Dominating television these days, VJ-turned-actress Maya Ali has made a mark in the entertainment industry with her strong performances and diverse roles, particularly those like her character in Diyar-e-Dil. She’s been around for a mere three years but she’s already garnered immense praise from viewers. The 26-year-old actress, who’s also Maria B’s muse these days, can be seen on TV, on billboards and she’s making a great impression all around.
Ali has worked with some of the most notable figures of the entertainment industry including Sanam Saeed, Ahsan Khan, Osman Khalid Butt, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Haseeb Hassan and Mehreen Jabbar. With popular drama serials like Durr-e-Shahwar, Shanakht, Zid, Diyar-e-Dil and now Mann Mayal under her belt, she has proven herself to be a valuable addition to the pool of modern day actresses.
Instep talked to the Lahore-based actress to find more about what makes her tick…
Instep: Television seems to be all about pretty faces these days. How much do you think looks matter to become popular as an actor?
Maya Ali: Looks do matter but only to some extent. What I have seen around me is that only those people qualify for acting who clear the auditions. I also gave an audition before making my big break; in fact, even now when I’m offered a role, I am supposed to give the audition first.
Instep: When Mann Mayal began we found Mannu to be a free-spirited girl, who had the guts to express herself in front of everyone, but as she got married she turned into a submissive woman who doesn’t have a voice. The two faces of Mannu don’t correlate; how do you justify the transition in her character?
MA: When I initially read the script I was happy to see that Mannu is a bold girl who has her say but as I read through it I noticed that the situation is changing for her. Initially, she did fight for herself but when she realized nobody is supporting her, she turned into someone everyone wanted her to be like. So, I believe this is part of life; one cannot learn to value of happiness unless they experience pain.
Instep: After the success of Diyar-e-Dil and the appreciation you received, do you think it was more challenging for you to meet viewers’ expectations in Mann Mayal?
MA: Definitely it was! I used to think that Farah was the most difficult character for me and so I thought it would be easier to play Mannu. But when I landed the role of Mannu, I realized I am playing four different characters at a time -with Salahuddin, with her husband, in-laws, family, etc. and much more that is still to come - and this was the most challenging part for me.
Instep: Do you think Mann Mayal has been able to live up to the hype and excitement it created way before it began?
MA: Of course! The feedback we have received is more than we expected. Now when I go somewhere, people know me more as Mannu and not Maya and I believe this is where you succeed when people know you for your character.
Instep: Who is a better co-star to work with; Osman Khalid Butt or Hamza Ali Abbasi?
MA: Tough question! Osman is a friend of mine so it was easier for me to gel with him on the sets. As for Hamza, I didn’t know him personally before this play but when we worked together I noticed he is a very down-to-earth person and makes sure you feel comfortable working with him. I enjoy working with both of them; in fact, I won’t mind working with the two of them together.
Instep: What is the responsibility of an artist on social and moral grounds? How much do you think an artist is responsible for breaking stereotypes and changing the way people think?
MA: I think an artist is highly responsible for that. On seeing Hamza’s statuses I used to wonder why he does that; he is an actor and he should focus on acting instead. But when I worked with him and learned more about his viewpoints, I started doing the same as well. Viewers don’t know ordinary people, they know us and if we are able to bring some positive change in society with our behaviour, we should definitely do that. Being an artist, I consider it my responsibility to defy stereotypes. I refuse to play roles that portray women as victims of some violence because I believe women aren’t that weak and they should be portrayed as strong, independent human beings.
Instep: Do you think the regressive portrayal of women on television endorses the idea of women as weak, dependent beings?
MA: Some time back I received some negative feedback on one of the strong characters I played on television because people are not used to seeing women that way and so they are unable to accept it. I fail to understand the concept of ratings; it is believed that if women cry on screen, it increases ratings. Particularly, I am against these morning shows that are dramas in themselves; I request them to stop showing these things. I think we should show what should be shown and not what will bring ratings. I am sure if we start making more progressive plays, it will change people’s perception of how they view things around them. People in Pakistan are praising Kapoor & Sons; I think we can make better dramas than this.
Instep: Have you been offered any film/s in Pakistan or from across the border?
MA: Yes, I am working on a Pakistani film and I will reveal the details shortly once things get finalized. I have been offered Indian films but I didn’t accept any of them because I don’t want to do anything that closes the doors for me in Pakistan. It is no longer difficult for us to get into Bollywood but I prefer quality over quantity; I would rather go for an A-class Pakistani film than do a C-class Bollywood film.
Instep: What do you think about the whole social media scene these days? How do you deal with it?
MA: Where social media has made it easier to find out about each and everything that’s happening around, it has also given way to more complications for us. Social media is invading our privacy; questions like where we go, what we eat, whom we hang out with are no longer personal for us. We don’t have a personal life anymore; we are scared of doing anything since there is a lot of pressure on us now. I am very active on social media and consider it to be an effective tool to connect with fans, get their feedback and promote our work but when people get into unnecessary arguments (particularly the ones targeted at religion) below our posts, it spreads negativity all around.
Instep: Is there any other project/s that you are currently working on?
MA: Currently I am not working on any other project except my upcoming film. I’ll take a break from plays till I finish it; however, my TV play, Sanam, which was shot last year but couldn’t be aired for some reason, will be coming soon.