My mother is my go-to person when deciding on a project: Zara Noor Abbas

Latest   August 3, 2019
In conversation with the Troika Ladies of Deewar-e-Shab!

It was Hum TV plays that heralded the revival of the drama industry in Pakistan a decade back, and now, the same channel is back to raise the bar with Deewar-e-Shab

Written by Aaliya Bukhari and directed by Iqbal Hussain, the play aired soon after Eid-ul-Fitr and impressed all with the period setup, classical dances and above all, the first-ever appearance of Bushra Ansari, Asma Abbas, and Zara Noor Abbas, together. While Bushra and Asma have worked before on numerous occasions, it is the addition of the beautiful Zara Noor Abbas that has made their association all the more memorable.

Spotlight talked to the two sisters and daughter and asked them about the experience of working together, working in a period drama that wouldn’t have been possible a few years back and what made them opt for the play, other than working alongside each other.


How was the experience of sharing the screen with your mother and aunt for the first time?

I think this was the most conveted chance of my life where I shared the screen with two legends. It was truly a dream come true and I am so glad that I was able to do it.

Your mother and Bushra Ansari have worked together before but now, with you taking the center stage, how does it feel?

To be honest I have not taken the center stage. It’s very sweet of you to say so but they are still the stars of the show and will always be the stars of my life.

Deewar-e-Shab is something you don’t usually see on TV. What made you go for it after it was offered to you?

Whenever I am picking a script, I discuss the characters with my husband (Asad Siddiqui) and usually, his Instincts help me in deciding whether I want to do the character or not.

Also, my mother (Asma Abbas) is my go-to person when deciding on a project, so Amma and Asad really encouraged me to take on Deewar-e-ShabThis was something that has never been done before and I really wanted to do a period play, besides acting with the two legends.

Actresses in Pakistan don’t usually get roles where they are required to dance and act at the same time. How was the experience of doing that after serious roles on TV?

It was a fresh breath of air where I was supposed to dance and act at the same time. I think I was lucky to find a script like Deewar-e-Shab.

One of your films is a hit and another is on its way. What more can Zara Noor Abbas want?

To be honest I still don’t know what I want but wherever I am right now, I am happy with that.

What’s next on your list after Deewar-e-Shab and Parey Hut Love?

There is a very special project that I am in talks with. Hopefully, the details will come out soon, but yes, it is something that is going to be very different from everything that I have done so far.


How was the experience of sharing the screen with your sister and niece for the first time?

This is not the first time Asma and I have shared the screen; we just did a song a few days back that went viral. Before that, we did Fifty Fifty way back in the 1980s, and later Anwar Maqsood’s Sho Sha as well. The first time we worked together in a TV drama was Meray Dard Ko Jo Zuban Miley that I wrote and acted in and Asma was cast as my younger sister. Deewar-e-Shab features us together in a drama after quite some time and we both enjoyed it a lot.

I was busy writing a play for Hum TV when I was approached for the role and was on the verge of saying no, but Asma convinced me to say yes as it was a golden opportunity to work together in parallel roles.

As for Zara, she is a talented actress and it was great to have her on board for the first few episodes, although she was busy in her own film and TV projects. I am glad that we managed to do some proper acting in the play which was a welcome break for me from the saas-bahu dramas as I was fed up with bitchy roles. This was a different play and we grabbed the opportunity to satisfy the actor in us rather than do the clichéd roles.

How different was it to work with Asma Abbas this time around?

It was very hard because of the weather as it is too hot and humid in Karachi. It wouldn’t have been that difficult had it been an easy-going drama with actors moving around, delivering dialogues on the way. Since Deewar-e-Shab features us both in important roles, we had to work really hard and make it work as we do in delicate dramas.

Deewar-e-Shab is something you don’t usually see on TV. What made you go for it after it was offered to you?

Oh yes, it is very different as we get to showcase our talents. Trust me, at times I feel like asking myself why I am even acting in such plays because it doesn’t satisfy you as an actor. When Momina (Duraid) approached me for this play, I couldn’t refuse even though it is shot like two serials together, over a period of six months.

How proud are you of Zara Noor Abbas and how far has she come in such a short time?

I am so proud of her that I can’t even express it. That girl has gone through a lot but, trust me, I knew that she would come out like a loaded bomb whenever she decided to join showbiz. She tried doing many things before acting but when she did appear on TV, she impressed all in such a short time. She hasn’t done much but you feel the talent – she can dance better than any girl in the industry without being a trained dancer and act as well as any.

Even choreographers are surprised as to how she can dance so well, but we know because she has learned it from watching films. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that she is more talented than all the other girls in our family including my daughters and nieces.

One of my nieces Sadaf couldn’t enter showbiz as she is busy with her family and moves around since the husband is in the Army; had she entered showbiz she would have done great as she is quite pretty and talented like Zara.

Another niece Sumera used to act in Ajoka’s theatre plays and was an excellent dancer but she went abroad, whereas my own daughter Nariman used her talent behind the camera and even assisted Saqib Malik. The other daughter Meera does modeling but trust me, Zara is the youngest, the most modest and prettiest of them all and it seems that she has the talent of all the girls in our family.

