Hina Altaf - Paving Her Way to Stardom

Started off as a VJ on television, Hina Altaf is a name to have paved her way into the industry with her constant hard work and unique persona. She has quietly moved into the top tiers of the television industry, seemingly without trying. Though that’s not true. It took her years of tough grind to be noticed. It was Aatish, her blockbuster drama serial that brought her into the limelight all over again. Then thanks to the success of Dil e Gumshuda and Bandhay Ek Dor Se, that Hina found herself to be the toast of big banners. Charming, chirpy and always full of positive energy, she’s looking forward to 2021, where she has Dour coming up with a very promising cast. On the personal front, she’s married to actor Aagha Ali and is taking her career to another level with distinctive projects that are lined up next. Excerpts from a free-flowing interview with the bubbly actress follow...

Icebreaker! Introduce us to Hina Altaf behind all the glitz n glam. Who's she when the cameras are turned off?

I’m a very quiet person when I’m at work. I don’t like gossiping nor do I like indulging in any detailed discussion. It’s very rare that I connect with someone and start talking to them for hours. I really like being in my own shell.

What sparked your interest in acting? How did you end up being in the industry?

It was since childhood. I wanted to do nothing but just to be on camera and perform. I gave auditions after auditions. From playing supporting characters to second lead roles and then lead roles. It’s been a long journey but a memorable one.

Started with critically acclaimed drama Udaari, how has your experience been on embarking a successful journey in the entertainment industry?

It comprises of a lot of ups and downs. At times working 60 days. Literally giving your blood and sweat to a project and still there were times that it went unnoticed. It really affects an actor who’s working 12-15 hours, six days a week and surprisingly, at times you don’t really put a lot of effort that certain project becomes an instant hit just like Aatish. It was a hit. I was shocked but as you say the Almighty surely has better plans.

Your choice of dramas until now has been quite interesting. Is that a conscious effort from your end or just that things fell into place for you?

You can’t keep dropping projects just because you’re not getting the kind you like. At times you just have to settle with offers you’re offered. In my case, the Almighty has been extremely kind. I’ll give this credit to 7th Sky Entertainment and the producers Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi. I have never seen such understanding producers. They offered me the most evil character in Bandhay Ek Dor Se. Light comedy characters in their telefilms. And now Dour, a project very close to my heart is coming up.

The audiences immensely applauded your acting in your hit drama Aatish. How was the feeling of getting so much praise?

I was shocked. We went to Murree to shoot the last spell for Aatish. It was on-air at that time. There were school girls and families that came to meet me. I was so surprised. The credit solely goes to my director Saima Waseem. She’s an immensely hard working woman. I use to get tired and exhausted crying in every scene. She used to explain me how miserable that girl is and that project actually made me realise that how important it is to touch your audience’s emotions.

Are you a directors’ actor or is it that you strive to perform in your way?

I think I’m both. The chemistry and understanding with your director is like a cherry on top for any actor. I love working with my directors, I love giving my input. Recently, the directors I worked with were very welcoming towards suggestions. At times, the actor has a better understanding regarding the scene and sometimes it’s just best to listen to the director, what exactly he wants from the scene. It works both ways.

Many actors complain of being offered repetitive scripts. Do you think our makers lack in coming up with divergent subjects?

Channels or owners of production houses are not dumb. They know exactly what will be seen and what not. They have their whole mechanism and statistics going on. I feel sad saying this but even today the stories that are shown are stories of each and every household in your country. Why doesn’t a morning show on television get enough rating when awareness about a certain thing is being discussed? The audience is mostly not interested. Makers will only produce things which will bring them profit. The day audience disapproves of watching the saas bahu content, ratings will go down automatically. You can’t keep watching TV and keep commenting on social media this is bad content. Audience is the KING in my opinion. Only they can bring a change.

What do you think about the constant criticism celebrities have to face? Have you ever experienced it yourself?

(Laughs)… It has become a part of life now but yes, I do have realised something in recent days. A celebrity can’t compare themselves with the audience. That person who’s at home putting out his frustration through a key board is not followed by a large audience. As celebrities, we have to be very careful yet thick skinned. At times, there are issues made out of tissues. Everything comes with a price. Who said being in the public eye would be that easy.

From an actor's perspective, is it easy or difficult for you to be non-judgmental about the characters that you play?

I use to judge my characters a lot when I started off. Everyone has their own journey. I have a story to tell that when I got married, after two-three months I was flying to Lahore to see Aagha. I met a girl at the airport. Her father came and asked me to guide her daughter and take her to the plane. The girl started crying loudly, her mother told me, she’s married and today she’s going to her in laws all alone. I could see mehendi on her hands. I felt really bad. So yeah, judging your characters is exactly like judging people. Everyone has their own way of expressing and living life. You really need to go into your character’s shoes and figure out the emotions.

After doing an intensely-challenging character, how do you de-stress yourself?

When I’m done with my work, I love travelling but due to the pandemic it has not been possible. So I visit Lahore, when I wrap my projects. I love sitting in my balcony. I love surrounding myself with greenery. I love talking to Aagha about every little detail about my life from childhood to youth and now about our future. I love playing ludo, watching Netflix and sleeping late at night.

If you could choose your cast and crew for your next project, who’s penning down the script, who takes the director’s chair, and who is starring opposite you?

I would go for Umera Ahmed’s script. I would choose Aagha to be my hero and I would choose Shaqeil Khan to direct us. The director of Dil e Gumshuda that broke all records of 2019’s 9 pm slot.

What advice would you want to give to all the aspiring actors?

Consistency is the key. Be humble and be very sure what you want from this industry. Whether it’s the money, fame and recognition for life or just some followers on your social media handle. Be clear and your boat will sail smoothly or else you’ll go crazy.

How was your experience of working with the legendary Sania Saeed in the upcoming drama Dour? Tell us something about your character.

I’m a fan of Sania Saeed, no kidding. She’s not only a great actor but also, a great human. My character in Dour is nothing what is shown in teasers for now. That’s a huge sneak peak. People are giving their assumptions but no, it has a lot more than just teasers. You’ll have to wait to see.

Coordination: Umer Mushtaq
Hair & Makeup: Farhan Sheikh
Designer: Attire By Bushra Wahid
Photography & Styling: Yasser Sadiq