In order for me to return to TV, there must be something different: Mehwish Hayat
Everybody in the TV and film industry knows that Mehwish Hayat and Azfar Rehman are best buddies.
They hang out together, travel around the world with their friends and through Hum Films’ Chhalawa, they worked together in a film as the male and female lead.
Spotlight met with the ‘best friends for life’ to find out how hard or easy it was to work opposite each other in a film, how was the experience of working in a Wajahat Rauf comedy, and the interesting incidents that took place behind the scenes.
How does it feel to work with your best friend as the main lead?
MH: It was fun if you ask me; it was because Azfu was there that we had more fun. We worked in Punjab Nahi Jaungi but he had a minor role, whereas here he is playing the main lead. The only ‘problem’ I had with him was in the romantic scene as I was more comic than romantic.
Even though it had a positive effect on me as an actor, the producers must have thought ‘why the hell is she not crying or being romantic in the scene.’ Overall, like Enaaya, Chhalawa was a happy set and it comes out on screen.
AR: Mehwish and I have worked on TV in a handful of plays and yes, I was there in Punjab Nahi Jaungi, but this was our first proper film as a hero – heroine. In fact, I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Mehwish is the heroine of the film and carries its weight on her shoulders as any established actress would.
I am the newcomer here, and the most positive aspect of the film was we got to work together. I was very happy to see her working so hard on the set which was the exact opposite of what I do. She plans like a professional actress while I take every role as it comes by. On the set, she wasn’t my friend but a serious actress who knew all there was to know, nearly as much as the director (smiles).
Tell us something about the role you are playing in Chhalawa and how is it different from your other films?
MH: I play a happy go lucky rebel in Chhalawa and this is the only similarity the role has with my other films. Yes, I have a younger brother and sister here but that’s part of the story. But it is as different from others as my role in Load Wedding was from Punjab Nahi Jaungi.
It has its own characteristics that people will get to know when they watch the film. Yes, as the trailer suggests, the plot revolves around shaadi but that’s because it belongs to our own genre – wedding – which is something everyone likes in Pakistan, no matter when the film is released.
AR: I play a guy who is in love with Mehwish’s character and wants to prove his eligibility to his father who has other ideas. How do I manage to do that is something you will know the day the film is released, so please go and watch Chhalawa.
We saw you all dancing on the title track, with all the actors looking extremely comfortable. How was the experience?
MH: It has always been my style that when I dance, I try to rope in everything in the surroundings, be it the actors or props on the set. I believe dancing is as contagious as smiling and if you see all the actors doing a good job on the screen, it’s because we all were having a great time. I don’t try to intimidate my fellow actors but motivate them, and that’s why even Humayun Saeed and Fahad Mustafa have benefited from the extra burst of energy that is there around us.
Although I had worked with Wahab Shah in theatre, it was our first film project together and trust me; we all did well including Zara Noor Abbas and Azfar Rehman who were making their film debuts. While we were on location, everything from our chemistry, energy, positivity was at its peak and we never thought that we were working; in fact, we all had one of the best times of our lives during Chhalawa and it reflects on the screen.
AR: Practice makes a man perfect and whoever said that must have meant dancing in a film. We practiced for nearly 10-11 days for the songs in the movie and that’s why it looks good on the screen. For me, this film was a learning experience as I got to do everything I hardly do on TV such as fighting, dancing, and even doing comedy.
In short, I was Wajahat Rauf’s puppet here who did everything he was told to do. He held my strings and that’s why you will see a prolific change in my acting in both the halves, as I was following the director’s lead and all the credit must go to him for a good job.
In the last five years, you have worked on TV just once – DilLagi – and that too was your comeback after quite some time. When will your TV fans be able to see you on the smaller screen, considering you were part of the drama revival?
MH: Very soon InshAallah. I am aware of my absence from television and my fans have all the right to be angry with me. They message me regarding my TV comeback, and it was during the last play that I realized that TV audience is huge, much much bigger than the film one.
But in order for me to return to TV, there must be something worthwhile. When beginning initially during the Star Plus era, the writers and directors wanted to explore and do something new, but nowadays everyone wants to do a film. You can count good TV directors and writers on your fingers, and the same goes for blockbuster plays as with every passing year, the numbers are coming down.
We need more than a couple of hit plays every year because if you don’t provide good content, the downfall will happen all over again. I want to work on the small screen but for that, we will have to go in a new direction that is not saas-bahu related nor revolves around a rape victim or a molester.
There are so many stories out there that need to be addressed, but we don’t seem to be in the exploration mood at all.
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Which do you think is the easier medium – TV or films?
AR: I believe that film is definitely the easier medium because you have to wrap everything up in 70 scenes, or in a couple of hours. The audience is watching the film in a theatre and give it their complete attention, which is a lot different from TV, where there are more scenes, and the audience isn’t glued to the screen until the drama is very good.
You have songs to support you in films, but TV is all about performance. A film has a bigger cast unlike most dramas, and is faster too as you have to end it before it becomes a drag. As for TV, you have to keep the audience involved over a period of time with a wide range of expressions – in films, even minor performances can leave a lasting impression because of the undivided attention and the size of the screen.
Any unforgettable experience during the filming?
MH: I had fun throughout the shoot; however, I would like to mention the hospitality of our producer Shazia Wajahat who looked after us like a mother. Although we were staying at a small guest house near a gas station that was quite far from the location, she made sure that we were all well fed when we left for the location, where we were pampered as well because of the cold.
AR: There was a scene in the film where I was supposed to climb a hill and then come down; I went up without any jacket, sweater etc. to look like a hero and found out that it was Gorakh Hill, the coolest place in Sindh, only when I reached the top. Wajahat Rauf could hear me because my voice was traveling downwards with the wind but I couldn’t hear him back as it was cold and windy at the same time.
Somehow I survived that, but then there were the fighting sequences in the film where I had to get hit. What’s interesting is that those sequences had to be choreographed because the director wanted us to look good on the camera, even though we were being hit!
Has the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz award changed you as an actor?
MH: When I signed the film, I had no idea that by the time it will be over, I would be recognized by the Pakistani Government for my work in the field of Arts and Culture.
It has made me more humble and responsible, because now people will be expecting more from me as a film actress. I can’t thank Allah enough for this honor which will forever be attached to my name.
Before concluding this session, something on the ‘fans’ who stood for you when LSA snubbed you but stood against you when the Government finally recognized your services?
MH: It is a sad thing that the very people who were vocal when I didn’t win the Lux Style Awards for my performance in Punjab Nahi Jaungi, went viral when I did get a government level medal for the same. I can’t say it was lack of knowledge on their part because they actually had seen my films and knew that I deserved the recognition.
The kind of language they used was unacceptable and deeply hurt me and my supporters when we should all have been celebrating the achievement. I think it’s time we start implementing cyber laws in Pakistan so that those who bully others could be punished for their baseless allegations and accusations.
I have always been a proud Pakistani and want to represent my country with dignity wherever I go, and if anyone has issues with my conduct, they must listen to my speeches that I have given abroad, proudly representing the country we belong to.