Armeena Khan, a name associated with some big Pakistani television and film projects, has paved the way for others to follow in her footsteps after landing hits like ‘Janaan’, ‘Daldal’ and the recently released ‘Sher Dil’. In a candid interview with Raj Baddhan on BizAsiaLive.com, Khan spoke about the adulation she has received from fans for her work and the challenges she has faced in the industry.
The last couple of years have brought you so much success in the Pakistani entertainment industry, how would you describe your journey so far?
I would describe it as bittersweet. The entertainment industry is a tough career choice in any part of the world. In South Asia, the difficulty increases especially for those transitioning from the West. The culture, work ethic, time management, unions and actors rights (or lack of) are particularly challenging. On the plus side some production houses are upping their game when it comes to professionalism. Personally, I have been very lucky that most of my projects have performed extremely well at the Box Office and also on TV in terms of ratings. Any actor will tell you that it is the most rewarding feeling to have your work appreciated by the audience; the rest of it really does not matter.
On the TV front, you received much appreciation for your roles in ‘Muhabbat Ab Nahi Hugi’, ‘Bin Roye’ and more recently ‘Daldal’, how do you feel you have grown as an actress being one of the most sought after names on Pakistani television?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have such amazing projects under my belt. I hope to continue to bring quality, meaningful projects to my audiences. It is a challenge trying to pick the right scripts, as you never know what will resonate with the audience. However, I try my best to pick work that will challenge me and help me progress my craft.
Also remember that mainstream television is devoid of diversity. The portrayal of South Asians is inaccurate and often depicts an acceptable version of how the native population perceives us.
Similarly, you have starred in some of the biggest Pakistani films recently, including ‘Bin Roye’ and ‘Janaan’, how do you feel Pakistani cinema has evolved since you started off?
I have made an observation about the audience here in the UK. They absolutely love films around traditions and family, whereas it is quite the opposite in Pakistan. The trick is to strike the right balance for filmmakers so as to cater to both markets. I feel films that overtly ape Bollywood tend not to do so well in the UK as the real deal is available here to the audience. Films like ‘Bin-Roye’ and ‘Janaan’ are both female centric; they are based around tradition and retain a conservative feel about them. This is partly why they did so well.
Being a UK resident, you can see how audiences here respond so positively to Pakistani television shows, why do you think Pakistani TV concepts have proven so successful?
Nostalgia, heritage, identity, it’s a piece of home. It is as simple as that. Most of the diaspora here is starved of their own culture, traditions and language. The television shows have provided that much needed sentimentalism of ‘back home’ especially with the older audience. Therein lies the success story. Also remember that mainstream television is devoid of diversity. The portrayal of South Asians is inaccurate and often depicts an acceptable version of how the native population perceives us. The license fee offers poor value if you are British Asian. Your identity is locked out.
I find it hard to play characters where I am required to cry in every scene. I just do not think I have it in me to play those anymore.
As an actress, what kind of roles challenge you?
I have yet to play a truly, multi-dimensional and a challenging role. I would love to play a super hero, which requires stunts, action combined with a complex, multifaceted character. Conversely, I find histrionic roles extremely challenging; I find it hard to play characters where I am required to cry in every scene. I just do not think I have it in me to play those anymore.
What has been the most pinnacle stage of your acting career?
I do not think I can answer that as I have still someway to go and you can only answer this looking back. Perhaps my audience would be better placed to answer this one. I have enjoyed certain successes like Janaan and Daldal; I would definitely include these in my overall success story.
Away from acting, what other sides of the entertainment industry would you like to dabble with?
For now I am content with just acting. I don’t really plan long term any longer I prefer to focus on projects in hand.
What are your upcoming projects?
My next project is for television. It is called ‘Jaan-e-mann’ (working title) alongside my Daldal co-star Zahid Ahmed and Sonya Hussayn. I have waited an entire year for something interesting. I want the audience to associate good, solid, wholesome projects with me. I am optimistic that they will enjoy this one too.