ABU DHABI // Known as the butterfly of Arab cinema, the Egyptian singer and actress Lebleba is still searching for the "perfect television role" for her small-screen crossover.
Named at birth as Ninotchka Manoug Kupelian (after the 1939 film Ninotchka), Lebleba was five years old when she appeared on screen for the first time. Since then, she has starred in at least 81 movies.
During a question-and-answer session at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in the Emirates Palace hotel, the actress said that, contrary to popular belief, she is not afraid of taking on a television role.
"I just want to present something beautiful, as I have in cinema," she said. "In TV, due to the continuity of the character required, I am looking for a role that will shock and surprise my audience."
The childhood star's screen name comes from the word "labib", which means quick and clever.
"I used to say to my mom, 'Why did you call me that?' She responded that she did not think my career would last so long," the 63-year-old said, laughing.
One of her main challenges, she noted, was shooting a romantic scene with the renowned younger actor Fathi Abdel Wahab in the 2005 movie Farhan Mulazim Adam.
"It was a very difficult love scene, and Lebleba helped me overcome my shyness," said Abdel Wahab, who was also at the question-and- answer session. "It was a very important experience for me."
Lebleba's latest project, Mickey's Family, is currently showing in Egypt. The comedy centres on a middle-aged, married mother of five who is a legal adviser to the Egyptian government. She enters a "model-family" contest.
"I was surprised by how strongly the audience responded to the story. It was a heavy role and I had to observe the habits of government employees to prepare," she said.
While speaking about the late director Atef El Tayeb, Lebleba became emotional.
"I will try not to cry," she said. "His death was a great shock and I felt like an abandoned child. He was the one who first believed in me, he was my friend and mentor and I remember him like I remember my mother and brother - God rest their souls."
When a picture appeared on the screen behind her of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, she looked up and smiled for a moment.
"He used to love Egypt and art," she said of Arafat. "We, in return, loved him. He always welcomed us."