Yasra Rizvi - A Powerhouse of Talent

Ten years into the business and Yasra Rizvi’s career is only getting amazing. Churails, Dil Na Umeed Toh Nahin and many other projects sail through on her talent. When you find her name on the credit list, expectations automatically shoot up. And you know, regardless of the fate or quality of any said drama or film, Yasra will be the best performer to witness on screen. With a career span of years in the entertainment industry, and despite of doing very selective work, the actor turned director still has us all in awe of her incredible performances on screen which come out so naturally that it doesn’t even look like acting. The grip she has on her craft surely makes her stand out from many. We got to know the commendable actress more with this in-depth conversation. Excerpts:

Icebreaker! Tell us something about Yasra Rizvi? Who is she when the cameras aren’t rolling?

I’m someone who is always trying to learn and become a better version of myself. Moreover, I’d say that Yasra Rizvi is observant and she just wants to make things better.

What sparked your interest in becoming an actress? Also, what inspired you to start writing poetry? Acting or writing what would you choose if given an option?

It was literally a coincidence, we were at the National Drama

Festival I was coordinating it and Nadia Jamil was supposed to lead a play but she felt sick and couldn't make it to the performance. We just couldn’t cancel the play as it was an official event, someone suggested me doing it and somehow I managed to do that play and that is how I figured out that I could act. Acting happened to me much later in life but I started writing poetry when I was only 7,8 years old. Also, my father’s library actually inspired me to write. And for a person like me, there are no options. I do everything that I want to do and it’s never really about choosing.

How do you stay grounded and true to yourself in the midst of fame and success?

Probably because I’m not that kind of a famous or successful person, I mean that’s what I think and so just thinking that helps a lot. Also, I have constantly switched like if I was getting good at acting, I went into direction and into writing. I keep on going to trying the next level and I keep on learning and doing something new where I'm never just like really good until I’ve spend some time doing it so I guess that's what helps.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative projects?

My inspiration for my creative projects is literately life. It’s like I could be sitting somewhere and a person might do something that would just click or if I see something happening that would just create a story or a poem in my head and that can ignite my thought process. Or maybe just randomly feeling an emotion, this is how I get creatively inspired.

If you weren't famous, what would you be up to right now?

I think I still do what I would be doing and that is spending time by myself. If I’m going through a certain emotional time I let that emotion flow through me I give it it’s time and I feel to its fullest, so even if I was running a restaurant or anything else to pay the bills I would still be doing this in my own time, thinking and feeling, which I still do. I consciously keep it to the bare minimum requirement so that I can have my own life which I like more.

How do you handle the emotional toll that certain roles may take on you?

The emotional toll of certain characters becomes very heavy on someone like me because I am a method actor and it becomes difficult, it is something which you have to live through. I allow myself a breathing space in between projects by not doing much work consecutively and that’s how I unwind from the character but sometimes it does get very tough and sometimes it can escalate the parts of you that you have bought very hard in healing but that character put it all on the surface again. It’s different every single time depending on the kind of toll that is at hand.  

How do you approach exploring and portraying complex or challenging characters?

I usually end up doing very complex characters anyway, so as far as I’m concerned there is only one way to approach any character and that is research which is very important. So studying about the character, observing real life examples as much as possible and then a lot of rehearsals, reading and dissecting the lines which will not happen without rehearsals. So that’s my go to technique for doing any character.

Out of all the characters that you've played on the screen till now, which one is your favourite and why?

Right now, I feel like mentioning Jugnoo Chaudhry from Churails. There was another kind of energy as an actor that I got to explore in that character only. Her sass, fashion, confidence and her daring attitude towards life with compassion definitely tops the list.

How do you handle the pressures and expectations that come with being in the public eye?

I handle the pressures and expectation by minimising being in the public eye as much as I can. I just make sure that it’s the work that’s out there. And if people like the work, great but if they don’t then it’s something to learn from, there’s nothing personal there. Mostly, you would see me in the public eye either because of something I made, through a poetry video or just promoting the work that I’ve done. So that is how I keep it on the low.

Are there any future projects or collaborations that you are particularly excited about?

Shanaas is already on-air right now and then there is Working Women which is actually the first project I directed and is going to come out later and that’s definitely something I am very excited about. It’s a very good script, written by Bee Gul about working women. It’s a story about six women with an ensemble cast and I always enjoy multi-track stories so I’m definitely looking forward to it.

What made you say yes to Shanaas? How was your experience of acting as well as directing the show at the same time?

Saying yes to Shanaas was a no-brainer because it’s a family drama, emotional thriller juxtaposed with suspense and I have always been a big advocate of bringing more genres into play. Shanaas is a story that feels fresh and new and I got to cast the people that I wanted, they are all veteran outclass actors. It is a very urban bougie show but I am glad to do that as well because as a director it’s important to do a variety of things and I want to be known as the kind of director who can actually tell a vast variety of stories. Moreover, acting in Shanaas is a different story altogether because it was very hot and to act and direct at the same time was no walk in the park keeping in mind, there are so many variables that are against you when you are trying to make something different, so it was a very challenging situation.

Directing a show is a very different avenue altogether, walk us through your journey into direction?

I found out I am expecting my first child a month after the launch of Churails and while I was quickly wrapping up my prior acting commitments one of which was Dil Naumeed tou nahi directed by Kashif Nisaar and wondering what do I do next that he spoke to me about a new channel in the making and suggested I should work with him as a director since he’ll be producing multiple serials for them. With all due respect, I wasn't looking to do regular TV narrative but then he explained to me the philosophy of the channel and it resonated with me, it seemed like the only chance to experiment or breathe for that matter and rightly so because who else was going to let me make Working Women. It’s ridiculous that we have been making female centric narrative 'apparently' for over two decades now and we have never made a serial where we explored the very complex work lives of women in multiple professions specially recently since romantic love is the only prominent theme on TV regardless of the plot/genre. And the way Bee Gul has dived into it and navigates us through a chapter in the lives of different women trying to make it in a man's world with so much sensitivity and detail will definitely be an experience and to see if I have done justice to the direction bit.

Lastly, what advice would you like give to aspiring individuals looking to pursue acting?

Acting is a combination of skill, endurance and talent basically. However, if you want to be an actor find someone you trust who understands good acting and audition in front of them. First find out if this is something you should pursue or not. I think the most important step that people skip is learning. Find ways to learn the technique and craft.

• Coordination: Umer Mushtaq
• Styling: Misbah Gopalani
• Wardrobe: Flair by Permia
• Photography: Hussain Piart
• PR by: Alchemist