Of course Mahira Khan loves Bollywood. How could she not? The 31-year-old Pakistani is an actress after all, even if she is from across the border. So when she arrived in India on a three-city tour after her popular TV show Humsafar ended, of course Mumbai was on her itinerary.
But it’s hard to say which of these three was Khan’s most important stop in Mumbai: meeting her fans, meeting Bollywood people, or meeting a bhelpuriwalla she’d heard much about. We suspect it was the bhelpuri vendor, because Khan denies signing any kind of Bollywood contract, but eagerly demands to know where the best chaat is available.
Tera bharat mahan
Khan was meant to have been in India much earlier, when the channel Zindagi began airing her show, but the usual visa issues arose. Still, she’s making up for lost time, adding another layer of great memories to those she already has of Humsafar. The show aired in Pakistan in 2011, catapulting her to fame; and she’s now reliving that experience.
“I never expected Indians to stop me in the streets by calling my character’s name – Khirad,” she says excitedly. “It’s a real honour to be here.”
Her excitement shows on her Twitter account: if she could, she’d document every moment of her stay in India there. “I joined Twitter quite late, encouraged by people who said it would be good for me professionally,” says Khan. “My make-up person on my new show, Sadqay Tumhare, even taught me how to take selfies and pout.”
Choti si asha
Khan began her career by hosting MTV’s Most Wanted in 2008, and debuted on the big screen in 2011 with Bol. After that came Humsafar with Fawad Khan. “Pakistani cinema doesn’t have the kind of standing that Bollywood has,” Khan explains. “Our TV dramas are much better appreciated. But that doesn’t mean that I have gone off cinema. I’m currently working on Asif Raza Mir’s upcoming film project.”
Humsafar was Khan’s big break. A huge part of the show’s popularity came from the chemistry between the lead pair. But Khan says they were simply professionals working together. “We didn’t really know each other,” says Khan. “We did all those romantic scenes, but we didn’t talk to each other. By the time the show ended, however, we had become good friends.”
Pakistani shows tend to be much less over the top than Indian serials. But Khan is all praise for Indian soap queen Ekta Kapoor. “Her saas-bahu idea for serials was genius,” says the actress who’s watched several episodes of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. “She’s offering what the audience wants to see. Now, however, I think some of that audience wants a change.”
In Mumbai, Khan hung out with the cast of Kill Dil, which included her compatriot Ali Zafar. She’s a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan: “The way I keep blabbering about him, I’m sure he is going to think that I’m some kind of a madwoman!”
In her family, Khan is the only one to have been bitten by the filmi bug. “My mother is an educationist, father a banker and my brother is a serious journalist who thinks my work is nonsensical,” says Khan. “So they don’t show any particular interest in my work.” But she does feel guilty about leaving her five-year-old son at home while she’s at work.
“The unfortunate part is that most people think that ours is a fun job without realising that we are like all professionals who step out for work and do what is required of them with the utmost sincerity,” she says.
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From HT Brunch, November 23
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