Mehwish Hayat is one of the most sought-after female actors in the country today. Though she has been acting for several years, it was the all-star Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (2015) that marked Hayat’s reinvention. Since then, she has starred in the popular TV drama Dillagi opposite Humayun Saeed and featured as lead in films like Nabeel Qureshi’s Actor in Law and Nadeem Baig’s 2017 monster hit, Punjab Nahi Jaungi. All of her films have done exceptional business on the box office with Punjab Nahi Jaungi being the most recent example.
The years of doing selective work and developing a strong work ethic has also made Hayat a coveted co-star and she’s reuniting with Fahad Mustafa after Actor in Law in the upcoming Load Wedding and is also reuniting with Humayun Saeed and gang in Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2.
Just recently, Mehwish Hayat was was honoured with the Cinematic Icon Pakistan award at the re-launch event of Filmfare Middle East in Dubai; she also won the Best Actress award (for Actor in Law) at the recently concluded first edition of Pakistan International Film Festival 2018 (PIFF).
Focused on taking up roles that portray women in a strong light, she is presently busy with her next big screen project, Load Wedding, which is expected to release on Eid ul Azha 2018. In an exclusive interview with Instep, Mehwish Hayat talks about her experience of winning two awards, her upcoming projects and much more.
Instep: You were recently honoured with the Pakistani Icon Award at the Filmfare Middle East relaunch; how was that experience?
Mehwish Hayat (MH): Our fledgling industry being acknowledged in this way was indeed a very proud moment for me. While we need no validation from anybody for what we have achieved in such a short period of time, it was heartening to be able to hold my head up high on the same platform as our fraternity from across the border. I also took the opportunity to send a message to them that if they really want to use film as a means of building bridges between our nations, then they need to do more than just casting our actors in their films. Let them start by showing our films and dramas like their films are shown here, and only then can we talk about greater collaboration.
Instep: Many believe that you should have won the award for Best Actor female (film) at the Lux Style awards. What are your views?
MH: I am very touched by the public support and outcry who felt that I should have won the award. But my personal opinion is that the jury and sponsors decided that someone else was more deserving and I respect that decision.
Instep: You recently said, “I don’t judge my success by awards”. What did you mean?
MH: Awards in our part of the world are mired in politics and agendas that often do not reflect public opinion, critical success or performance. Therefore, for me what matters more is the love of the people who vote through their pockets by buying tickets to see my movies. I am blessed to have starred in the highest grossing films for the past four consecutive years. No statue can replace that.
Instep: How does it feel to have won the Best Actress award for Actor in Law at the PIFF 2018?
MH: This was somewhat different because it was awarded by a jury of my industry peers and not by some corporate sponsor. Additionally, it was for my role in Actor in Law, which was very close to me. Meena Screwwala was not the stereotypical film heroine; she’s a feisty opinionated girl who would stand up for what she believes in. Playing a Parsi girl, I had to work hard to get the nuances right and believable. It is humbling that the jury of PIFF appreciated that and found it worthy of the award.
Instep: After Dillagi (2016) we haven’t seen you on the small screen, what’s the reason behind that?
MH: There is no specific reason. I was offered a couple of wonderful films with amazing directors that I felt I wanted to do. I also took a sabbatical from acting to tour the US and focus a little on my singing and also take time out after working non-stop for several years.
Instep: Any plans of making a comeback on television?
MH: I am an actress and I’m not driven by what the medium is. Even in Hollywood a lot of big stars are opting for television or streaming services. For me what matters is that the character I play challenges me as an actor and helps me grow. So if the character and script appeal to me then whether it is film, television, theatre or digital streaming; it does not really matter.
Instep: Tell us about your character in Load Wedding? How different is it from some of the other characters you’ve played in the past?
MH: I cannot say much at the moment but what I can reveal is that the character is very different from anything else I have played recently. It is as far as you can get from the glamorous, modern roles I have been associated with – it is a very traditional desi role. Having said that, the story again tackles social issues prevalent in our society that need to be highlighted.
Instep: Besides Load Wedding, are there any other upcoming projects that we should look forward to?
MH: Yes, there are things in the pipeline that are pretty amazing. As much as I would like to share more, I am a firm believer not to jinx things and say anything until things are signed, sealed and delivered.
Instep: Your future plans?
MH: There are so many things that I want to do. It has been an incredible journey up till now and I feel this is only the beginning. Let’s see where the next phase takes me. I am reading a wonderful play called Treats, and there is a line that says, “I don’t make plans, I just cover the exits!”. So I am not making plans, just covering the exits.