When we talk about people, who came from abroad to Pakistan and settled here wholeheartedly, the name that comes to mind is of Shaniera Akram. A passionate social worker, Shaniera married Pakistani ace cricketer Wasim Akram who fell in love with her while visiting Melbourne. The couple shifted to Pakistan and decided to make a life here. Shaniera, is also the CEO of ‘The Akram Foundation’, which assists the poor in advancing their lives. She is often seen adorning beautiful Pakistani outfits, eating and even learning to cook desi food. She also keeps a keen eye on the social problems Pakistan is facing and uses her social media platforms very actively to highlight them. Recently, she switched gears and is going to make her debut in a Pakistani feature film ‘Money Back Guarantee’ (MBG), releasing on Eid-ul-Fitr, which also stars her husband, Wasim Akram and Fawad Khan in lead roles. This week, the dynamic Shaniera is in conversation with You!
You! When did you decide to delve into acting?
Shaniera Akram: One day Faisal Qureshi, the writer and director of MBG, asked Wasim if he and I would act in his film. He further sent us the script which we both found very interesting, so we agreed to do the film. It was a fun and new experience.
You! Tell us about your role in the film?
SA: I am not allowed to talk too much about my role (laughs) but what I can reveal is that I play an American who comes to visit Pakistan. I hope I have done justice to my role. It was an 11 days’ spell and I enjoyed every bit of it. I have my fingers crossed for the success of the film.
You! Will you take up more acting projects in the future? And any specific role you want to do?
SA: Yes, I really enjoyed it as I like to be in front of the camera and would love to continue it. But in future, I want to do more challenging roles. It can be a character in which I need to speak Urdu since I have a little bit of knowledge about the language and I guess with the help of a coaching expert, I can do the role well. But the question is if the Pakistani audience wants to see me in films or television (smiles). Actually, I would love to write a few stories too. It can be about someone like me, who comes to Pakistan and observes many new things for the first time. I would love to play the role of that newcomer.
You! Who would you like to act opposite with in future?
SA: Wasim Akram! It was fun to act with him. Moreover, he has a very strong presence on screen. We might play a couple in our next film. Other than that, there are a lot of talented actors in the industry who are doing wonderful jobs, who I would like to work with.
You! Have you tried learning the Urdu language?
SA: I have learned Urdu a little but not confident enough to speak it fluently. I try to speak in Urdu with my staff at home.
You! Your favourite Pakistani food:
SA: I am a vegetarian so I also love to eat different types of daals (lentils), chanaas (chickpeas), saag (spinach), roti (flat bread) and naans (baked bread). I think everything which Pakistanis usually keep as a side dish; I eat it as a main.
You! You enjoy cooking, so have you learned to cook any Pakistani food?
SA: I can cook any Pakistani dish. I made Nihari the other day for my husband and my son. Moreover, I can make anything I mentioned above like daal, saag, pulao, biryani, curries and karahis. I am actually a desi larki at heart and enjoy cooking a lot. It is almost cathartic to me to go in to the kitchen and just cook. There is so much romance in Pakistani food; so many spices and different tastes. I love it!
You! You are quite active on social media. How do you think we can use this tool to bring a positive change in society?
SA: I think social media has done an incredible job at the moment. We have come forward from just selfies and photos on our social media platforms and now people are trying to do positive things through it. They are promoting good causes, like doing things actively for communities and highlighting many social ills. They are standing up for themselves and society as whole.
Moreover, we are able to comment on things that we used to brush under the carpet before. We can see that there are a lot of social revolutions going on in Pakistan. Everyone is trying to find their identity by creating a valid space for themselves which is very important for a country like Pakistan with so much diversity. Our opinions have been suppressed for a long time but now social media is a great ally, which helps us to come forward and say things.