Women are finally reclaiming their space in stories on popular media – Mehar Bano

Mumbai: Mehar Bano plays Anarkali in the much talked about series Qaatil Haseenaon Ke Naam. She speaks to The Lucknow Tribune  about her role, the importance of women centric roles, why the script is her ultimate yardstick in many ways and why she thinks OTT is all set to blow up. She is in conversation with The Lucknow Tribune Sub Editor Arijit Bose

Tell us a little about your role?

I’m playing the character of Anarkali and she is a feisty young punjabi girl who has been wronged since childhood. And in the course of the show, she realizes what her power is and claims it. And then proceeds to take revenge. That’s all I can say for now.

How do you see the importance of women centric roles in today’s time?

I think to say that they are important and integral to the story telling of today is an understatement. Women need to be represented more, and it’s not like we haven’t seen women in women’s central characters in films or t.v. It’s just like the way they’ve been shown. This space has been primarily dictated by men, and since it is a male dominated industry in its entire tv at hollywood, bollywood or lollywood for that matter, the way they tend to show women is how they see them. And it does sort of become a reflection of how women are treated in society, so in that sense, you know women might be represented, but. strong women are not being currently represented properly in any industry around the world. You know, even this character that I’m doing, and even this narrative where you know it’s a neon oar. And they are Qaatil Haseenas, so it’s a modern mystery, so i think it’s such a new screen for me. It’s such a new frame for me that i have never seen women doing these characters where they’re the ones doing all the killing, and they’re the ones raging against the machine, that is the patriarchy, so I think it’s so important that women see us in characters like these, and then there to think. It’s important for us to sort of claim that space and I think that’s what has been done by the female filmmaker, she has created a narrative.

How do you prepare yourself for such a role?

It actually requires a lot of introspection, I mean, of course. there were workshops and they were scene blocking and everything, but of course, the drama, because everything that we do at this point, every female centric narrative that’s progressive would mean that there’s some form of drama associated with it. Just humanizing these characters and playing them from a truthful place, so I think that playing a character like this required me to go inward a lot, and it was very, very triggering, i’ll be honest. You can relate to it, especially considering that women are especially empathetic beings. Our experiences and limited experiences are more or less very, very similar. It was very hard for me to come to terms with. The last character that i did in chudails was very, very action intensive, so there was a lot of labour. I had to learn how to fight. I had to learn how to throw punches, but this time here is just a lot of going inward. Introspection, what not.

Why do you think this role was special or this project rather was special for you?

first of all, I  was completely floored by the script. There’s just no two things about it. I read the script, I read the entire script in one go, and I just could not stop, and it’s very hard for me to actually sit down and read through everything for me to be impacted by it. It doesn’t happen much, but I was truly, truly impacted by the script. I think its treatment was already pretty evident from when i got the p d f. It was different, It was experimental. It seemed like it was written by a woman for women. It was very. very compelling as a story and believe it or not, I did actually start crying when I read it. Everything starts with a good script, and we haven’t read an excellent script like this. i just could not pass on the opportunity of something like the score and then add to it a female director, that’s like the stuff of my dreams.

You’ve done projects like Daag, Misfire, Baala among others, and you’ve now done this one. How do you see yourself evolve as an actress?

I’ve definitely learned that not all narratives are progressive, and especially when someone transitions from television to OTT platforms, you realize that. We’re not women like me, the person that I actually am in real life is a demographic that has never been represented on television, or at least I’ve never ever seen her in my life. So for me. I just realize that people like me are completely under represented. and it’s not just it’s not just me, just a second. Other women who fall into some demographics. they are also not represented accurately at all on television, especially. There’s only a one dimensional kind of a woman that you see and divided into tropes of good and bad women. With OTT, they dreamed up a landscape over the world wide web on a global level, where you know all kinds of women will be showcased, all kinds. Narratives were placed forward forth. For making someone like me realize that I wasn’t really living up to my full potential when I was just doing television.

You’re a product of National College of Arts, so how do you put your degree to work when you’re getting into professional space ?

I have a bachelor of fine arts in filmmaking, right? So I think that, currently I’m. leading into creating more, and I wanna make films eventually and web series myself, but right now, i’m just dwelling into this process of writing, I’m trying to be a screenwriter. I’m an aspiring screenwriter, and I think that it helps my process immensely because I know the world of focusing. So i think with that, with that kind of tool thatI’ve honed from studying an art and an art school, I think it’s  helped me a lot to understand the dynamics of how everything works and not just my own job. so that really kind of allows me that versatility  where i can be of help to anyone, absolutely. anyone on set so that i think has really help me immensely.

You say that you want to work on a lot of content, and how do you see the OTT space shaping up in the coming times?

OTT is about to really sort of blow up, in my opinion.

I think soon enough, not too soon. but soon enough, i think it’s going to take the place of cable television, although maybe I’m making tall claims right now, but I do think that the future is OTT. With OTT platforms, there is so much choice. all of a sudden, if you don’t like something, you can turn it off, you like something, you can keep watching it, and you also on top of that game. We now choose to see what suits our taste, and I think that’s the future & it’s going to take over soon. We play and create characters that before we’ve never been offered, so we’re seeing all these new possibilities that were previously unavailable to us. and all these new opportunities, not only for actors but for filmmakers, technicians, crew members. I think this is really going to not only provide a lot of jobs in the coming future and boost the economy and in the larger scheme of things, but it’s also just like bringing so many global markets together, and now people sitting across the world from us can watch what we’re producing in Pakistan or India. I think that we’re not represented properly and a lot of people have so many misconceptions about the way pakistanis are the way indian people are there’s just a lot of misrepresentation, so I think that will also be tackled with the advent of quality tea platforms.

Tell us a little bit about your brainchild Sway Dance Project ?

It was just a dance company that i started with my friend. I’m also choreographer, so I have also been doing that on the side. i have a team of choreographers who are always available. We choreograph film songs, do television commercials or whatever other solutions that anyone would need. I’ve just always been very passionate about dancing and choreographing and creating like that and movement in general, and i think there’s just such a dearth of that in pakistan. Currently, we’re looking into opening our own studio.

You just said that there is this problem of misrepresentation of both Indians and Pakistanis across the board and across borders,  Sanam Saeed recently said that when it comes to art. we always find a way. how do you react to that?

Of course, I do think that when it comes to art, we all find a way. So despite so many differences between the two countries and so many differences between probably Pakistan and the other countries across the globe, wherever there might be a hindrance, i don’t think at all affected the pervasiveness of art and how willing people are to keep. creating and keep making it because it does, it is a medium that transcends the boundaries. Art cannot be stopped at all. it is a necessary tool. As long as there is a demand, it needs to be met, and the demands are that there needs to be collaborative efforts to keep creating. Filmmaking is a kind of profession that is a collaborative effort.

Your dream Indian director in terms of collaboration and a co actor or actress?

That’s a tough one. Among the Directors are Vishal Bhardwaj and Vikram Aditya Motwani. Among actors are Akshay Kumar and Ranveer Singh.

Your message to people who are coming into the film industry? Especially the younger lot ?

Be prepared for work, I think it’s just a lot of hard work and a lot of hits and misses, so you know. If you didn’t do well this time, there’s always room to try again. It’s a creative process, and if it doesn’t work out the first time, it will always work for the second time, so it’s just we should always pedal ourselves to keep creating. Keep making, and not stopping. right.

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