Demure and timid are words oft-used to describe Sajal Ali. One conversation later, it’s hard to associate such terms with a woman who seems so sure about what she wants. Mostly lauded for her gripping stints on television, Sajal recently made headlines for foraying into the film industry with the movie Ishq 2020, news she shrugs off as false. But that’s not to say that Sajal isn’t looking towards trying her hand at the big screen. In fact, she’s currently working on her first film, which is being helmed by Anjum Shahzad.
Without giving up the name, Sajal reveals filming of the project is halfway done. “After this film, I might do another project and then I want to study film-making abroad and get into directing,” she says. On why it took her a while before she set foot in Pakistani cinema, she shares, “The new wave of films has just been set in motion and I want to ride that wave.” She goes on to say, “There are good films being made and I think our actors should remain a part of the local film industry, stay here and help it grow rather than go to Bollywood.”
Sajal feels female Pakistani actors are valued for their modesty and decency on the screen. “When I play a character in a drama and people watch me on TV, they feel I’m a part of their house. In India, a girl can play a modest character once or maybe twice. Eventually, she’ll have to show skin because that’s what their actors have been doing.” On that note, she adds, “I will never do an item number or intimate scene.”
With four years in acting, Sajal has a number of drama serials to her credit and is known for the diverse characters she has played on screen. She takes pride in the characters she has played over the years and fondly remembers her role in Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah (2013). “Everyone calls it a cheap drama but I felt my role was out of the ordinary.” She’s also nostalgic about the roles she essayed in Nanhi, Mohabbat Jaye Bhar Mein and Sannata, where she played a psychotic girl and her mother’s role as well.
Sajal is content with the range of characters she has been offered so far. “Even if there’s one character I’m playing, there are different shades to it depending on who’s directing,” she states. Each role, she feels, could be poles apart in acting as we have the margin to perform and innovate. “I’ve done quite a few roles but I feel people gravitate towards my rona dhona characters, in which I’m helpless and don’t have a voice. But that’s not even reflective of our society anymore,” she notes. “This is only portrayed in dramas but such shows get the most ratings, so producers can’t be blamed.”
Originally from Lahore, Sajal moved to Karachi in 2011 over a family feud and being the eldest daughter, she had to support her family. She lent her talent to mall activities in Karachi and chanced upon a drama production company where she auditioned. “They said my voice is too shrieky so I got rejected,” she recalls. Then, she was told that production house Six Sigma was holding auditions, so she went there and got selected following an informal interview. “At that point, they didn’t know whether I could act and, frankly, neither did I.” She made her small-screen debut as a lead actor in the drama Mehmoodabad Ki Malkain in 2011.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2015.