Mawra Hocane has Human Rights on her mind. She gets her law degree (from the University of London) next year but she already knows that it’s Human Rights that she wants to pursue. A large part of her interest came from working in Rahimyar Khan for drama serial Sammi, where she saw and met women who had absolutely no voice, let alone having an opinion.
“Initially I was shocked that Sammi, my character, said absolutely nothing or then very little,” she shares. “But then I realized that this is how women in the village generally are. They barely have a voice.”
Studying law for the last year, Hocane realized and read about the atrocities that were being meted out to women in the rural areas of the country.
“When I was studying for my Human Rights exam I read that in one year alone, 536 women in Pakistan are killed in honour killings,” she shared, when we met to discuss how acting in a social-issue driven story had affected her life and career choices, if at all. “Around 317, if I’m not wrong, are exchanged in the vani ritual. These women are swapped to uphold some warped sense of honour and then you don’t know whether they are raped or killed or murdered. We don’t even know if these women exist any more.”
“After studying for this exam I told my principal that if I pursue law then I would want to specialize in Human Rights,” she continued. “It’s so important. Maybe it’s not so important to know how property is divided or how business clauses are written, what is trust property or what is tort law…that’s not so relevant in Pakistan. How many people are dying in my country is very important. So after studying Human Rights and realizing the number of people that are dying in Pakistan every year I realized that if I get the time, then that’s what I want to study.”
Law is such a time consuming profession, I asked her, feeling that her full time commitment to being an artiste may not allow for it. Why opt for studying law, I asked, if there was a chance that she wouldn’t be able to pursue a career in law?
“You know, you have to educate yourself and I’m a sucker for books,” she replied. “Every single book you pick up teaches you something that no single person can teach you and you know, people reach that dead end when they say they don’t know what to do anymore. I say go to books; you’ll come out a new person out of every book you read. I do that myself. It’s for my rejuvenation. I give my everything to every project I do and I come out empty. I have to refill myself and what better to do that than with books?”
Mawra continued to share how Sammi was an emotionally draining project and how she was grieved after working in RYK.
“When I went for my final exams post-Sammi I felt really empty but then I started reading up on four different subjects, which gave me perspective and a new way of looking at life.”
What did you enjoy most, I asked her?
“Human Rights,” she said without hesitation. “Because Human Rights are very real. You care more about people than properties and trust funds and businesses. I also found the subject European Union very interesting because one got to know what’s happening out there. But the most interesting was HR because it covered the whole sub continent and even tackled the India-Pakistan issues. I felt that studying HR made me a little more compassionate and I do feel that an artiste needs everything. They need information and compassion and a bit of everything to further their craft. I found all that in books.”
What did she plan to do now that Sammi had ended and her exams were also out of the way?
“Like I said, I always feel very empty after completing a project, and that’s when I really don’t know where to go,” she reiterated. “Right now I have an urge to do something for the women of the country; I want to learn the legalities of how to empower them. We have to understand that Human Rights today are all for men; we have to make women’s rights an equal part of Human Rights. So we’re not trying to give them extra rights to make them superior but we have to bring them equal status.”
What about rights on social media and its flip side? Mawra encountered an ugly episode on Twitter (a day before the Pak v India ICC final) when someone posted a fake picture of her ‘liking’ Rishi Kapoor’s snarky comments. A lot of vitriolic trolling followed.
“That’s not the flip side of social media rather the ugly side of human beings,” Mawra responded, flaring up a little. “Cricket matches are ‘played’ between two teams and not ‘fought’ and we shouldn’t push cricket between India and Pakistan to a level where it becomes ugly. My name is often misused and I’m often dragged into things just because of the visibility my name will bring and that makes me angry. But since I’m not an angry person I just drink two glasses of cold water and cool down.”