Actress par excellence Nadia Jameel has always cruised through life first class. As she stares at her reflection she reminds me of Shakespeare’s character Portia
Seeing you perform onscreen is simply terrific. Does acting come as naturally to you as it seems to us as viewers?
I always felt that I had this thing in me. At school, I got this opportunity to improve my gestures and attain a great deal of voice control. It was when I joined Madiha Gauhar and Ajoka that I got the real kind of exposure and atmosphere to groom my acting skills.
We came to know that you are a competent teacher at Aitchison College, Lahore. How does it feel being into two very different kinds of careers?
Believe me, it is incredible A bit scary in the beginning, to O’ Level and A Level students. And mind you, boys! The whole of the first month, I was petrified. It took me some time but when I got the hang of it was simply astonishing.
It is believed that teaching is the simplest job on earth. Is it so?
Oh please! It’s extremely exhausting when you teach, you do nothing but teach. You carry loads of work home, plan the next day’s lessons and prepare exams and test And with all that pressure, you have to show up at the assembly right at seven in the morning Imagine! So it’s all about devotion, only if you are incredibly dedicated which means taking pains for every single kid to progress, that you can be a truly successful teacher.
But which identity would you want to be recognized by?
Definitely as an actress!
Which forms the most satisfying experience for you, acting for TV or for theatre?
And why not TV?
TV tends to restrict you a lot. There is a lot of cast and takes involved. So eventually you lose your spontaneity. Then aren’t many good directors for TV. I just love working with Mehreen. A have a production company named Sawan.
You said you prefer theatre but it fails to render as much recognition as TV. Is it not a craving for fame that pulls you to the tube?
Not at all. Never seek recognition. If I were hungering for fame. I would have been doing plays right, left and center. I am into very selected work for TV right now and in fact trying o focus more on stage.
That brings me to the very question I was about to put to you. Is it the reason that we don’t see much of you on TV these days?
You know what. I just recently saw my self on TV and it gave me a creepy realization. God! I have simply stopped growing as an actress. Working for a medium like TV for a while makes your acting o stereotypical. TV is no wonder an institution of its own kind. But for me, theatre has an edge. It offers me a better opportunity for exploring my talents as an actress. There, you have greater variety of characters, maximum advantage of body language and greater freedom to play with the highs and lows of your voice. I have already plunged into production and want to try my hand at direction as well. That is what taking me abroad for a year to do courses in filmmaking.
That sounds more like a loss of a brilliant actress for TV. Would you then keep acting as a second option or not?
Maybe, I would. At the moment I have no intention of doing TV much. I am simply bored. I feel it’s time I go for some change. What pulls me right now is direction. I even want to do courses in screenplay writing that will further strengthen my association with Mehreen. We can be the perfect director/Writer duo. What else are we missing on at TV but good scripts!
Your fans would just love to know if you are a Karachite?
Not at all. I m a pakki lahori.
Goodness! There is nothing about you that makes one believe so. How come you are so incredibly non-lahori in appearance?
That’s strange because like a typical Lahori, I eat like a pig. (giggles) What makes people think otherwise is the fact that I have done most of my work in Karachi. And then, Mehreen lives in Karachi too.
So eating is one of your favorite past times, we just learnt. What are the rest?
I’m passionate about animals. I have two Mongols, one Cocker Spaniel, two sheep, two cats…
Doesn’t that make quite a zoo at home, so many animals?
Come on. I still have to get a baby donkey.
Don’t tell me there is more?
Enough of animals. Let us switch over to the second passion in my life, food! I love pasta in spinach and white sauce, then prawns in tangerine sauce, and then beef in red wine sauce. Yummy! I’m simply obsessive about eating. In Karachi, I love Okra. I worship the man who runs it. Then, there is Bundu Khan. And oh, there is no place like Burns Road for kebab. In Lahore, my favorite hangouts are Salt n Pepper, Aylanto, Caso Nolta and Gogo. Ali and I had our first date at Gogo only.
Any interesting recollections about that first romantic evening?
Goodness! I was so excited that I was about to weep. My husband kept saying calm down to soothe me.
Do you have any children?
Just my son, Raqay.
That’s an intriguing name. What does it mean?
It means ruku kerne wala.
The greatest dilemma of parents nowadays is whether to give freedom to kids or not. Will you bring your son up with a lot of freedom?
