Instep Today

In conversation with Sonya Hussyn

Instep Today
By Ahmed Sarym
Fri, 03, 19

The talented young actress talks about her work – past, present and future – giving some valuable insight on sexual harassment in the film industry.

Sonya Hussyn’s metamorphosis is reflective in her creative choices. From playing a mentally challenged girl in Nazo to an adolescent, cyber-bullied woman in Aisi Hai Tanhai, to the regal, rebellious girl in the ongoing period play Aangan, she’s stepped outside of her comfort zone with each role.

In conversation with Instep, Sonya begins by talking about her evolution of sorts.

“When I entered the industry, I didn’t know anything or anyone — directors, producers, designers,” she says. “And I think that while working, over the years, I got to explore myself and now more than ever, I’m sure of who I am. I know what I have to offer as a person, how I want to live and what I want to show through my work. If people find that acceptable, I’m more than honored, but sometimes you do face criticism and it’s all part of the deal.”

Currently filming for her next feature film, Sonya had earlier signed onto seasoned music-video director, Sohail Javed’s debut film, Sorry: A Love Story alongside Faysal Qureshi, Aamina Sheikh and Zahid Ahmed. Whilst newcomer Faryal Mehmood has been roped in to play the part Sonya opted out off, one wonders what influenced her change of heart to take up debutant director, Qasim Ali Mureed’s forthcoming Tich Button instead.

“There’s nothing to it,” she brushed off rumours. “We had some creative differences over a couple of scenes that Faysal was adamant that they couldn’t tweak, and very amicably, I decided to part ways. I’ve seen some of Faryal’s recent work as well and I think she’s a talented actress. To be fair, it was her character all along; she deserved it and I wish her and the entire team the very best,” she responded. “Tich Button came to me at the same time as I was script-reading for Sorry and I could only have done one of the two. I find myself lucky to have done Tich Button, it was meant for me.”

Many suggest Sonya left the project due to the recent controversy Sohail Javed has been embroiled in. Filmmaker Jami Mahmood empathetically read out an anonymous sexual abuse survivor’s letter at the Lahooti Melo this year, accusing an industry insider of assault, and has been vocal against harassment, through posts on social media. Sohail Javed, though not accused, felt that the letter pointed at him and since Jami did nothing to deny that, Sohail filed a case against Jami under the Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code. Sonya denied having left the project in light of recent events, but she did have an opinion on the matter.

“I think it’s a very sensitive matter. I’ve worked with Jami bhai and Sohail both, and they’ve both been very supportive and respectful towards me. I think being in the industry, I know that sexual harassment is very real, I’ve been in situations where I had to defend myself, so I believe in equipping girls in saying no,” she maintained. “As far as this letter goes, I think it’s important for us to take names clearly so all of us are mindful of the predators that surround us in the industry; there’s no other way.”

Winding up the second and last spell for Tich Button on a purpose-built set in interior Punjab, Sonya is all praise of her experience of working in the film. Sonya’s track is limited to Punjab and she seems ecstatic as it nears completion. “Tich Button has been a fulfilling journey. My character is of this very cultured, traditional girl, who’s vivacious and so very full of life; playing her has been such an enriching experience,” she happily shared.

Speaking of the cast and crew, she continued, “Our director, Qasim is truly somebody to look out for. I think because I have the director’s germ in me too, I get a sense of the director’s grip on the story, and his vision and attention-to-detail is truly very impressive. Farhan has been such a gentleman, he’s someone who’s incredibly caring and makes you feel comfortable. Feroze, again, has been a treat to work with. He’s one of the most gifted actors we have and with him, the action-reaction becomes so much more real.”

The film also has great female participation in-front and behind-the-camera. Actress, Urwa Hocane makes her debut as producer under her very own banner, Shooting Star Studio, while it also marks the silver-screen return of Iman Ali. Speaking of working on a set that had women involved in more ways than one, Sonya felt the film itself is thus, a reflection of its progressive mounting.

“Iman and I have very different tracks in the film; our characters are polar opposites and surprisingly, both of them are roles we haven’t attempted before. I think she’s one of the most charismatic actors Pakistan has seen and it’s been a pleasure working with her,” Hussyn remarked. “Even behind-the-lens, Urwa has been very supportive. I’ve shared screen-space with her previously and I see a completely different aura of hers as one of the producers. So the energy exuded on-set has been very positive and of great inclusion; I think it’s how films need to be made, with greater female participation.”

Talking about experiences, Sonya hasn’t always had smooth sailing when it comes to the celluloid. After making a debut with Moor (2015), Sonya starred in last year’s patriotic extravaganza, Azaadi opposite Lollywood veteran, Moammar Rana, which was not only received poorly by the critics, but also tanked at the box office. Nonetheless, Sonya feels she’s had numerous takeaways from the movie and has applied those learnings to Tich Button.

“I think we have good directors, but most of them aren’t filmmakers,” she reflected. “We need to learn how to tell a story for a film. But I did feel it was a very good film; I’m not bothered about how it performed at the box office. It did wonders for me, I’ve seen it as a learning curve and it’s equipped me for future projects. Moor wasn’t a commercial film, so I prepared myself for the romance, the dance, the emotion through Azaadi.”

Even though Sonya’s been offered more movies, she doesn’t wish to let go of television just yet. To her the small-screen provides a greater margin to perform. Now she’s all set to begin shooting for her next, Zah-e-Naseeb with Sami Khan and Zahid Ahmed. She’s also signed onto another yet-to-be-titled serial for next month, again, with Zahid, and Armeena Khan. Seems like she has her hands full for the rest of the year and she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“I had about six TV scripts early this year and none of them truly appealed to me until Zah-e-Naseeb. I think apart from the fact that it has a great team; it’s also a very interesting story that centers on a bipolar man who experiences hallucinations. I’ll be shooting for it as soon as I get back to Karachi,” Sonya discloses on a parting note. “The other serial is what I’m very excited about. My role is one of the most demanding characters I’ve taken up; not only does it require a lot of preparation, but involves a physical transformation as well, so I’m really looking forward to how that goes.”