“Hell-o,” a deep sultry voice responds on the other end of the line when I call. I mentally prepare myself to speak to one of the most controversial, love-to-hate figures in the entertainment industry, Meera. My task: to organise the interview and accompanying photo shoot that was just published in Dawn’s Images on Sunday.
The team who worked on the shoot were expecting that Meera would be completely untraceable at the scheduled time for the hair and make-up. She wasn’t answering her phone, local hotels did not have her listed as staying with them, and a frantic phone call to her manager ended up with him throwing a mini-tantrum at not being duly informed. “I would have called her up at night and made her set an alar-um on her cell phone!” he explained. “I would have also made sure she went to sleep at the right time. Don’t worry, she’ll do to the shoot, just give her a couple of hours.” A couple of hours? The team had already been waiting for two hours straight.
Sure enough, an hour later, I got a call from Meera. “I had been waiting for you till 6:00 a.m. (why? The make-up call was for 11:00 a.m!) and then I went to sleep,” she said, adding, “you can pick me up now.” I found her at the venue having a hearty breakfast of paratha omelette dressed in a simple white shalwar kurta. A visit to her room – it looked as if a tornado had struck there with her clothes strewn all over the place – for some last minute things that she needed, and then off we went. After making five minutes of small talk, Meera really started talking. And once she started, there was no stopping her.
She had just returned to the country after enjoying a two-month break in Canada and America. After the media drama that went on for several months due to her alleged marriage to Atiq-ur-Rehman, she says that she needed the break. However, she unwittingly became the centre of a controversy regarding her passport the moment she landed. “I did not tell anyone I was coming back to Pakistan. Nobody was there to receive me. But the moment I step out of the airport I am confronted by 10-15 flashing bulbs from the army of photographers who were already there,” she says, visibly frustrated. “How did they know I was there? Who told them?!”
She then added that General Pervez Musharraf’s era in Pakistani politics was the golden era of Pakistan. I inadvertently mentioned that he’s living in London now. “Can you get me his phone number?!” she asked excitedly, and then hastily added, “not that I want it for any shady purpose… I would like to campaign for him. Support him. Encourage the awam to come forward for him.” Meera in politics: that should add an interesting note to the already drama-heavy scenario of Pakistani politics and parties.
It’s the environment that works against you all the time Meera mentions while munching on a slice of pizza after getting her hair and make-up done. With the interviewer asking her own set of questions, Meera adds her own twist to lunch by enacting how people behave in the Pakistani, Indian, and American film industries. “What do you do when there is one person smoking a joint on one side, one chewing paan, and another person spouting profanities like ‘ma… behan… ma… behan…’ and all you can do is sit in one corner quietly?!” she says, on the verge of jumping out of her chair.
“And it’s no different in India!” she adds passionately. “Everyone knows that all the directors talk to the all the actresses, not just me, in this way: ‘Oye! Yeh dikha! Woh dikha!’ (Show this! Show that!)” She lifts the side of her shirt up and down baring and concealing her body to show exactly what the directors supposedly want actresses to show. “And it’s not very different in H-a-llywood!” she says firmly, “they say the same in their language: mother-***!” At this point, I decided I couldn’t take any more of Meera without laughing outright and went into the other room.
She was surprisingly cooperative during the shoot. Meera took direction well and seemed to be having a good time. All of her frames had a male model in the background doing one thing or another. The moment the photographer, Fayyaz Ahmed – who handled her beautifully, giving her directions in ‘her’ language by saying “give me a proud look” – announced the end of the shoot she stood up and asked him to take some solo shots of her. He relented; after all, what were another several pictures?
Within moments I heard the make-up team and the male model, who were sitting with me, trying to stifle their laughter. I asked them what had happened. “Meera just told the photographer, ‘take a picture of me that shows me deep in thought. Mein future kay barey mein soch rahi hoon… nature kay barey mein soch rahi hoon’ (I’m thinking about the future, about nature),” they responded.
Meera was properly worked up on the way back. She mentioned that people were willing to lie, say anything at all, and go to great lengths just so they could get a photograph taken with her. She described feeling slightly paranoid every time someone took out a camera, or even a cellphone, in case they were going to shoot a video of her and post it on the “toob” (YouTube). “I get 10 proposals every day,” she said, “but they’re not the ‘right’ kind. So I don’t take them seriously. People send me hundreds of fan mail in which they say things like ‘Meera, I love you,’ ‘Meera, I thought about you at night.’ So if they thought about me at night, you can imagine exactly what kind of stuff they were thinking!” she said suggestively.
Responding to my look of utter and complete shock at the brazenness of her statement, she said “Yes! Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying! I am the saxiest woman in Pakistan! I am a s-a-x symbol!” Dramatically pointing her finger outside she said, “that Veena Malik comes on TV and makes fun of me saying I am uneducated and what not. What has she done except mimic everyone? Has she gotten to where I am? Does she have my fame or my fan base? No!”
Seeming visibly tired at the end of this outburst she sat back and said, very quietly, “sometimes I want to run away from this: the media attention and people looking for opportunities to catch me, use my name. On the other hand, I’ve grown used to it. I think about it and come to the conclusion that whatever is happening in Meera’s life is fine. It’s okay. But Irtiza Rubab (Meera’s real name) is different. No one’s encroached upon her personal life,” she finishes off, saying, “Meera’s the personality and Irtiza… that’s me.” The relationship between Meera and Irtiza sounds very much like Beyonce and her relationship with her alter-stage-ego, Sacha Fierce.
Although we’re quick to pass judgment on the almost insanely wild persona we see on TV, at the end of the day, we forget that she’s human, and therefore actually gets affected by the – often harsh – backlash she receives for almost everything that ever comes out of her mouth. Those who claim to ‘hate’ her say it’s because she’s crass and needs to learn to get her act together the way Reema has. It is these same people who scan the pages for any news or update of her. Let’s face it, they love to hate her. Everything she says is considered entertainment.
Dropping Meera off that night, I couldn’t help but find her little outbursts and statements somewhat charming. She can’t help but be who she is, and nothing she says seems to carry any malicious intent. Meera lacks pretension and behaves the way she actually is. Perhaps the reason why she fascinates is that she appeals to that side in all of us that loves a bit of scandal and gossip laced with humour. Meera, as herself, is a reality show the nation is irrevocably hooked on.
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