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The ‘H’ Factor

A few short years ago, Humaima Malick was just another pretty model who was steadily trying to make her way into the avant garde with the help of her exquisite good looks and a couple of industry insiders who’d literally ‘discovered’ her. Today, she’s a household name thanks to a myriad television commercials, telefilms and super hit drama serials like ‘Barish Kay Aansoo’, ‘Tanveer Fatima B.A.’ and ‘Ishq Junoon Deewangi’, that haven’t only established her career as a meticulous model and actress, but also reaffirm her front-row status among the second generation of Pakistani Sweethearts. And now, very soon, this cheerful young actress is all set to shoot further up the superstar scale with her upcoming films, ‘Bol’ and another unnamed project in India with “one of the Khans.”
I met Humaima on the sets of a telefilm she was shooting with Azzfer Rehman shortly after the wrap-up of ‘Bol’, and despite all the chaos; takes and re-takes, wardrobe and makeup issues, we managed to find a quiet peaceful corner to sit down and talk about her life and journey thus far over a good supply of orange juice and “Pakistani wali Marlboros.”

On the birth of an unexpected career…
When I was a kid, we used to move a lot. I was born in Karachi, after which we shifted to Quetta, from where we later shifted back to Karachi. And it was here that I was literally discovered by Saqib Malik! I was 14 years old at the time, and he practically handed me my first modeling gig as the brand ambassador of Fair & Lovely. I did four commercials for them and I was the ‘Fair & Lovely girl’ for the next three years until I was 17. After that I became the campaign model for Coca Cola and that was the beginning of everything…I slowly slipped into the fashion world and started doing ramp, which eventually led to my first acting offer. I did continue my studies simultaneously from schools and colleges in Quetta and Karachi though. Like I said, we used to move around a lot.
I honestly feel I’ve been extremely lucky because my name was attached to a larger than life brand when I made my debut, unlike a lot of other girls out there who enter this field, find a little work, then disappear. Also, if I’m completely honest with myself and give credit to someone for always supporting me and pushing me to do more work it’ll be Freiha Altaf, Saqib Malik and Tariq Amin. These three people have been absolutely amazing to me and I owe them a lot!

On the brands she’s associated with right now…
I’m the current face of Sunsilk Pakistan, and something very big is also coming up soon…maybe it’s a beauty product, maybe it isn’t, I can’t tell you right now!

On the transition from a model to an actress, and what she enjoys doing more…
I’ve always been a very filmi sort-of girl in my real life. I act 24/7 and I cry like a baby while acting, so when I was first offered an acting job, I was quite happy and excited, and now after having done so many projects, I absolutely love it!
I don’t think it’s fair to compare modeling and acting, but since I’ve done both I think I can say that modeling is an easy job. It’s quick, and you get a hell of a lot more money than you do in acting. The pay cheque I get for doing one commercial is often more than the money I normally make in a month while doing a drama! In modeling, people pamper you and treat you like a princess, so I still go back to modeling whenever I’m in the mood for attention! On the other hand, acting is a full time job that involves a lot of work. You have to run around like a headless chicken, work late hours, learn scripts, take care of your wardrobe…it just goes on and on, and the people involved don’t really treat you any special, you’re just one of them. Also, models have a very short stage life, while actors have a longer life. A very commercial, sing & dance type of heroine can do serious, character based roles in art films once she gets older. Unfortunately models look good only till a certain age.

On the “senior” models out there…
I’ve talked about this in a few interviews before and the things I said were twisted into such negative comments about people I’m friends with and my seniors who’ve helped me a lot along the way that I’d rather not talk much about it anymore. You know, some of these models have literally taught me how to walk the ramp so I have a great deal of respect for them, but I was dumb enough to take their names and say that they should start thinking about retiring.
I honestly don’t know what the issue is but I think you have to look at it this way: this is their livelihood; it’s what they’re good at. I’m not going to get all holier-than-thou here because modeling and acting is my only means of making any money too. You can’t really blame them for trying to hang on to it for as long as they can. Still, I think some of the models who’re literally too old to be modeling should retire with dignity, and put their expertise to some good use elsewhere, like opening modeling schools for young girls.

On the age old notion that models can’t act…
With the amount of work I’ve already done, and my upcoming work, I don’t think I need to prove to anyone how well I can act. You only get work if you know how to do your job!

