I thought I was meeting the evil queen from the skit at a frozen dessert launch last year, or the young reporter desperate to nail a big story from Karachi — The Musical.
I expected her to be someone who breathed fire, swore like a sailor.
But sitting across from me was a girl in a T-shirt and flowing skirt, holding a hot mug and speaking thoughtfully about herself and what made her tick — and chuckling like an eccentric person who finds strange things funny.
I was a little surprised.
Not that I was expecting a monster — despite the fact that she tried to convince me otherwise saying, “I’m a giant like Alam Channa!” This was the initial response to a question I asked her about why she tended to choose edgier characters in her plays.
“I started off doing all these daring things,” she said. “I’m probably a pretty adventurous person in my head. Maybe it’s the fear of being predictable. I do get bored easily.”
And she has a voice that could announce fighters at a boxing match, “Look at me. Listen to this voice,” she said before she laughed out loud.
To put it plainly, Rubya is very comfortable in her own skin.
And while she might be able to give Helena Bonham Carter a run for her money (if Tim Burton ever came to Pakistan), she’s also confident enough to say that she’s done being edgy.
“I love her, but I’ve never restricted myself to a particular clothing style or a choice of music. I initially used to look for the edgy project, something that I would have fun with. But the edgy became a cliché for me. I am actually sick of edgy now.”
Indeed, unlike Ms Carter, Rubya is hardly shabby.
If she was, she would probably never be walking the ramp as often as she has been.
And Rubya enjoys fashion.
Where others might deride it by saying it’s less demanding than acting, Rubya gives it its due share, saying fashion needs skill and talent too.
“Fashion is about what you already possess and you refine what you have to work with. In acting, that’s not so; no matter what body type, voice or colour you are, you basically work with the talent of not being nervous around people and go into that place in your head where you are expected to find your character.”
Does she prefer one over the other?
“Both are just as demanding,” she says.
“Neither spares you any slack, no matter how good you are. If you are lousy on the runway it will show, the same with acting if you don’t have the oomph. I’m not partial to either though. I do whatever I enjoy.”
But as multi-talented as Rubya is — and she’s very talented, even penned a poem in Punjabi she has — listening to her speak about acting is when you really get a glimpse of who she is.
“Acting is… I know very few correct definitions, but if I were to describe it, which I have never… I think I would contradict myself if I tried. But I am still finding that comfortable place that you need to get to as an actor.”
It might just be an assumption on my part, but it seemed what Rubya was struggling to articulate was that she felt there was a long way to go before she could adequately talk about ‘what acting is like’, especially to her.
She mentioned that she had much to learn, revealing facets of tension in her face that could only mean she was trying to be honest but afraid of saying the wrong thing.
“You have to find yourself when you are acting. What you’re playing around with is intensity. I can’t even begin to describe it, but I’ve tried so many things and now I need to correct the mistakes in my craft. It’s about being satisfied with a scene, you have to feel it. Getting to that point is a real challenge.”
As we moved on, her story unfolded by itself.
She talked about failing at school “in the broader sense of education” something we found hard not to chuckle at, walking into Nabila’s talent agency, and playing a 40-year-old at 20 in The Odd Couple.
Regarding that experience she said she got a lot of feedback in her debut, one of the papers said her performance was delivered with great “aplomb”, a word which we chuckled at again — Rubya’s favourite book (or one of them) is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, so the random fun with words and wordplay only made sense.
These days Rubya is part of the cast of Siyaah, the Pakistani horror film that has hit the screens.
In its first few days, the film has been doing extremely well, leading Johnny LLB for the revenue it has grossed in Pakistan.
And if the number of tele films, plays and shoots she’s involved with are anything to go by, there’s a lot more of Rubya Chaudhry to be seen.
Are there any personal milestone’s she’s achieved yet in her career? “I don’t know, never thought about that genuinely.”
Really, Rubya? To which she smiled and said, “I speaketh the truth.”