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First person: The art of being Gia

March 31, 2013

-Photo by Akef Ilyas
-Photo by Akef Ilyas

On entering Gia Ali’s apartment located in Karachi’s cantonment area, its ying and yang interiors and serene music — flutes and beach waves synchronised into a melancholy melody — welcome me into her cozy abode. “It’s routine. I play it round the clock as it helps me stay calm,” she says when I ask her about it.

Healthy living

On her new lifestyle of extraordinary healthy living, Gia explained that she has always been inspired by fellow supermodel Iraj Manzoor — her eating habits, fitness and the fact that she manages to look naturally beautiful, effortlessly. Following in her footsteps, Gia decided to live a well-thought, healthy life by nourishing herself with balanced portions of ground vegetables, salads, homemade fresh vegetable/fruit juices and grains. “I eat chicken only if it’s organic. I prefer to eat with my bare hands (the desi way) and largely try to avoid meat and seafood.” Gia says that she was introduced to the Art of Living programme by her photographer brother Munna Mushtaq and that she is also a regular at Yogi Wajahat’s classes, preferring him over the new trend of yoga studios.

Deewane Tere Pyar Kay

Right after her cinematic debut with Sajjad Gul and Syed Noor, Deewane Tere Pyaar Kay (DTPK), Gia felt sure that she would not do any more films as she presumed that it would be very hard for her to work with people who are not at par with such professionals. Later, however, she ended up doing more films but then the cinema industry started to fizzle out and she also took a break.

Then, after eight years, Gia appeared in a negative yet powerful role in Reema Khan’s Love Mein Ghum (2011). She confessed, “I have not watched the film yet,” explaining that her 18 scenes in the film were “no big deal” but playing a negative character was scary for her. “During filming, Momi (Moammar Rana) and Javed (Sheikh) were very cooperative. Reema facilitated me in every way — from my wardrobe to bringing me into the comfort zone needed for playing the vamp. My only greviance is that she did not publicise my character in the promos, even though I was fabulous in the film. Even the editing team from across the border had emphasised upon cashing in on my character during the publicity cycles.”

Love for acting

Gia loves acting whether it’s for cinema or television, “Initially song and dance sequences seemed scary but I enjoy them now. Cinema has a lot of charm but it is a slow process hence easy on the body. When it comes to television it needs a lot of focus and energy,” she said.

Currently she can be seen in the soap, Love, Life, Lahore. With over 450 episodes to date, one wonders if it is boring to do such long projects but she elucidated that with this soap, as an actress she gets to do various characters ranging from a simpleton, a freedom activist to a heartbroken soul. Currently, she can be seen in the avatar of a politician.

Explaining the reason why her face is not seen on almost every television channel, she said, “I refuse a lot of offers because I don’t want to overexpose myself.” As an excellent observer and a quick learner, she imitates real-life characters to perfection and adopts the guise of each character quite convincingly. “I might under-act but I never overact,” she added.

Gia has just finished the production of one of her favourite writer-director duos, Fasih Bari Khan and Mazhar Moin, in which she plays a simpleton from rural Punjab. It’s the first time that Gia appears on TV minus the glamour quotient, saying that she has high hopes pinned on the production which is based on actual events and goes on air next month.

Love for fashion

Gia confessed that she embraces fashion “to energise my mind and to rein in the creative spark within my soul. I feel like a first-timer on the ramp every time because I take life as a continuous cycle of learning and improving.” Especially during TV shoots, she reminisces the time spent with co-models and backstage teams at fashion weeks, missing the backstage fun and chatter.

What the future holds

“I don’t plan for the long run. I prefer going with the flow,” and along with routine TV projects and fashion forays, Gia said she is on the lookout for opportunities to perform in theatre musicals. “I recently saw Aangan Terha and am amazed by the performances which transported me back to the time when I performed for 18 days at the Art Council of Multan.”

Gia is off to India in a few weeks’ time to sign a Tollywood (Tamil) film. When inquired why a regional film and not a mainstream Bollywood project, she said, “Being an actress, I think there is more margin to act in this particular project. Besides, I will learn a lot more as an actor by working in the film industry in Chennai and Hyderabad.”

Love, marriage and family

“I got engaged to a Turkish guy in the early 2000s when my mother was unwell and she wanted me to settle down. The engagement lasted five years but then I called it off after her death.” When asked if she is seeing someone, she said, “I am always in love as I believe in unconditional love. Marriage, I think, is not for me.” She thinks of her brothers like her own children.

“Once I settle down in business, I plan to adopt a few kids of different nationalities by taking inspiration from Hollywood’s famous couple, Brangelina. Though having my own child would be great too,” she says.

By the time this interview appears in print, Gia Ali will have gone for her retreat programme at the Art of Living Centre (of which she is a trained teacher) in Bani Gala, Islamabad. The programme keeps participants on a strict diet regimen and trains them to control breathing, practice meditation and stay in absolute silence during a five-day course to detoxify the soul, body and mind. No wonder we see a slim, trim and glowing Gia Ali even after all these years.