Bob
    Apr 27, 2015 - 2:07PM

    Beauty!!!! WOWRecommend

  • B.Dickman
    Apr 27, 2015 - 2:52PM

    Neither superstar nor superwomen….!!Recommend

  • Atheist_Pakisani
    Apr 27, 2015 - 3:15PM

    Really fine looking woman. Must respect. Absolutely gorgeous. Recommend

  • Maryam Iqbal
    Apr 27, 2015 - 3:33PM

    I’ve always admired her…..she seems to be someone with a positive attitude in a good way and that shows on her face …she is a role model for single women she is very independent and hats off to her for deciding to stay back in pakistan Recommend

  • Parvez
    Apr 27, 2015 - 3:34PM

    Ayesha Omar…….is the whole package….she’s amazing. Saw her on stage and she was electric.Recommend

  • Lolz
    Apr 27, 2015 - 3:44PM

    This lady could be a good businesswoman or a good marketing agent, but for God sake acting, aesthetics and artistic talent is something different!!!!! Keeping yourself in on stage doesn’t make you actor, rather it’s a business skill!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Ali S
    Apr 27, 2015 - 6:42PM

    She is a mediocre talent at best – pretty, no doubt, and yes stylish too, but not a very talented actress or singer (I use the word ‘singer’ very loosely here)Recommend

  • Apr 27, 2015 - 6:53PM

    She is awesome lady. I watched her BulBulay many times
    India’s Prenitee Chopra looks like herRecommend

  • Faraz
    Apr 27, 2015 - 7:07PM

    Typical Pakistani girl; sweet, polite, cute, and well mannered. Thank God for Pakistan!Recommend

  • The Truth
    Apr 28, 2015 - 12:05AM

    One word for this girl. Overrated. Recommend

  • Irtiza
    Apr 28, 2015 - 8:31AM

    She is a beauty.Recommend

  • Waqar
    Apr 28, 2015 - 10:37AM

    Light-coloured lenses make dark-eyed women look fake.Recommend

  • Shah Sahib
    Apr 28, 2015 - 10:40AM

    Most Pakistani women in showbiz are overrated, as the really beautiful ones don’t get permission to get into the industry. If you think the ladies on TV are beautiful, you haven’t seen the rest of Pakistan yet.

    This is in marked contrast to India, where even marginally good looking women get to be TV and film queens.Recommend

  • Hassaan
    Apr 28, 2015 - 4:05PM

    She lives somewhere close by and though I’ve never spoken to her directly, have run into her quite often and she honestly gives off warm and friendly vibes, no air to her attitude and I genuinely wish her all the best for her future :) Recommend

  • Mohammad
    Apr 29, 2015 - 9:36AM

    she is very thin!! Recommend

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