They don’t call it a blockbuster lightly. ‘Humsafar’ changed the fortunes of Pakistan’s ailing television industry, which was reeling under the domination of Indian and Turkish soap operas and made overnight stars of its lead pair — Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan. Three years later, the ripples can still be felt. Fawad, now a bonafide Bollywood star, shakes his head talking about the ‘Humsafar’ madness. “I can’t even begin to describe what kind of a response ‘Humsafar’ got. Personally I feel my other show ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’, was better, but it didn’t match the success of ‘Humsafar’,” he said in a recent interview to this writer. The show’s leading lady, Mahira echoes her co-star in a phone conversation from Karachi. “It was life altering. It changed television in Pakistan. My director, Sarmad Khoosat is still so close to my heart. I made so many new friendships on the set. Somewhere we will all be connected because it happened to us. ‘Humsafar’ will always live with me,” adds Mahira.
‘Humsafar’, soon to be aired on Zee Zindagi, is a story of two cousins, Ashar and Khirad who enter into an arranged marriage and discover love, trials, separation and many more tribulations on their course of happily ever after. Mahira’s Khirad is a strong woman who stands up for her pride. “I identified with Khirad’s sharm (shyness) and jhijak (reserved nature) and her quiet resilience,” says Mahira.
For the audience, the biggest takeaway from ‘Humsafar’ was the chemistry between the leads. Online forums are filled with requests to see Ashar and Khirad on screen again. Incidentally when they were shooting the drama, the director felt the leads had no spark. “The biggest fear of our director was that the show will tank because according to him, Fawad and I had zero chemistry. He would always be telling us to rehearse more, to at least hold hands. But when the show went on air, our director called us and said, ‘both of you are magic,” says Mahira. Speaking on the magic of the chemistry, she adds, “We don’t get chemistry. We never did. What we had was the right attitude and we trusted each other.”
Post ‘Humsafar’, Mahira has acquired a reputation for being extra choosy, preferring to be a hands-on mother to her five-year-old son, Azlaan.
“My colleagues joke that when you take a show, why does it become ‘Mughal-e-Azam’? I do one project a year but then I become that project. Last year I said no to 20 dramas that are on air right now. The success of ‘Humsafar’ comes with an added responsibility that whatever I do next has to be as good if not better and I also don’t want to miss out on my son’s growing up years,” she says. Her forthcoming projects include ‘Sadqay Tumhare’ and ‘Bin Roye Aansoo’.
What about Bollywood? “As a child, I used to steal Indian film magazines. I can do a KBC on Bollywood,” she says. She swears by Guru Dutt. “I’d like to meet him in heaven when I die,” she says. So can we expect to see her in a Hindi film soon? “It’s about what I can do for Bollywood. I’d love to work with Vishal Bhardwaj and Imtiaz Ali,” she says.