On the importance of media, and the impact of television on the public…
I believe a very large percentage of our public simply can’t buy a 200 or 500 Rupee magazine, but everybody’s got a TV these days. My maid has it, your maid has it, and we both also have it. So TV is one thing that the whole world watches, you know, so if you want to become a household name in the real sense of the word, you’ve got to make a name for yourself in the television industry. You can only become a star if your fans want you to be a star. Whatever I am today is not because of myself but because of those people who watched ‘Tanveer Fatima B.A.’, ‘Barish Kay Aansoo’, ‘Ishq Junoon Deewangi’ and liked me! You know whenever I go out in public and interact with the public, someone calls me “Priya”, and someone calls me “Tanno”. They know me by the names of my characters, and for an actor that’s always a very fulfilling compliment.

On her leading men…
I love working with Azzfer Rehman, we’re very good friends and have worked together on many projects. Faisal Rehman, Adnan Siddiqui, Humayoun Saeed are all great to work with also. I really enjoyed working with Atif Aslam in ‘Bol’, and no, I’m not playing his opposite in the film; I’m playing his baji!

On whom she considers competition in the television industry…
I don’t think I’m in competition with anyone out there right now. The girls I really like are Monalisa, who’s stunningly beautiful; Iman Ali, who’s a hands down diva; and Sanam Baloch, who is a ball of energy who’s lovely on the screen…If I have to categorize myself like that, I’d consider myself to be the cute type, you know, because I’ve got a very girl-next-door type look. But I still don’t think you can compare anyone with anyone else. You can’t do the roles I can and I can’t play the parts that maybe you can. Everybody’s different in their own right. If you get stuck in competition, you remain there and it starts showing. Being extremely competitive harms your creativity.

On memorable fan encounters…
A few months ago I was flying to Dubai and this woman came up to me at the airport and started shouting at me, saying some really bad stuff about my character “Priya” from ‘Barish Kay Aansoo.’ She was literally out of control, telling me what a bad woman I was and how I shouldn’t be ruining someone’s home and all. But you know, even though it was kind of a weird experience, it sort of left me feeling good because I realized then that my drama and character was so popular that people even outside Pakistan were so involved in it!

On Shoaib Mansoor–the whole story…
It was a Sunday and I was on my bed watching a film on Star Movies when someone called me from an unknown number. I contemplated whether I should answer the call or not, but then I did and this man said, “Assalam-o-Alaikum jee, main Shoaib Mansoor Sahab baat kar raha houn.” Now, don’t ask me why, but without saying a thing, I got off my bed and ran to the drawing room. I guess it must’ve been the excitement because as you can see, I’m a very hyper active girl. So now I’m out of breath and he could obviously hear me panting on the phone, so he goes, “Are you alright?” and I said, “Yes, but it’s Sunday!” He gave a laugh and said, “But khatoon, we work on Sundays too.” I was so embarrassed! I told him that’s not what I meant and that I was just excited to be getting his call on a Sunday morning, and then he told me that he’d recently seen one of my plays was interested in casting me for a role in his new film, ‘Bol’. He was very straight forward about the whole thing, and asked me to move to Lahore to shoot for the film almost right away. I was working on ‘Tanveer Fatima B.A.’ at the time, which is a 200+ episode soap. Even though I was very fond of my character in the drama, I didn’t think twice about leaving it and flying down to Lahore…after all, it isn’t every day that you’re offered to do a Shoaib Mansoor film!

On her role in the film…
I was initially asked to do a small but important cameo of a tawaif, which eventually went to Iman Ali. I went to Lahore to do this role, but some 10-12 days before the shooting began, Shoiab Mansoor changed his mind and asked me to play the lead role of Zainab, around whom the whole story revolves. This part was initially supposed to go to one of the big actresses in Pakistan, you know, someone who was older and more experienced than me. I hold Shoaib Mansoor in very high regard because he entrusted his whole film to a young, inexperienced actress like me! It was a big, big responsibility. I remember when he changed my role, he told me that he wanted me to do the role on which the whole film was based, and that I should promise him to fulfill the responsibility he was putting on my shoulders. If someone like Shoaib Mansoor, who’s a big institution in himself, says something like that to you, you’re bound to feel happy and be proud of yourself!
Anyway, Zainab’s character is extremely close to my heart because I have worked very hard on it. She’s a very mature and sensible character, who’s older than my age, actually. She’s the eldest of eight sisters, who is going through a tumultuous time in her life and actually dealing with the problems instead of feeling sorry for herself. It’s a very emotional character and I injured myself a lot on the sets, so I’m sure you’ll love it! Besides, my personal life also went through a lot of major changes while shooting the film because of which I really can’t forget those three-four months.

