Mahira Khan’s latest film tugs hard at heartstrings
Mahira Khan is one of Pakistan’s highest-paid stars – and the first to romance Shah Rukh Khan on the big screen. The 33-year-old actress, who returns to the big screen with new Pakistani drama Ho Mann Jahaan (Where the Heart Lies), is awaiting her Bollywood debut in July with Raees, a crime-thriller starring the Indian megastar.
Mahira, who was in Dubai last week, sat down with The National to talk about working with SRK, and why Ho Mann Jahaan is a must-watch for Pakistani expats all over the world.
Written and directed by Asim Raza, the coming-of-age movie about three friends was shot in Karachi. It also features Sheheryar Munawar, Adeel Hussain and Sonya Jehan as well as veteran actors Bushra Ansari and Arshad Mehmood.
You’re one of the few Pakistani actresses to have worked in Bollywood, something that always triggers intense reactions on both sides of the border. What made you decide to take this step?
Crossing over or going and working in another country should not be seen as controversial. There may be problems between the two countries, but that’s the last thing that I want to be concerned with. As an artist, I want to act, and I want to be a part of good films. That’s about it.
Your debut Indian film project is opposite screen legend Shah Rukh Khan. How was it working with him?
If I had to give you one word for it, it would be “surreal”. It was really good to work with him. It was a totally surreal experience for me.
Having worked for films both in India and in Pakistan, how do you compare the two industries?
At the end of the day, it’s all really the same. I do my scenes the same way whether in India or in Pakistan. Yes, the Indian film industry is much, much bigger so everything is done on a huge scale, but as an actor, it’s really the same for me.
You’ve worked both on TV and in films. Do you prefer one medium over the other?
Film is THE medium, right? It’s an amazing thing to be part of cinema: to see a film being made, to act in it. That said, the format of TV may be totally different, but it has its place, too, and I have put in exactly the same amount of effort in acting in TV plays as I have in films.
You’re working on very select film projects at the moment. What is it that you look for in a project and what is it that made you say yes to Ho Mann Jahaan?
Whatever projects I’ve done — be it a film or a drama — the script is always the driving force. Secondly, the director. After that, I look at things like the schedule and the location. In Ho Mann Jahan, it was the director, though. When I did my first commercial many years ago, Asim Raza had directed it. So I knew that I would do this film. I was just very lucky that the story was nice as well. So it was a combination for sure.
Do you think this film will have a special appeal for the Pakistani expats in the UAE?
It will definitely appeal to Pakistanis not just in the UAE but all over the world. I think they look forward to Pakistani films because they want something that will connect them to back home. Even the young Pakistanis or the ones who have been born and brought up abroad ... This film will reconnect them with their roots.
If you were to give people one reason to go watch this film, what would it be?
There are way too many reasons, but if I had to pick one then I would say that this is a film that will entertain you. When you go and watch a movie, you want to be happy about the two hours you have just spent. I think Ho Mann Jahaan will provide that. It will be an easy and fun watch, and somewhere in there, it contains a message that will touch hearts.
• Ho Mann Jahaan is out today