The young and dynamic actress Madiha Imam, who started off as a VJ almost a decade ago, is not a TV regular. She either takes up one project at a time or opts for breaks in between whenever she feels the need to; there is no compulsive obsessiveness to work without break. The actress caught the limelight in 2017 after her Bollywood debut with Dear Maya, in which she played the part of a 14-year old schoolgirl alongside Manisha Koirala; she was appreciated for her performance on both sides of the border. Since then, Madiha has headlined some popular drama serials and has worked with renowned names in the television industry such as Faysal Qureshi, Savera Nadeem and Sami Khan, among others. One of her recent projects, Mera Rab Waris that concluded last year topped the ratings chart throughout its run and viewers praised her performance of a very religious young woman, Ayesha.
Presently, Madiha is essaying prominent roles in two ongoing drama serials, Muqaddar and Dushman e Jaan, that are catching viewers’ attention due to their unique storylines. The actress has also begun shooting for her next drama while she will soon make her first appearance on the big screen in Pakistan alongside Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan.
In this exclusive telephonic interview with Instep, Madiha Imam reveals details about her upcoming drama and film while she also shares her stance on cyber bullying and possible ways to deal with it.
After almost two months in quarantine during the initial lockdown, Madiha was back on the set post Eid ul Fitr to shoot for her upcoming drama serial opposite Muneeb Butt. However, due to the uncertain situation, there is no consistency and the shoot takes place back and forth.
The upcoming drama, written by Samra Bukhari and directed by Anjum Shahzad, tackles the subject of domestic violence, informs Madiha. “It is about domestic abuse, the emotional and mental abuse that one faces from their in-laws who aren’t very welcoming towards their daughter-in-law and treat her like an outsider,” she reveals, adding that the drama depicts domestic violence on the level that we see in the news.”
“It is prevalent in our country and Anjum sir is handling it very sensitively,” adds Madiha, who was reluctant to take up the role around a sensitive topic that usually ends up being sensationalized.
Aside from Madiha and Muneeb, the drama features an ensemble cast including Shabbir Jan, Saba Hamid, Maira Khan, Sana Askari, Saboor Aly, Raza Talish, Ali Rizvi and Haris Waheed. According to the actress, the untitled drama will be longer than usual as it explores the subject in detail.
Coming back to her current projects, it is a coincidence that they are airing around the same time since Madiha shot one of them almost two years ago but it didn’t air then. In Muqaddar, Madiha portrays a radio journalist Raima who is forced to marry a Sindhi feudal lord Sardar Saif ur Rehman, played by Faysal Qureshi. As the very young second wife of an influential figure, she is bold, she is vocal and yet she is entangled in circumstances that have turned her life upside down. Even in Dushman e Jaan, in which she plays the role of Rabab, she ends up with a rich and entitled young man Hatim (essayed by Moheb Mirza), who marries her out of guilt. Rabab is very naïve and has no say even in matters concerning her life.
Her most recent characters, as well as the ones she portrayed in the past, almost always end up in some sort of misery, leaving her in a sad state of affairs (Baba Jani, Mera Rab Waris). Reflecting on roles she has played on the small screen so far, Madiha is of the view that though her characters went through suppression, they weren’t spineless. “From the beginning of my career, all the characters I have been offered had a spine; even if they were suppressed, they had their stance and they finally spoke up for themselves,” she explains.
However, Madiha shares, when she is offered a script, she doesn’t go for very explicit roles or narratives that she is not comfortable with. “I did Zakhm that handled marital rape, something viewers aren’t very comfortable talking about. My decision making has altered after that and I am conscious of not taking up such roles anymore. I do pay attention to the roles I am offered and avoid those that seem unreal to me.”
That said, Madiha is very content with her part in an upcoming Pakistani film, Nilofar, which is being produced by Fawad Khan. Starring Fawad, Mahira Khan, Behroze Sabzwari and Atiqa Odho, the film will mark Madiha’s debut in the local film industry. She has shot some part of it in Lahore but has not been able to finish it yet due to the lockdown.
“It is a very unconventional story, written and directed by debutant Ammar Rasool,” reveals Madiha, adding, “Fawad is a great producer and actor to work with; it is a dream team and everything is properly organized. I am playing a small part but it is an important one.”
When asked to compare the experience with her Bollywood debut, Dear Maya, Madiha reiterated that they are running it the way a film set should run and it is one of those films that anyone would want to be a part of.
Moving on, speaking of why we don’t see her on television as much as we would like to, Madiha maintains that it has not been a very conscious decision. When there are gaps in between shooting spells of a project, she takes care of personal, pending tasks. She doesn’t sign a new project unless she is done shooting a major chunk of the one in hand, even if the script appeals to her.
“It is about an actor’s temperament as well as how much energy they have to shoot for multiple projects simultaneously. If I shoot back and forth, I will go crazy; I haven’t done that to date. Meanwhile I have also been studying, taking my music lessons and I give time to my family too. It is not about being picky,” she asserts.
Madiha recently got her hair chopped, as we see her in Muqaddar. Actresses are usually asked to get their hair straightened or put on extensions to maintain the standard look on the small screen. One wonders if cutting her hair short led to any hindrance as far as work was concerned.
“There are certain things that are approved, based on beauty standards that the industry has set; it has been like this for long and will continue to be like this unless the major stakeholders bring a drastic change. This has been in accordance with society’s conditioning that tells us if a girl has curly or short hair, her character is questionable and vice versa. When I met the creatives behind Muqaddar, I did take my extensions along but they asked to keep my hair the way it was. The director (Shehrazade Sheikh) said she liked my hair and since I was playing a journalist it was justified. Journalists do not really care about looking pretty, they are more concerned about covering the news,” Madiha reflects.
Before the interview came to a close, we spoke about cyber bullying that is becoming a serious threat to young lives, particularly of people who are in the limelight. Madiha is of the view that we need to learn to give things a rounded perspective instead of taking a one-dimensional approach towards what we see on social media. “As far as cyber bullying is concerned, as actors we need to be careful of the kind of information that we are putting out there. Secondly, someone who is a random Instagram user needs to be sensitive towards celebrities who are also human beings. Thirdly, there is a way of tackling information that we give out and the one that is leaked online,” the actress stresses, before adding, “All of the above need to be handled differently depending on the position we stand at as individuals. We need to choose our actions wisely; we are all very sensitive. We have to be careful about ourselves and be kind to others.”
Sharing her thoughts on celebrity stereotyping and stigmas attached to the profession of acting, Madiha says that actors need to be responsible for their actions because they are public figures. Their personal lives are not under wraps. However, despite everything, they are stereotyped because they are celebrities who would do anything for money perhaps.
“No matter what family you come from, the perception about the profession is not nice. We will have to constantly put in efforts to change this instead of staying quiet for a new perception to take its place. That will take time and effort,” Madiha suggests on a parting note.