There’s something about Mahira: she exudes charm and goodwill and walks under a halo of charisma that keeps her fans constantly in love with her. Mahira is talented but she’s not the only good actress out there; she’s beautiful but then there are so many equally beautiful faces that stud the galaxy of stars. She appeals to the masses and classes both, but what exactly draws them to her?
The subject came up over lunch with the incredible Sarmad Khoosat, director par excellence who gave the world Humsafar; Sarmad is also one of Mahira’s closest friends. I was eager to hear his expert opinion on what it was that made Mahira the star that she is.
“Mahira’s lack of understanding of how to smooth the edges,” Sarmad offered as the foremost reason. “I say it affectionately; she is totally unaware of so many things when she’s on camera even. I don’t think she knows her good angles either. She’s one of those actors who really immerse themselves in a character. That honesty just shines through and very few people have that. She has somehow managed to retain the innocence of the craft. She’s done several projects with so many directors now, both here and across the border, but I think there’s a part of her that deliberately doesn’t want to be too skilled at what she’s doing and that’s her greatest asset.”
What would you consider her strongest performance to date, I asked?
“Humsafar,” he said, without having to think. “And not only because of nostalgia sake; I really feel that. For example, in Shehr e Zaat I managed to distort her and bring another kind of performance with her but she managed to exude light in Humsafar and I don’t see that happening very often with most people that I’ve worked with.”
What else, I persisted? What was it about Mahira that made her the star that she is, despite being so approachable? She had very few airs and graces and connected with people most genuinely.
“Mahira the person and Mahira the star are pretty much the same,” Sarmad explained. “She doesn’t manufacture another personality for the audience. She’s also ready to accept her faults and flaws and when she first accepted that, I think, is when she really came of age. She’s one of the few people who do not have to draw a line on camera and off camera. She’s still that adorable, that silly, that intelligent, that charming on camera and I hope she never really invests in that bifurcation to manufacture a professional persona. That is something very few stars can retain; you have to have another personality. So again with all affection, I say, even if it’s her in-adeptness to manufacture, I love that about her. Even if it seems she’s inefficient at doing it, it’s her beauty.”
Why is Khirad such an important part of Mahira’s life? People believe Khirad completely took over…
“I think she loved Khirad a lot,” Sarmad smiled. “She enjoyed playing that character. And Khirad is in so many ways Mahira. That innocence, and not the doormat innocence, she had integrity that Mahira saw and believed in more than I did as a director. You may have thought there was some kind of caricature in Khirad but Mahira really saw a more solid backbone than I did.”
Many critics believe Mahira is somewhat stuck in that character. Would you agree?
“I think people are being unfair. From Humsafar to Verna (and now 7 Din Mohabbat In, though the interview was conducted before the movie released), the range Mahira has managed to set despite being a consistent sweetheart to half of the world, what she’s managed to deliver with this little body of work, is pretty incredible. I think Verna was phenomenal; I never thought she could have that anger on her face. Again, affectionate sort of perception, but I thought I never wanted her to be that affected or distressed by anything but she still has that quality and that’s what makes her unique.”
- This article was first published in Instep Today, June 16 2018