I guess I will. I myself have been brought up that way. The best aspect of my family is that they have instilled a sense of freedom in me of choices that I make in life. I am certain that whatever I decided to do in life, they won’t object to it, and will accept my decision. One thing I am sure about is to let my child make the most of every joy that life offers. At the moment, he is too young and this is his time to just relax. When your education starts you have so much to do. It seems it never ends. So I want him to have a whale of a time in his childhood so that he has great memories to last a lifetime.
What do you want him to become when he grows up?
No issues about that. I won’t abject even if he wants to be a ballet dancer. I just want him to grow up into a humble, brave, kind human being.
What does your husband do?
All is running his family business that is textiles.
Has your marriage been an outcome of love or was it an arranged affair?
Oh, we fell for each other.
Has your marriage been an outcome of love or was it an arranged affair?
Ali and I have been going out for the last twelve years. He was my best friend a brother’s best friend. I don’t know how it happened. I wasn’t really his type. We just became good friends in the beginning and then we started seeing each other.
Were there not any traditional hurdles that are an eternal part of a love situation?
Absolutely not! My family is very liberal and then my in-laws are incredibly adorable. They are very loving, warm and supportive. The kind of person I am, I need a lot of personal space and everyone gives me that. I feel I couldn’t be luckier.
You are so actively involved in theatre. Why do you think theatre in Pakistan is way behind?
It is very disheartening. Recently we did a play ‘V. Monologues’ by Ayesha Alam in Lahore and Islamabad. The kind of response that we got was amazing. In Pakistan, the problem with theatre is a lot of amateur professionalism. Everybody becomes everything. That is why the production level is very low. Unfortunately theater ka rivaaj hi khutum ho gya hai. The theatre that is happening is of such bad quality and standard that is giving a bad name to theatre.
Is TV better than theatre in that regard?
Television holds a stronger hold on people’s psyche in Pakistan, much stronger than film and theatre. It is only TV that can enter into the lives of the people. But then the standard of TV is also declining so we can’t say how strong it stays in the long run.
How can an actress like you contribute towards making things better?
I’ll work till the day I die. All this makes me so sad, that at times I even cry about it. In spite of all the modernization that is happening, we have taken a huge leap backwards culturally.
Who would you blame for this artistic degeneration?
I would blame the loss a lot on Zia regime that destroyed our cultural psyche and crippled a whole generation psychologically. All that our age has given us is a pitiable mediocrity. We don’t have singers like Iqbal Bano, Farida Hanum, Madam Noor Hehan., Roshanara Begum. We don’t have poets like Faiz, Iqbal, Habib Jalib, Nasir Kazmi. We don’t have writers like Quratulain Haider or dancers like Naheed Siddiqui.
Do people have some share in the blame as well?
People are just too credulous. They consider the arrival of multinationals, eating out at Macdonald’s, KFC and Piza Hut and substituting the local languages with English to be economic progress. We are breathing a filthy pop culture of mediocrity which is highly superficial in nature. jo na yahan ka hai na wahan ka. We have become a nation of fast music, fast food and fast lifestyle that is all borrowed. Don’t think that I wish to push a moral judgment on people. I simply believe that one should not shut their minds to where you came from, who you are and what your roots are.
Isn’t there any hope? Aren’t there people who are making a difference in their own way?
There is a small section of people who are cultivated enough to interpret and despise these self erected false ideals. They are struggling to redevelop the cultural psyche of this country. People like Mehreen Jabbar, Saqib malik, Jami, Maheen. I am afraid Maheen would leave this country too. Who knows I would do the same thing. Anyone would, who will get disillusioned. I pray that even if this country becomes culturally impotent, the creatively aware section of society just doesn’t give up. I would really make an effort to raise my child in such a way that he just does not adopt this multinational, materialistic, capitalistic culture.
What in your opinion is needed to revive the cultural and aesthetic persona of a nation?
Education! Just look at our education system. It’s simply so bland, so devoid of the true flavor of culture that instills a sense of respect for your identity.
TV is the medium that the whole nation knows you through. Which of your performances at TV has been your pride so far?
I think Kahanian was the best. Not just my best, but Mehreen’s best work too.
How about your play ‘Beauty Parlour’?
It was great. It could not go on air as it dealt with social taboos like homosexuality, prostitution and adultery. I think our local TV still not ready for this kind of stuff.
How do you feel about the arrival of new channels?
I find Geo incredible for reviving the tradition of long plays. I think tele-films bring out a lot of raw talent. And they are more appealing then serials. The content of Indus is not very exciting. It’s ok. But Indus music is one of the best channels ever.