On the whole experience…
The experience was great. We didn’t know each other and I had never met him before flying to Lahore to shoot for his film, which was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time! But Alhamdolillah, everything went perfectly well. There were at least 20-25 assistants on the sets all the time. Working with Salman Razzaq, who was the DOP; Zeb Rehman, the wonderful actress who plays my mother; Atif Aslam; Iman Ali and all the other actors was a phenomenal experience.
You just asked me if there were any memorable projects or moments in my life, and I honestly feel that I could maybe forget all the work I’ve ever done till now, but I can never forget ‘Bol’ and working with a director like Shoaib Mansoor!

On the Bollywood rumors…
I really can’t mention a lot of things because I’m under contract not to say anything until the project completely wraps up. I recently gave an interview to Dawn Images in which I disclosed a lot of information and the very next day, I got a stern call from Mr Khan reminding me about the contract! All I can tell you right now is that it’s a big banner film and you’ll get to see the promos of the film on Zoom Channel very soon. Also, it’s not a cheap film like the one Monalisa did; it’s not with Himesh Reshamia! It’s a decent, story based period film in which I and Mr Khan play the main leads! And yes, you’ll get to see me dance too!

On what more/different she has to offer to Bollywood than those before her…
Most of the one’s who’ve worked in Bollywood before me couldn’t do anything significant because they were selected by the Bhatts and everybody knows what kind of films they make. I was selected by a Khan, so there will be a LOT of difference! Just wait and see…

On dance…
I haven’t learned dance from anyone or anywhere! There’s a pharak inside me and I have no idea where it came from! Like I said, I’m an actress in real life too and I used to dance to ‘Meray Haathon Main Nau Nau Choorian Hain’ when I was 2-3 years old, which shows dance is just something that comes from inside me! I’m extremely flexible and basically do everything; I play sports, swim, and also do aerobics and yoga regularly.
In dance, I love Salsa, Kathak, belly dancing, pop and hip hop, and I’ve worked with all the best choreographers out there, including Hasan Rizvi, Umar Raheem, Nighat Chaudhry, Sheema Kirmani and Josh. They’ve all taught me something or the other just like working with different directors teaches you something new about acting.

On her upcoming projects…
I’ve just ventured into production. I’ve produced a serial called ‘Media’, which quit obviously is all about media and how things work in this industry. Shamoon Abassi has directed it and I was lucky enough to get a lot of big names on board too. Other than that I’m doing a serial for Samina and Humaiyun Saeed’s new production company. My two films are coming up soon, and you’ll also get to see four new Sunsilk commercials very soon. I’m also doing quite a few telefilms here and there, so I’m all busy busy…

On her being considered a fashionista…
Not really…but yeah, maybe! I put together my own wardrobe for ‘Tanveer Fatima B.A.’ in which I’m played a very shareefana character. I wore coloured shirts with chooridaar pajamas and dupattas, and you wouldn’t believe it, but a lot of college girls started wearing chooridaar pajamas and proper dupattas after that! And that’s what being a fashionista is all about, right?
Normally though I’m a very be-dhungi sort of girl, I wear anything and everything as long as it’s comfortable. What I don’t wear is a lot of makeup and I’m not particularly brand conscious either!

On the blossoming fashion industry…
I think our fashion industry is doing much better than the country these days! I attended both Karachi Fashion Week and Lahore Fashion Week, and I was really amazed at how good we’ve become! I was presenting Sunsilk in Fashion Week Lahore. It’s great when eight or ten designers showcase their work in one place on the same day! I’m really glad things are finally looking up…May it live long and prosper even more!!

On the designers she enjoys wearing…
Faiza Sami, Nilofer Shahid, Rizwan Beyg, Banto Kazmi…all the classy ones!

On the importance of family and a strong support system…
Whatever I am today is only because of my family. I honestly believe that if I didn’t have my mother and father and brothers and sisters with me, I’d be no one. You really need to stick with your family because at the end of the day, your friends leave you, the people you work with leave you, even the people that come into your life who you love immensely will leave you; and the only people who will stick around to pick you up are your family.

On the possibility of her siblings following in her footsteps…
Not at all! I was the only black sheep of the family, all the others are ‘achi nasl kay bachay’ who’re busy with their studies, work and normal lives!