THE ICON INTERVIEW: THE SWEETHEART DIPLOMAT

Published June 12, 2022
Photography: Shahbaz Shazi | Make-up: Shazia | Styling: Faiz Rohani | Coordination: Alchemists
Photography: Shahbaz Shazi | Make-up: Shazia | Styling: Faiz Rohani | Coordination: Alchemists

“I’m quite diplomatic,” Ramsha Khan says to me, smiling. The actress is no stranger on television but I’m meeting her in person for the first time. We are about to begin our interview and Ramsha’s self-proclaimed penchant for diplomacy is her way of telling me that our conversation won’t be a controversial one.

I hadn’t expected Ramsha Khan to be controversial anyway.

She is currently Pakistan’s favourite sweetheart, thanks to a hit Ramazan drama called Hum Tum, and she epitomises the carefree girl-next-door on-screen as well as off it.

When we meet, Ramsha is wearing jeans and a white kurta worked with delicate chikankari, set off with chunky earrings and minimal make-up. She laughs often — sometimes, at herself — and speaks without pretences. Really quite lovely and a cinch to play the happy-go-lucky young heroine in a romantic TV drama.

Epitomising the carefree girl-next-door, Ramsha Khan is the undisputed current darling of the Pakistani small screen — at least since her Ramazan drama Hum Tum grew wings. While she is easygoing, she is also very clear about what she wants. Does her diplomacy hide her ambition?

Beyond the easygoing demeanour, though, there is a sense of purpose to her. Ramsha Khan has built her repertoire with a mixed bag of roles that are all different from each other. She’s worked very hard on honing her craft, and she knows that her career is on the rise. She’s intent on making sure that the accolades keep coming in.

And yes, she’s diplomatic. I test her by firing a volley of questions at her. Who’s her favourite co-star? Everyone, she says. “But if I had to name one, it would be Wahaj Ali,” she allows. “I have known him for very long. He’s a passionate actor and a great human being.”

Ramsha Khan in Shehnai
Ramsha Khan in Shehnai

Has she ever experienced bullying by veterans who don’t take kindly to new actors? Never. “What can I say? I’m an easygoing girl!” she grins. “I never had to experience the things that I hear people go through. All the people that I have worked with have just been very nice to me.”

Does she obsess over winning awards and getting nominated? “So far, I have won just one award but I don’t really dwell too much upon awards,” she says. “The audience’s appreciation is the biggest win for any actor, especially with social media registering reactions overnight. I do think that awards ceremonies are fun because they bring the fraternity together, and there’s music, dancing and comedy.”

I probe further: Does she hate it when a drama of hers drags endlessly, ruining the story and the actors’ hard work? “Of course,” she says, “but I guess it works for some people. Some of the audience like to see flashbacks and long scenes. A director once told me that they add flashbacks so that the audience keeps getting reminded of all that had happened. I guess if I look at it from others’ points of view, I can understand why flashbacks are there.”

I think Ghisi Piti Mohabbat has so far been the most creatively satisfying drama that I have worked in. It completely changed my personality and my way of thinking. I would feel whatever my character was going through and I would take her home with me. That had never happened to me before. My most commercially successful project so far has, of course, been Hum Tum.”

In the ongoing spirit of diplomacy, we will not name a drama of Ramsha’s that dragged catastrophically. If even after that experience she can look at flashbacks with a kindly eye, then that’s magnanimous of her indeed.

Notwithstanding that one nameless drama, Ramsha’s career is going well. Her career started off with 2016’s long-forgotten cinematic release Thora Jee Le, and while she confesses that she was merely going with the flow during the first two years of her acting career, she quickly realised that she loved the job and has been trying to push herself in new directions. From my perspective, her finest acting role so far was in 2020’s Ghisi Piti Mohabbat (GPM), a drama in which she plays a modern-day girl overcoming obstacles without ever losing her nerve.

Shehnai featured her as the quintessential young girl in love and the Nadeem Baig-ISPR-ARY Digital offering Sinf-i-Aahan placed her squarely in the spotlight, rubbing shoulders with an all-star cast. And Hum Tum, latching on to the recently discovered phenomenon of feel-good dramas that air every day in Ramazan, hauled in high ratings.

Ramsha agrees. “I think Ghisi Piti Mohabbat has so far been the most creatively satisfying drama that I have worked in. It completely changed my personality and my way of thinking. I would feel whatever my character was going through and I would take her home with me. That had never happened to me before. My most commercially successful project so far has, of course, been Hum Tum.”

Hum Tum diaries

Does a Ramazan drama have a different draw compared to a serial that gets aired once a week? “Yes, it does,” she says. “For one, Ramazan TV schedules are different and the dramas air at a time when audiences want to just relax in front of the TV. Also, Ramzan dramas are generally family-oriented and feel-good, and they air daily for a whole month, so audiences get attached to them.”

