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Hareem Farooq: the crying game

Updated July 05, 2015


Too old to be a newbie, too new to be an oldie; that’s Hareem Farooq for you, the actress who was recently declared a ‘New Sensation’ at the Hum TV Awards. For those who have been following her work the recognition is a step in the right direction.

“I had no idea!” Hareem says as she sits down for a chat with Images on Sunday. “Even the Lux Style Awards nomination last year (for Siyaah) was totally unexpected but I am glad that people are noticing my work. To win an award is surprising and I thank my fans and Hum TV for believing in me. I still have to do a lot.”

Hareem Farooq is one of the few actors who have successfully made a transition from theatre to television. After being noticed in Anwar Maqsood’s Pawnay 14 August and later as Jehan Ara in Aangan Terha, she made her film debut in Siyaah, long before her TV debut that came a year later.

The role of a traumatised mother with a daughter who has supernatural powers won her accolades, and she is happy to have carried that with her on TV.

“People advised me against doing a negative role in Mere Humdum Mere Dost because they thought that it will hamper my career prospects but I didn’t want to play a bechari, honestly! I hate bechari-walay roles as I can’t go on crying. In fact they have been done to death and so I opted for a more challenging role and people loved it.”

Hareem Farooq doesn’t rate TV as her first love — that honour goes to theatre!

Good-looking actresses don’t have a wide variety of roles to choose from in Pakistan, except playing the damsel in distress … the only difference is that they are either from a rich household or a poor one:

“I don’t want to play the damsel in distress all the time; I want to do something for the victimisation of women. That can be done by not showing rape in every other play or by exploiting saas bahu or mian biwi issues for ratings. It’s time that we should change the perception and make writers pen down roles that are not stereotyped or run-of-the-mill.”

But what if the writers need her to get all weepy?

“When someone offers me a role that requires me to cry, what can I say?” she replies. “Be it the character of the first wife in Doosri Biwi or the sharif behen in Mausam, I tried to do them as non-bechari way as I could. I feel that my ‘crying quota’ is complete. There are a few directors who believe in strong-willed women characters and Owais Khan is one of them. During one of his recent plays, he didn’t ask me to cry in every other scene but wanted me to show the victimisation as a way of struggle.”

How difficult is it to establish yourself in the TV industry as an actress?

“It’s not that difficult if you have merit and confidence, and the ability to choose the character wisely. I am thankful to my producers, writers and directors who have so far offered me good roles where I have tried my best and managed to do well. Anjum Shehzad and Haseeb Hassan especially always give you tips that help in making the character seem better on screen and different from my own personality.”

The lass from Islamabad loves Madhuri Dixit-Nene and believes that after Madhuri, no other actress should be discussed.

“I always wanted to be Madhuri … what an actress, what a woman she is! In recent actresses, some of the scenes Deepika have done are sweet whereas Alia Bhatt and Kangana Ranaut have done some really beautiful films in the past year. I admire off-beat actors like Irfaan Khan, Om Puri, Nana Patekar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manoj Bajpai and Naseeruddin Shah who can eat any actor on screen alive with their powerful dialogue delivery and presence.”

“I don’t want to play the damsel in distress all the time; I want to do something for the victimisation of women. It’s time that we should change the perception and make writers pen down roles that are not stereotyped or run-of-the-mill.”

Among co-stars, she is privileged to have shared the screen with veterans Abid Ali, Saba Hameed and Ismat Zehra whereas in the current crop of actors, she has many favourites.

“Some actors are likeable to work with and those include Ahsan Khan, Adnan Siddiqi, Fahad Mustafa, Ali Rehman, Osman Khalid Butt, Gohar Rasheed, Sanam Jang and Sanam Saeed. The more I work, the more I will get to know people but so far, these people have been excellent co-stars and I would love to work with them anytime.”

From Mere Humdum Mere Dost to Mausam, Doosri Biwi to Dayar-i-Dil, Hareem Farooq has been doing TV continuously for the last 2 years but she still doesn’t rate TV as her first love — that honour goes to theatre:

“As an actor one should try all mediums; theatre being the foundation.” Hareem declares with an air of authority. “TV serves as an ideal learning ground whereas film is the eventual platform for all. I did a film (Siyaah) out of curiosity but the next few years will be solely for television where I can learn the tricks of the trade. Afterwards, I might go into film acting when the revival is on the right path.”

Does that mean that she will not be returning to theatre anytime soon?

“Once a theatre actor, always a theatre actor! I can never leave it no matter how busy I get … I plan to return to the stage soon and this time I might turn to production as well. Let’s see how and when it happens.”

For an actress with no connections to showbiz, Hareem Farooq has come a long way. She believes that struggle plays an important part in her success:

“Both my parents are Islamabad-based doctors and wanted me to follow my dreams; even if it was as crazy as wanting to emulate Madhuri … but the price was simple – get a degree first and then do whatever you like. That’s why after getting my bachelor’s degree in Sociology & Journalism, I moved to Karachi and started following my dreams.”

What sets Hareem Farooq different from other young actresses?

“I am not in this field for monetary gains; when I joined theatre I wanted to do something for the actors in Pakistan. We love their work when we are in the audience but once they are off the stage, we don’t care about them. That’s the difference between India and us; they treat their actors like gods. I want our people to respect actors the way other professionals in the country are.

“When you become an actor, it doesn’t mean that you have killed your self-esteem and dignity. I am from an educated family with a good background; I want females to follow my lead and that’s my ultimate goal. I also want to take Pakistani talent to an international audience and that’s why I will be stepping into the world of film production with my business partner Imran Raza Kazmi (who also produced Siyaah) and Reham Khan (Mrs Imran Khan). Keep your fingers crossed!”

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 5th, 2015

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