Wearing an olive green ghagra choli, sporting a tantalising tattoo on her back and thumka-ing with the best of them, Mehwish Hayat hit the big screen with the biggest of bangs. Like a cat (pun intended) on a hot tin roof, she exudes energy and makes the right amount of whiplash hip jerks to get the blood boiling in her item number 'Billi' featured in the latest Pakistani film, Na Maloom Afraad (NMA).
“Since the release of NMA, everywhere I go, I hear people chanting, ‘Billi! Billi! Billi’! That means they appreciate and love my character. I am sure it was a huge surprise for the audience to see their favourite TV actor on the big screen as 'Billi', and yes it was a huge challenge for me also. But I’m glad it was so well received and the song became one of the biggest attractions of the movie.”
Mehwish dances to Nigah Hussain’s steps in 'Billi', who is said to be a rival of the ever-present Pappu Samrat, who until recently was the only choreographer the Pakistani film industry had to offer. Nigah Hussain has worked with Mehwish and film actress Noor in a telecom commercial and seems to be the go to person for advertisements these days that require graceful choreography.
Mehwish Hayat is purring these days about the success of her item song Billi and her part in drawing crowds to watch Na Maloom Afraad!
|Photos: Mohammad Farooq|
It was debatable whether an item number was needed in the film, and if Mehwish Hayat was too big a TV star to do a mere song.
She has this to say about it, “Obviously, I felt it was important enough that’s why I opted for the character. The NMA producer Fizza Ali Meerza and director Nabeel Qureshi, approached me for the role of Billi, which included a special appearance with Salman Shahid and an item number.
"After listening to the track which was composed by Kami and Shani, and was going to be choreographed by Nigahji, I was convinced and the rest is now right up there on the big screen for everyone to see.”
Lyrics like “Afridi ki batting hoon, Meera ki shaadi ki live reporting hoon” as well as “Mein hoon khabron ka channel mein tension phelaoun” make this song very local in its flavour while the lyrics manage to keep a smile pasted on the viewers’ faces.
So are we finally taking into account the fact that we face stiff competition from across-the-border films and therefore we need to stamp our own originality on our films?
“Movies are all about entertainment and entertainment is all about enthralling the audience. NMA has proven that good comedy and cinematography coupled with brilliant storytelling are the ingredients of a successful product, and an item number is definitely the icing on the cake.”
“Movies are all about entertainment and entertainment is all about enthralling the audience. NMA has proven that good comedy and cinematography coupled with brilliant story telling are the ingredients of a successful product, and an item number is definitely the icing on the cake.”
|Performing with Ahsan Khan at the Hum Awards in Karachi.|
Surely, a person so aware of what is in vogue would be apprehensive of doing an item song for movies that are not known for their sense of styling?
“Fizza is a very talented and creative person. A few discussions with her and I was convinced that she, being a woman herself, understood my concerns. After seeing the final product I knew we had made the right decision as far as the look of Billi was concerned. And Akif Ilyas, the make-up artist for the song who is also a dear friend, made me look glamorous and I felt completely confident.”
So the tattoo on her back was a conscious choice as well? Mehwish laughingly adds, “It was a temporary tattoo which was a part of the overall look.”
The next step for most Pakistani stars these days, who have achieved any manner of success on the home turf, is destination Bollywood. Mehwish was evasive, but had a positive outlook for her future on foreign soil.
“Right now, I’m still basking in the success of NMA. I’ll think about it when the time comes. But I always wanted my first movie to be Pakistani and I’m really glad that NMA is such a huge success. Now the canvas is open. Let’s see.”
|Photos: Mohammad Farooq|
There seems to be a zest and vigour with which new directors and producers are heading towards a revival of the local film industry. But the best judges are the people that work within its folds, the ones who earn their livelihood from it.
Is Pakistani cinema really on the road to revival?
“Pakistani cinema is already back on its feet! It’s evident from the success of films like Bol, Waar and now Na Maloom Afraad. With more than 50 movies under production, I can safely say that the revival of Pakistani cinema has already begun and is well on its way.”
Judging from how difficult it is to track down Mehwish Hayat these days, it seems she has a lot on her plate at present. In her own words, the last movie she saw was NMA and the last song she heard was her own.
So what does our Billi do to keep her nerves from frazzling?
“Other than spending time at home with family, making music and taking care of my pets, I go on vacations with family and friends to exotic places and I believe that’s the best and only way to unwind!”
One is curious what this talented artist has in store for her fans in future, but it seems we will have to sit this one out for as the witty actress remarks, “Lots of exciting stuff to come but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet!”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 23rd, 2014