• 11 Feb - 17 Feb, 2023
  • Wajiha Jawaid
  • Interview

It was another lazy day at work when a phone call literally woke me up. A friend called to see if I was going to the media junket of Hum TV's upcoming drama Yunhi. It was one of the most talked about projects of the season, starring Maya Ali and Bilal Ashraf, and I couldn't afford to miss it. I immediately contacted the HUM PR team, who were gracious enough to make room for us in their hectic schedule. I quickly began working on my questionnaire, and within a half-hour I was at Hum TV's office, ready to meet Maya and Bilal.

Upon reaching there I met the ravishing beauty Maya Ali, dressed up in fancy pink attire she was looking radiant as always. It was her first project with maverick director Ehteshamuddin, and she was eager to share her experience. The actress told MAG how she and her visionary director created Kim's character, from choosing the right outfit to learning the mannerisms of a foreign-returned girl whose way of seeing things differs from many other girls of same age. To learn more about Kaneez Fatima aka Kim, read the interviews Excerpts: (Note: By the time you are reading this interview Yunhi first episode has already aired).

What makes Yunhi so appealing that you decide to pursue it?

It has a lot of unique characteristics. To begin with, working with Ehtesham bhai piqued my interest. He is a brilliant director as well as a wonderful human being. I have done several fashion shoots with Bilal but for television it is our first collaboration. When I learned that Bilal had been offered a role, I called him and advised him to accept it. Sarwat Nazir's intriguing script and the Hum TV connection made it memorable for me.

What was your first thought after reading the script?

When I first read it, I was perplexed, but after meeting Ehtesham bhai and seeing it through his eyes, I knew I had to do it. Through this drama, we have tried to educate viewers about some important issues but in a lighter mood.

As you just stated, Ehteshamuddin's involvement with the project was the most appealing to you. Tell us about your interactions with him.

He is a fantastic director and a master of his craft. He asked me how I perceived my character after reading the script. He later explained his vision, and after hearing his version, I was blown away by the unique storytelling approach.

On a more personal level, I've never seen him angry. He is always serene. He is an actor himself, so he knows how to bring out the best in us. I became ill during the shoot, and he came over to tell me that we wouldn't do the scene until I felt better. "We're not doing the shoot until you feel okay. I want your true personality, and if you're not feeling well, you won't be able to convey it on screen. So take a break and we'll do it when you're ready,” he said. This demeanour demonstrates his concern for his team. Unfortunately, the majority of our directors lack this attitude. They compel the artist to work despite their health concerns.

Tell us about your character Kim.

She is caring, loving, and a badass. She is a foreign-returned girl with a strong understanding of her religion. She knows our religion gives equal rights to women but our society has made its standards and they judge people with those set benchmarks.

We've all seen a lot of families abroad who are more committed to our traditions than we are. They raised their children on those lines, that result in open-minded individuals who accept cultural diversity, respect basic human rights, and believe in the individuality of every person. Kim, also known as Kaneez Fatima, is one such person. When she arrives in Pakistan, she discovers significant conflict in the people's actions and mentalities. You must watch our drama to find out how she handles things.

The character looks different in terms of styling also – we spot you wearing tees, and roaming around in casual attires. What was your style board for it?

The style board was casual, comfy, and realistic. As she is a foreign-returned girl it is normal for her to wear tees, trousers, and jeans. Western attire is usually linked to a negative character in our dramas. If they have to show a grey character, they dress her up in Western outfits with loud make-up and shoot her in slow-motion. Here, we make sure Kim looks and acts like any other foreign-returned girl.

How was the experience working with Talat Hussain’s daughter Tazeen? Did you get a chance to meet him and get acting tips from him on the set?

Tazeen is such a beautiful soul. Her father’s dynamic personality is reflected in her. The way she talks and behaves shows that she has been raised by a great person like Talat sb. She speaks in a very polite way. Initially, I thought she is improvising it for her character, but later I found out that it is the basic trait of her personality and it is so good.

Unfortunately, Talat sb never came to our sets. He was in Mann Mayal as well, but I didn't have any scenes with him, so I never got to meet him in person.

What is the update on Aasmaan Bolay Ga? When should we expect to see it in theatres?

Very soon Inshallah. Almost 90% work has been done, including the dubbing session. Posters are ready and we are expecting to release them on Eid.

We are a versatile actress and the several successful dramas that you have done is a testimony to it. So whenever you sign a new project, the pressure must be on you to outdo yourself. How do you deal with it?

Of course, there is pressure, and it builds up over time. Fame holds you accountable to the public, not only for your craft, but also as a civilised citizen. As artists, we are under additional pressure to set an example for the masses so that they can choose between right and wrong. If I can use my celebrity status to bring about even a minor change in society, I will be content and happy.

Coming back to Yunhi, the treatment of the drama appears to be different from the usual work we see on television. To whom do you want to give credit for it?

It is a collaborative effort in which everyone contributes their individuality to the project, which is reflected on the screen. We have talented people in every field; just give them a platform and they will shine brightly. Ehtesham bhai's visionary approach distinguishes this particular project. Khizer idrees, our DoP, lent his colours to the project. Deepak Perwani, Khaqan, Behroz uncle, Manzoor sb, Uzma Baig, Tazeen, and Bilal all helped to make it interesting.

The drama is about to be telecast. What are your hopes for the show?

I hope the viewers enjoy it. It highlights some critical issues, such as what is required for a successful married relationship. Elders must recognise that times have changed and that they must adapt to meet modern demands. It is no longer acceptable to impose your will on your child. When you suppress a woman, society never grows. Allow them to live their lives.