People have complaints that you are not neutral when it comes to the selection of work. Do you really like to stick with your favorite team?
It’s not a matter of having favorites. It’s more of sharing a wavelength. I did Hargaee for Maheen not because we are each other’s favorites but because there was complete connection between us. I knew what she wanted rather than doing what she wanted. I understood her vision and she understood that. I could do it. It is seldom that you achieve such a mutual harmony and if you do, you create magic on screen too. I appreciate everyone around who is brilliant. Rana Sheikh is really passionate with her work. Then, Sultana Siddqui is extremely professional. She wants to work with artists who can give her rehearsals and whom she knows are talented. So she loves working with |Atiqa and Faisal. I won’t say that they are her favorites, they just click together.
How apparent is Nadia in the roles she plays?
Believe me, in all the characters. I wish she didn’t I have a bit of all of them in me. I have the powerful kuni of Putli Ghar in me, the hyper firl of Kiran Kahani in me, serious female of Dua in me. I had to play exactly myself even in Jazbai Dil, an episode of Kahaniyan. Oh! It was so hard being Nadia. It was so challenging.
Being in the limelight now for a considerable time, you must have seen the bright and dark side of it. How do you find the showbiz world?
There are good people and bad people in every field. I have made some amazing friends here. Mehren is one I met some warm people and then I met many eccentric people as well.
So what do you feel one need to make waves in this industry?
Oh really! That is quite an unusual observation as most of us believe that ours are no times for honesty. Does that work?
It worked for me in life really well. If you are honest, it reflects in your work and makes it million times better.
So all this hubbub about having the right contacts to rise and shine is just sham?
I would rather say that you need loads of luck too. I think I was lucky. But then you need talent, honesty, creative vision and discipline as well.
Creative process is considered to be constructive for an individual. Has acting changed you as a person in any way?
I have been acting since I was a kid. So I don’t know what I would be like if I were not an actress. I am really candid, confident, and brutally honest. I guess I wouldn’t be that clear ya phir thori aur parhi likhi hoti ager actress na hoti..
An actor tends to be more observant and sensitive about issues around him. What really perplexes you as an actress?
I am really concerned about female sexuality. Why cant women be what they want to be. When you are from a middle class family and you don’t have any job and your husband is constantly at your back, being unconfident about your sexuality makes sense. I don’t understand how women from the upper class who have education to enlighten them and food in their stomach are repressed. Why are the girls in our upper classes so scared? Why are they such conformists?
How imperative is our media in bringing about a positive change around us?
I find the local media to be vary irresponsible. Media can set a standard, and can refine the taste of the masses, can act as a tool for sending out social messages and can highlight social injustices. On the contrary, what we are giving our audience is sub-standard. When they view mediocrity day in and day out, they begin to enjoy mediocrity alone.
What do you think our media lacks in?
I just mean that production should be good. We should act, write and direct intelligently, beautifully and with hard work off course.
Due to widespread pseudo-intellectualism around us, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between a genuinely creative person and a fake one. What is your definition of a true artist?
Appearances are deceptive, no wonder! People who come across as eccentric are discovered to be very simple as you know them and people who you can’t even notice at times reveal themselves to be incredibly intellectual. You can’t judge anyone like that. I believe that when you are really creative, the passion comes in a force from within you. Whether it’s art, cinema, dance, music, you open your soul up in a way that makes you a certain kind of a person. In order to emote to all this, you need to be extremely sensitive. You don’t have to be sensitive to sell a T-shirt or to market a balloon, you have to be clever. A true artist is extremely sensitive.
How satisfied are you with the quality of production especially serials that are on air these days?
Give me a break! I just want to vomit. Seriously, I do.
How do you deal with the popular culture of ‘all glamour and no wits’ applied to the drama on TV?
I simple refuse to be a part of them. I don’t see them, don’t work in them, and don’t appreciate them. All I can do is pull my head out and wait for some sanity to arrive.
Has marriage affected you more as an actress than as an individual?
If anything marriage has done to me is that it has added to my growth. My husband has made me a more confident person that ever. Ok, my kid is affecting my work to a considerable extent but then I feel it is a good thing. It’s a healthy break.
What is cooking up next for our viewers?
A passionate love story which is another joint venture of Maheen and I. Then my husband is thinking of producing a talk show. Let’s see how things set in.