“The good and bad symbolism portrayed is too myopic,” ZHALAY SARHADI

  • 25 Jul - 31 Jul, 2020
  • Eman Saleem
  • Interview

A striver – go-getter – takes the shape of Zhalay Sarhadi in the film and drama industry. Saying yes to opportunities and recognising the responsibilities they bring is an un-teachable art, but learnable. And Zhalay is unafraid in sharing everything she has learnt. We get in touch with the ‘Chalay Thay Saath’ actress, for a scoop of her life behind the screen and here she is giving us a peek. Read on…

Ice breaker! Did you give into the internet hype and make Dalgona coffee during the lockdown?

I did not but my husband and my daughter did. So, it did happen in my household.

What makes you ‘you’?

I have boundless energy and a tremendous zest for my work. I am loyal, friendly, professional and extremely loving. At least that is what I honestly believe myself to be.

What was a career highlight for you?

Every project I do gives me joy and they all have been great for me as a performer. I think my second film Jalaibee was an experience I will always cherish. I danced, romanced and had an action sequence! It gave me a lot to explore as an actor. Then came Chalay Thay Saath and it brought me my first Lux nomination. I did not win but I got recognised and that humbled me.

A set experience you cannot forget?

I think being part of a drama where you are also the voice behind the sound track will forever be one of the best experiences. Aik Aur Sitam produced by Erum Binte Shahid and Zeeshan Khan was a great serial alongside Maria Wasti, Aly Khan, Beenish Chauhan and Fawad Jalal. I am immensely grateful for the vote of confidence for singing and acting in the project.

Being an actor usually comes with passion and love for craft. But how do you feel about the added factors that have seeped into life as an actor? Being a constant voice on issues ranging from politics to social causes and to always engage with fans?

I have been part of this field for almost two decades. It is not just a profession anymore it is a part of me. I have come to understand that people look up to me as a familiar person and do follow what I have to say. I feel it is mandatory to use your voice to do good wherever and however you can. Standing up for issues is not an option, it is a must. If I could change one person to be charitable or accepting of others, I will be successful. It gives me great pleasure to interact with people and hear their views. It broadens my horizon as an artist and a human being.

Have you learnt anything from a character you played?

Every character is someone’s story. I have learnt to be more empathetic towards other’s feelings and the choices they make. It enabled me to shed a few biases over the years and for that, I am grateful.

As an actor, what do you think are some changes that the drama industry could use?

I honestly want the industry to shift from their regular storylines revolving only around the damsel in distress and focus more on empowered people, both women and men. The good and bad symbolism portrayed is too myopic. Enough with the being saved by other people. Let’s talk about the character making something of themselves rather than being rescued by another. In reality, I find that people are way stronger than showed in our plays.

In your experience, what is the status of gender dynamics in the industry at present?

Men all over the world are given priority over women in the field of acting and I am talking money here. Even though our plays are largely female centric, it is still a matter of concern. I never ask anyone what their pay scale is but I have been told that is the case here as well. This needs to change and should be according to merit rather than gender.

How do you think your male counterparts can positively influence any gender imbalance that exists?

We collectively need to stand for equality. If our male co-stars take a stand for their female co-stars this would end. Take the example from the sitcom Friends, they all stood by each other and hence achieved equal pay. Humility is an underrated trait, which is commendable.

Is there a story or a subject that you would really like to be a part of in the future?

I would love to be in a biopic. I would love to play Parveen Shakir or Benazir Bhutto or Madam Noor Jehan. That would be a dream come true.

If given the chance, would you want to sign a project across the border?

Currently no. I think we should make our industry bigger and stronger. Let’s make ourselves self-sufficient and self-reliant. We need to shed our insecurities, should be willing to give each other the room to grow and also support the underdog. Would we need to be a part of another arena then? If you ask if I would want to take up an international project? Then the answer would be yes, but as a Pakistani actor taking a part in a foreign film/ series.