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Personality: Nothing to hide

“I’m trying different things now and my projects will show a new picture of me in the new year.” But you could ask Veena Malik that and she’d say the same thing. So what really is different about Mathira?

As she sat trying to dispel the attention she was attracting at the coffee shop with her massive glasses, I asked her if she was the ‘Me-too’ to Veena’s goods and Mathira scoffed at the question. “Listen, Veena is just trying to cash her body, she’s doing B-grade films and videos like Drama Queen to get her some attention, but at the end of the day that’s all she’s doing. How long do you think anyone can continue doing that, especially in a place like Mumbai?

“Mumbai is a different place,” she says. “It’s very easy to be famous in Pakistan, but try using your body to make it in Mumbai and they won’t give you a second thought. They have enough of their own.”

Mathira now has what she calls a good deal of experience of life in Mumbai; for the past few months she’s been visiting the place, mingling with industry professionals and working on getting her career started in Bollywood.

According to Mathira, her strategy is different. “I’m working on grooming myself, taking part in workshops and meeting people who can help me get to where I need to be.” Mumbai, she says, has a ton of people that will immediately show interest in you depending on who you are and what you can offer; but if all you have to offer is a cheap thrill, then that is exactly the kind of attention you are going to attract.

That is however, ironic, especially since Mathira’s claim to fame have been shows like Love Indicator (where a somewhat revealingly clad Mathira would entice the audience with her mannerisms), a catwalk wardrobe malfunction that involved her top falling off, scantily clad photoshoots on Valentines Day, or private photos of her leaked on to the Internet.

When I put that to her, Mathira explodes with a gush of reasons laughing, shrieking, squinting and pointing, talking about everyone from the awam that watched TV to the people that put shows on TV and how they are all out to get her. “I’m not out to be scandalous or provoke controversy. But you guys, the media, you are all after me. Think about it, if I wanted to be controversial, why would I have just my top fall off?”

To say that Mathira is bold and opinionated is an understatement. But it’s that she’s so easygoing, almost a dork-and-a-half who isn’t afraid to be herself that makes her so easy to talk to. During our conversation she told me about the pictures of her that had been leaked to the Indian press, smooching a well-known personality from Nagpur, Maharashtra, and how her time there had been a sobering experience. “I’ve even sat and cried my heart out on the middle of the road. It’s not as easy to break into Bollywood as I had thought. Especially the way I want to do it. But I’m learning as I’m going and things are looking up.”

I ask her if we are going to see her on the screens any time soon and Mathira replies by crossing her fingers. Earlier in the year, the tabloids were ablaze with rumours of her having signed a film with Neil Nitin Mukesh, a report which Mathira smiled at, saying even she didn’t know where that news came from.

“It was something that we were working on, but no I never signed a film with him. But I have met a number of excellent people there who have been willing to help me train and groom myself into the kind of actress that I want to be and someone that Bollywood needs.”

The list of Mathira’s acquaintances in Bollywood now include Mahesh Bhatt, a man she has developed a tremendous amount of respect for. “Mahesh Bhatt is a thorough gentleman. He meets you with such respect and he is very interested with meeting people from across the border. Hopefully I can work with him in the future.”

Even so Mathira mentions how just being a Pakistani in Bollywood is not an easy ticket to fame. “They have so many talented people there; being a Pakistani is a novelty, but at the end of the day, it’s how much talent you have that takes you places.”

For her time in Pakistan, Mathira continues to focus on fashion shoots, the odd music video or walking the ramp during the many fashion weeks. The latter she says is a lot of fun, especially the unrehearsed dance number she did at the recent Pantene Bridal Couture Week in Lahore which had her shaking it all over the place to the audience’s rapturous applause. “I was late and it was for a friend; his instructions were to go out and dance and I did exactly that.”

Whether or not that classifies as a different turn is up for debate, even with Mathira herself. She may be competing with Veena Malik, or it might just seem so, after all how many roads to fame are there for an erotic kitten from Pakistan? But if anything’s certain, we won’t be seeing the last of her anytime soon.

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