From wearing a girl-next-door charm to evolving into a bonafide star, Maya Ali has come a long way and that too on her own terms. Her debut film, Teefa in Trouble with Ali Zafar, has been declared as the highest-grossing Pakistani film to have released on a non-holiday, earning over 40-crores at the worldwide box office. And Maya has no plans of slowing down; after proving her acting chops and making her presence felt on the silver screen, she’s all set to return to theatres next year with Asim Raza’s second feature-film, Parey Hut Love (PHL).
“When I began PHL, everybody knew how big Teefa had become, but I hadn’t kept a check, for me, nothing really changed. I’m glad that people enjoyed the film and they’re still watching it, but I always knew that if one works hard, it does pay off,” Maya began, in an exclusive conversation with Instep. “I think this is a massive achievement for the industry at large; I’m very happy for each and every film that’s coming out and doing wonders. I just feel good work always gets highlighted, so I hope I can continue doing that.”
She’s well on her way to prove that, entering the third leg of filming in Bhawalpur, after having shot one spell in the northern region of Pakistan, primarily Kashmir, and then in Istanbul, Turkey. Whilst Maya kept tight-lipped about the plot, careful not to give away details, Sheheryar Munawar had earlier told Instep that the film deals with themes of commitment phobia amongst the youth today, narrating a current and contemporary take on a love-story. Mahira Khan was initially announced as the female lead and one wondered how Maya came on-board.
“Honestly, when PHL was offered to me, I did know Mahira was supposed to do it, but I think the dates clashed with another film that she’d signed onto, as far as I know. I didn’t question much, I just wanted to read the script for myself and of course, there aren’t any questions left in mind when it’s Asim Raza,” she responded. “I really liked what I read; I thought it was a very different take on a love-story, compared to what we’ve seen. I’d done comedy and a bit of action, so all of a sudden, this just seemed right – I think PHL was meant to be.”
However, Mahira did end up joining the team in Turkey; though earlier it was known that she’d be seen in a cameo, a report recently read that the second half belongs to Khan instead, the film unfolding as a love-triangle.
“Definitely, if Mahira’s working in the film, it won’t be an inconsequential role,” Maya commented, neither, denying or confirming the latest hearsay. “Even I’m looking forward to her scenes in the movie. We played ourselves when we did Lux’s campaign together, but now we have these particular characters that I’m excited about – how they end up meeting and their interactions. I’m a fan of Mahira and I really wanted to work with her in a movie.”
Maya says it was on her “bucket-list” to act in an Asim Raza movie and she gets to play the character of a romantic, no less. Whilst Ho Mann Jahaan’s female protagonist was a headstrong musician, Maya gets to experience the good-old intimacy on celluloid.
“During our script-readings, before we went on floors, I think we started focusing on dance mostly. And Asim wanted to test my ability by not rehearsing for songs that are a part of the movie. So for about a month, Asim kept telling me how he wanted a haseen (beautiful) girl for the role, who has all the adayain (mannerism of an alluring young girl), and I found it tougher than action,” she chuckled, speaking about how she prepared for the character.
“You know while we were script-reading, Asim still hadn’t watched Teefa and one fine day, he came and hugged me, and told me how happy he was about how different my character is from Anya,” she added of how she steps into the shoes of a polar opposite character. “I was pleasantly surprised because I was still figuring out whether there is something I still haven’t done. And there’s so much more to learn, since it’s a romance. I’ve been learning how to let one’s eyes do the talking and Asim’s taught me so much about how a romantic carries herself and how she would do something as basic as raising her hand. So for PHL, I’m working on my adayain for the most part.”
New to the world of movies, Maya says she’s had a terrific experience working with Asim Raza and Sheheryar. “I’d worked with Asim and his team on a couple of commercials, so I knew them from before, but it was definitely different since I’d never worked with Sheheryar before. When I shot with Ali (Zafar), I was kind of intimated, so it took me some time to open up, whereas with Sheheryar, he and I clicked from the very first day.
“We’re both Leos and I felt we understood each other from the very beginning,” the Mann Mayal-starlet said about sharing the screen with Munawar. “It was essential for us to have this passionate chemistry, considering our equation in the film, which I’m glad we developed. Also Asim knows how to make his talent comfortable; he asks, he listens and then directs, so as an actor, it’s very important for me to have that relationship with my director.”
Sheheryar also wears the producer’s hat, as he spearheads Raza’s subsidiary, Vision Factory Films, which – Maya feels – was an additional stress for him.
“I wish I get a ‘hero’ who isn’t the producer, so he has lesser responsibilities on his shoulder,” she said before bursting into laughter. Ali Zafar was also co-producer on Teefa in Trouble. “But on a serious note, Sheheryar would ask each and everyone on-set how they were keeping, if they had food and I honestly haven’t seen anyone as caring as him. Initially, I thought he was faking all of it, but he’s actually very kind and I’m blessed I’m getting to work with him.”