Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, who made her Bollywood debut with Shah Rukh Khan starrer Raees last year, says the Hindi film industry was never her aim. Raees released in January 2017, just a few months after tensions intensified between India and Pakistan over the September 18, 2016 Uri attack that left 19 Indian soldiers dead and the September 28 surgical strikes by India on Pakistan terror camps.
Mahira spoke about the impact of the tensions on the countries’ film industries on “HARDtalk on BBC World News”. Raees did not release in Pakistan. And Mahira was not allowed to promote the film in India as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena gave an ultimatum to Pakistani artistes to leave the country and to keep away from its showbiz.
“At that time I was angry. I was sad and angry and there were moments of disappointment and just hurt, you know. Now I’ve come to a place where I believe that anger doesn’t really make me a better actor. It doesn’t do anything for me as a person, so I’ve let go of that, because at that time I was in the mix of it,” said Mahira.
Didn’t it stall her career in a way?
“Bollywood was never really the aim actually. I mean sure you could argue that I could have done more films there, for sure I could have. But right after Raees, I had already started working on (Pakistani film) ‘Verna’, even before all of this happened. My focus was always Pakistan,” she said.
She said people may perceive that it was a “big jolt” to her career — and it was — but she has moved on. “Currently I just feel it’s just something else to be working and be part of this movement of the film industry (in Pakistan) at the moment.
“Because how I look at it, is that 20 years from now when either my son or kids from today want to become actors, we would have set this industry for them, which they won’t have to struggle so much,” added the 33-year-old actress, who has a son named Azlaan.
Her film Verna which is based on the rape culture and politics in Pakistan, has reportedly rubbed many in Pakistan the wrong way. With a strong problem of freedom to express getting suppressed in Pakistan, has she ever considered shifting base to another country?
Mahira Khan replied, “I don’t think that I can tell any story better than the story of my own country, than the stories of my own countrymen. I want to be able to bring out stories like ‘Verna’, as well as stories which are of the modern and new generation like ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’, which is a film I did of the youth of Pakistan. So I want to be that person.
“Also, because we are artistes, I think that’s a problem we all suffer. We are dreamers, so we are constantly looking at this is going to happen, and this is honestly all I am thinking about all the time, that one day I will go to a cinema house and there just won’t be enough space to fill it.” Mahira is currently filming for Saat Din Mohabbat In and Maula Jatt 2. The HARDtalk on BBC World News episode with Mahira will air on Monday.