• 10 Mar - 16 Mar, 2018
  • Omair Alavi
  • Interview

She dazzled the audience with her performance on stage; she later transferred her attention to TV and now is all set for the big stage. Actor/writer Mariam Saleem will be making her big screen debut opposite Shehroz Sabzwari in Agar Magar and like all her fans, she is quite geared up for the project. The Isloo-ite has been part of theatre for over a decade and most recently amazed everyone on stage with Art by Yasmeena Reza. The film will elevate this talented actress to the biggest stage possible and we decided to find out how she feels about it, after having appeared everywhere else. Read on...

You have been part of the entertainment industry for a long time but people don’t know much about your childhood. Do share something about it.

It’s not much of a mystery anyway [laughs]. I was born in Abu Dhabi where my father (Shaheed) Air Vice Marshal Saleem Akhtar Nawaz was posted at the time. Since I was the youngest of four siblings (all sisters), I was the pampered one. My love for acting developed as I traveled all across Pakistan, living from one place to another because of my father's job. Meeting all sorts of people, with all sorts of mannerisms, really drew me to study them as characters. I was so young, I didn't even know what I was doing was 'acting'.

 When you started your career, you could have opted for TV like others – what made you take up theatre?

Oh, it’s a long story … One of my sisters studied in the National College of Arts while I was growing up; she was in some of the theatre groups there and every summer she'd come home with stories of new skits she did and characters she played, and that’s when I knew I wanted to do theatre. One day, I heard about these auditions Shah Sharahbeel was having and decided to go ahead. I got the part and with that began my stint with theatre – something that is still happening.

Didn’t your parents have any objections considering theatre wasn’t that huge a deal in those days?

My mother was quite active in whatever theatrical activities they had at the PAF Ladies Club. She'd also been part of school plays while she was growing up. When I told her about my audition and that I got the part, she was quite happy and that gave me the boost I needed. I did a few plays in Islamabad – mostly with Osman Khalid Butt, who used to write and direct at the time. After that I moved to Canada for my undergrad, took some classes in musical theatre and continued acting in plays.

Why did you return to Pakistan when you were doing well in Canada?

Before I left for Canada, I got a few offers to act on TV but since my sister had sponsored us, I chose to go to Canada. The problems most actors from this part of the world face abroad is that of being typecast, and before that could happen to me, I returned and started back from theatre. Once I returned, I was extremely lucky and was able to jump right back into the theatre scene with KopyKats productions.

 Experienced actors want to work with Anwar Maqsood but you worked with the legendary playwright long before you switched to TV. How was the experience of being part of Kopykats Productions and Anwar sahab?

I started working with Anwar Maqsood with the Islamabad stint of Sawa 14 August that was followed by Haaf Playt and Pawnay 14 August. The highlight was playing the role of Bano that was immortalised by Khalida Riyasat two decades ago. To fill her shoes was a difficult task, but so was doing four roles in one play (police wali, PTI worker, school principal & Veena Malik). Working with Anwar sahab has been a joy and then some, thanks to him, I've been able to perform some of my personal favourite characters. His plays are so well-written and his characters are fleshed out so well that it makes being in character a dream.

 Then came the switch to TV … how?

A few people at Six Sigma had seen one of my theatrical performances and offered me the lead role in Vasl e Yaar in which I was paired opposite Shehzad Sheikh and Hassan Niazi. The play did well and the audience liked my acting but tragically, I injured my foot on set and became bedridden for a few months, ending up with weight gain. Painstaking as it was, I reduced some of the weight and fit the role of 'Sanam' when Sana Shahnawaz cast me in Khuda Mera Bhi Hai. It had the wonderful Ayesha Khan in it and was not a typical drama, so I absolutely had to say yes and thankfully people loved the play.

Do tell us how you ended up as a digital sensation. Was it a planned attempt or did it just happened?

I've been doing digital work off and on for a while, it started with Osman Khalid Butt's spoof video called 'PG-rated Pyaar ki Dushman, which was a funny take on the whole Maya Khan-in-park fiasco. Then last year, I was just sitting around doing absolutely nothing and decided to do something fun with SnapChat filters, this is when the ‘Parlour Lady video’ was born. After that, Taimur Salahuddin asked me to do some fun digital work with him, which I couldn't resist, including Saas aur Bahu and the most recent web series Saaye. It was due to that work as well as my TV and theatre portfolio (especially the Lux Style Awards performance) that Agar Magar was offered to me.

 What is the film about and how was the experience shooting for it?

It was a great experience to work with such talented people. I can’t tell you much about the film except that Fahad Anjum is the producer and his wife Shafaq Khalid is the writer/director. We all play very interesting characters in the film. When I first read the script, I couldn't believe it was being offered to me. I was absolutely delighted, as someone who's studied screenwriting, that such excellent work was being done in Pakistan. I can't wait for everyone to watch it and fall in love with it – it's got the makings of a cult classic.

 What’s next on your plate? Is it back to TV or more commercials?

I love working in TV commercials, I'm lucky to be getting ones that have an actual margin for acting and I am also considering a few TV and film offers. The goal is to do quality work, the kind that can keep fuelling my creativity. I'm always hungry for well-written screenplays and complex characters.



    Zarnab commented 6 years ago

    Always been a huge fan of Mariam. Kudos and more power.

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