Laila sheds light on the industry

It was in the second year of college when Syed Noor and Shamim Ara saw me and within 10 minutes of each other offered me a role in their films.

Blunt, immodest and focused, Laila doesn’t see the need to mince words. Having started off in 1997 without a portfolio, today she has more than just a few films under her belt.

I wasn’t very interested in showbiz, but when two big directors made me offers, I thought about it seriously. When I decided to do it, I did it for fun, not professionally. Soon Sangeeta offered me a role, and in a short time I had three films.

It was people’s appreciation that encouraged her mainly, says Laila. The journey from an ordinary girl to being called a star charmed me, she says. Having made her entrance into the often sleazy world of films, she initially faced problems, which she says caused her to leave the industry for a year-and-a-half, after which she made a comeback. Why such a drastic step, one can’t help asking this ambitious actress.

As a newcomer, I didn’t understand the environment. There was strange politics and double-edged diplomacy everywhere. In 1999 I took a break and after a period of mentally preparing myself, took the plunge again. I adjusted myself to the ways of Lollywood.

While not completely dismissive of the people who make the industry go round, Laila has an axe she wants to grind.

Here, uneducated people can be found in abundance, lies are frequent, people who speak the truth are not liked and neither are straightforward people appreciated. I was so straightforward. Well, I still am. People didn’t like me speaking the truth in a place where heroines are all very pretentious. God knows what kinds of backgrounds they come from. It’s so easy to say ‘I’m from Kuwait, I’m from England.’ They lie. I don’t lie.

Taking a breath from her tirade, Laila speaks about her own background.

I have honestly told everyone I was in second year in Lahore College. I haven’t done my F.A. and don’t falsely claim that I have. I don’t think any of our film industry’s heroines have studied from a good school or college.

She then proceeds to speak about disagreements with other film starlets that turned ugly. After a lot of contemplation, she now claims to keep to herself. The restraint has apparently proven useful as she says, after my comeback, my work is appreciated more as now I pre-plan.

What provoked her to come to television if she was on her way to stardom?

I came towards television as Haider Imam Rizvi saw me in Asif Ali Pota’s film Fire, in which I had a guest appearance. I had seven to eight scenes in the film where I avenge my family’s honour with my gang, in the jungle where we reside. Haider sahab liked my work and asked Asif which one of the four heroines he liked working with the best. Asif replied that he liked my work best, she announces in a voice reserved for such a climax.

Haider sahab asked me if I would work with him in TV. I had never thought about it but because he had such a good reputation, I agreed. After a pause, she continues. I’m very lucky that for both movies and for television, the big shots called me.

As for her upcoming serial, Laila says I have never had such a challenging role in my career and therefore I’ve never before been able to prove what a good artist I am. This serial will give me a chance to prove how well I can act.

Reverting again to the topic of films, she throws in a few more well-worded barbs.

The TV serial has given me a performance margin. Our films don’t have a big performance margin. Six to seven songs – the seductive type – fighting, so much action and theyey’re all multi-cast also. What, then, is the basic difference between television and films? Education, pat comes the reply. In the film industry, 99 per cent of the people involved are not educated while in TV, there are 99.5 per cent educated people. Also, it takes one month to make a film. The producers want to hurriedly complete a film and have it running in cinemas. With great sweeps of her hands she continues. Ten scenes in a day…you tell me what results will one get then? Agreed that Noor sahab makes good movies, but can one director change the entire face of the industry?
What of the film mafia?

Manipulation is very much there in the film industry. I cannot explain to you how much it is there. My break was taken due to this. Mae tau upset ho gayee thee. There are actual groupings. Certain heroines stick to certain directors. In TV, this is rarely the case. New people are coming in television everyday. Casting is not done according to the demands of a certain role. Favourites are signed and that’s the reason most movies flop. People get tired of seeing the same faces constantly.

Trying to change topics is a challenge here, so Laila is asked who her favourite artists are? In television, she likes Sania Saeed. She inspires me. Shafi Mohammed is very good, as is Saba Pervaiz. I liked Babra Sharif’s classic films. In today’s industry, Saima acts well.

In the end, she wants to relay the complaints she has with the press.

I don’t see what problem the press has with me. It’s been seven years and they don’t let up. There have been absolutely fabricated stories printed that have no base. So does she feel the press is collectively unfair to her? No. I feel there may be people behind all this – lobbies trying to disturb me like they did before. But this time I’m stronger. I won’t take any breaks and will continue to work.

Strong as she is, Laila appears to have for her audiences a few surprises stored under her layers of face powder.

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