Have people started calling her Neha yet, I ask, referring to the name of her character in Hum Tum? “Honestly, I don’t know!” she confesses. “I haven’t gone out anywhere and I’ve basically been resting ever since I wrapped up shooting Hum Tum. We were working all through Ramazan, till the very last day — even on Sundays. It was so hectic that I would be working all day, come home and sleep and, the next day, I would wake up and be on set again. I’m still recovering!”

She continues, “For the mehndi and wedding sequences, we even shot till four in the morning. It helped that everyone on set really got along. The cameras would roll and our director Danish Nawaz would say something really funny. There were parts in the script that were very similar and Danish Bhai would make changes to keep the pace interesting. He also encouraged us to improvise a lot. Sometimes, we’d all be working for so long that we would start laughing in between scenes! It was only when I would get home that I’d realise how tired I was!”

Who did she get along with the most on set? Everyone, pat comes the reply. Ramsha adds, “Ahad Raza Mir is a brilliant actor and has a great sense of humour. It was wonderful working with him. Junaid Khan’s character was my favourite. I also think that Mohammad Ahmed was amazing. He would know exactly how to act in each scene, giving the right reactions to my dialogues. He was my favourite co-star and my best friend on set. I still count him as one of my closest friends in the industry.”

Hum Tum
Hum Tum

Does she have a lot of friends in the industry, aside from Mohammad Ahmed, I probe. “Actually, no,” she says. “I get along with people but we don’t end up staying in touch once we have wrapped up a shoot. I get busy with my next project and so do they.”

One of her recent dramas, Sinf-i-Aahan, featured her in an ensemble cast consisting of some very popular actors. She may generally get along with everyone, but did Ramsha not worry that she could get thrust into the shadows while other members of the cast got prioritised? Also, did she have apprehensions that the cast may not get along during the long shooting spell, where they had to live in the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) for months?

“People did ask me how so many girls managed to live together in a single building for so many months and get along,” she laughs. “But we did! It was so much fun and, honestly, we never even had an argument.

“If you look at the cast, my career graph was perhaps the most limited compared to the rest of the female leads. I was willing to sign on to the drama just in order to share screen space with so many established actors. Then I read the script and I realised that my role was very interesting, too!

“Besides, I don’t dwell over such apprehensions. Everyone has their own journey and their own goals,” she says. “I’m not competitive or insecure. I really believe that we should support each other and lift each other up.”

The here and now

We move back to the present. Now that she’s unwinding following her hectic shooting schedule, is she finally watching Hum Tum? “Not yet. I’m reading scripts and I’m just enjoying being lazy,” she smiles.

Do you watch your own dramas at all, Ramsha? “I only watch my parts!” she reveals, laughing. “I already know the story so I don’t want to watch all of it, but I want to see what I have done. I can’t watch my dramas with anyone else. I watch them late at night when I’m alone.”

At this point in her career, has she become picky with scripts, opting for roles with a difference rather than mopey, traditional ones that guarantee ratings? “Ratings are not a priority, for sure. The role should be different,” she professes. “But if a drama I do manages to get high ratings, then so be it!” She smiles.

Six years down the line does acting pay well? “Yes, it does. And I have never not been paid even when I was new.”

Really? No late payments? “Late payments are always there. You have to follow up and roll out the occasional threat that you won’t come on set. But I do always end up getting paid.”

A lot of her peers rely on social media as a major source of revenue, aside from acting. Ramsha, though, doesn’t have a very active online presence. Why?

“I’m just a very private person,” she says. “I can’t take pictures of wherever I am, I’m not creative enough to create content for TikTok and I can’t be bothered with food selfies — I’d rather plunge right into my food! I know that social media is important, but I just usually go online to look at memes.”

What if the memes are about you? “Then I’ll laugh at myself,” she shrugs.

She also doesn’t give too many interviews. Is that also because she’s an introvert? “Yes but, also, I need to have something to say in an interview. If a drama of mine is a success and people want to discuss it with me for interviews, then I get asked the same question again and again. It gets boring for me, as well as for the audience, I’m sure!”

She continues, “Two years ago, I said in an interview that I’ll get married in two years and I’d like to readjust that statement!” she smiles. “I think that I’m just evolving with time. I’m enjoying life, my career, friends and family.”

So, there’s no love interest that we need to know about, no romantic Instagram announcement that’s right around the corner? “No!” she laughs. “If there are any rumours, I’m clarifying that there’s nothing to them. Marriage is a beautiful bond — at least, I tell myself that it is — and it will happen when it’s meant to happen. Right now, I am concentrating on work and then coming home and seeing what my mother is doing, how my sister is.”

Smart, ambitious, with a laid-back glamour to her, she defines today’s new-age star. She knows what she wants from her career and is working hard to achieve it. She is secure enough in her zone to talk at length about her own goals, but isn’t interested in discussing others’. The audience loves her and she’s very capable of ruling a Twitter trend or two.

TV’s favourite sweetheart, for sure.

Published in Dawn, ICON, June 12th, 2022

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