Actresses in Pakistan don’t usually get leading roles when they migrate to mature roles. Is that a reason why we don’t have mature stories on TV?

We don’t value our actors as they do in India; they write characters for Amitabh Bachchan even though he is in his late 70s’ here we do nothing of the sort. In fact, that’s the reason why I stopped working in films after just two movies and told all filmmakers to stay away from me.

I played a happy mom in Jawani Phir Nahi Ani and a sad one in Ho Mann Jahaan because of Nadeem Baig and Asim Raza, who are brilliant directors but others were offering me nothing different. I told them that if they want to cast me in a film, the role must be an important one otherwise don’t approach me.

Every film that is being made today was offered to me but I rejected them because either they don’t have the budget, want me to do a cameo and/or a guest appearance. By the grace of Allah, I have made a name for myself and it was not to do these kinds of roles; I can support a film by posting shout outs, by attending premieres and bucking up younger filmmakers, but not by reducing my fee for characters that offer me nothing. I am still waiting for a good role that is appropriate for me to do.


How was the experience of sharing the screen with your sister and daughter for the first time?

It was always my desire to work with Baji Bushra in a full-fledged TV drama because we may have appeared together in different TV programs but never as actors opposite each other. I wanted us to throw dialogues at each other, have a confrontation and although I worked in one of her plays, it was limited to just seven episodes.

Deewar-e-Shab offered me a chance to fulfill my desire as it pitted us against each other in a great way. As for sharing the screen with Zara, I always knew that she was a volcano waiting to erupt because when no one knows, a mother knows. She always wanted to do something like this character and proved to all that she can do any kind of role effortlessly.

You and Bushra Ansari have worked together in Fifty Fifty and other programmes. How different was it this time?

Actually, we never worked ‘together together’, if you know what I mean. It was only after she had left Fifty Fifty that I made my entry as they wanted someone resembling her to replace her. Then we did the parody of Abhi To Mein Jawaan Hoon and with Haye Meri Angoothian in the 80s’, when I was too young to understand what I was doing was something significant.

The moment it was aired, people started noticing me and my first appearance with Baji Bushra propelled me to stardom (laughs). I only did what director Shoaib Mansoor asked me to do back then. As for Deewar-e-Shabsharing the screen with her is a great feeling and I enjoyed every bit of it.

How proud are you of Zara Noor Abbas and how far has she come in such a short time?

As her mother, I can’t be more proud of my daughter. She was always full of talent but wasn’t allowed to enter showbiz for various reasons. Now that she is happily married to Asad Siddiqui, whose family encourages her to work, she has started to make for lost time.

I am not surprised to see her doing well because I always knew what she was capable of. There are other talented and pretty girls in our family but Zara is different as she has the best of all the other girls combined. She wants to do more and that’s why she has gone into films because on TV she can’t showcase her talent freely.

I must take credit for her dancing skills because I was the only one in my family who used to dance, and when Zara grew up, we became a pair and no family event was complete without a performance from ‘Amma and Pikku’ (me and Zara). We are not just mother and daughter but also best friends as we share secrets, we share a dance and now we have shared the screen as well.

This might be the first time we have appeared in a TV drama together but it surely isn’t going to be the last because we have too much to offer, together. I see myself in her because what I couldn’t do in my youth, I am seeing her accomplish in hers. I am eternally grateful to her in-laws for letting her follow her dreams and Insha Allah she will achieve them as well.

Deewar-e-Shab is something you don’t usually see on TV. What made you go for it after it was offered to you?

Usually I play a very simple mother in TV dramas but in reality, I am very fond of dressing up, donning jewelry, apply makeup and look good in clothes that sound chumm chumm. The role in Deewar-e-Shab offered me a chance to do all that and also act alongside my elder sister. Since it is a negative character opposite Baji Bushra I couldn’t say no and thankfully people are appreciating our work together. You see, an antagonist always has a margin for the actors and since it came with a chance to work with my loved ones, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

I’m putting the same question that I put to Bushra: actresses in Pakistan don’t usually get leading roles when they migrate to mature roles. Is that a reason why we don’t have mature stories on TV?

It is a very sad situation and a drawback for actors who grow old with the passage of time. As soon as they mature in Pakistan, producers start casting them as ‘filler’ parents on TV. When they approach us for dramas, the situation they narrate is like ‘your daughter will, your son will’ instead of ‘you will’ which sort of disrespectful. I don’t understand why our scriptwriters don’t write mature roles for actors like it is done all over the world.

People beyond the age of playing hero-heroine have their issues as well; why can’t a husband tell his wife that she is looking good or take her out to dinner in our plays? No one wants the writers to stop basing their play around young couple but they shouldn’t forget the senior citizens as well who are as important to the story. There should be a parallel track for elder actors who are going through a midlife crisis and other similar stuff.

There is more to parents than just talking about their kids and when you don’t get such roles, people like me are bound to play weird mother-in-law kind of characters as that role offers me a chance to perform.

This article was originally published in GLAM Magazine.

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