Juggan Kazim has been a household name in Pakistan for a few years and much of it has to do with her morning show. Being a morning show host allows her to connect with people beyond acting, modelling, writing and producing, which are just some of the other things she dabbles in. A working mother, who is devoted to her two young sons, she confesses that her children are and always be the most important part of her life; to compromise their well being over the pursuit of a career, for her, was never an option. Juggan has been through various ‘lows’ in her life, all of which she has been very open about. But she has managed to put bad times behind her, in fact she is thankful for every experience life has handed her. She says every experience defines who she is. It also influences the choices she is making in her career.
While she continues with her morning show, Juggan keeps updating her own YouTube channel and putting out content she thinks isn’t ‘fit’ for television. The YouTube channel, she says, is a passion project; it’s something she does to say what she can’t say on TV, to have voice. She is currently working on a digital film for YouTube; it’s called Khirki, which Fahad Nur is writing and directing and in which she’ll appear with Omair Rana and Shahzain Ali.
"On digital you can be more expressive and open about sentiments and one can reach a different audience with it," she says.
Juggan elaborates that Khirki is the story of a household, where a man uses violence, of a mother who – despite the fear of losing her life – is constantly defying the rules set for her family and of a child who is burdened to be a savior of the family, as well as being the cause of violence in the house.
"It’s about violence – how we tend to intimidate and bully our children. Social issues that begin at home, between the father and mother, father and child and how children carry on the effects of those relationships into their lives. It is about how important it is to maintain pleasant relations at home."
One senses an autobiographical strain in the story; Juggan has previously spoken about the violence she suffered in her first marriage. "I didn’t write the story but I was interested in being part of this film because I’ve been in a similar solution, yes," she agreed. "It does ring true and it does touch a nerve in my heart. I haven’t used any makeup in the entire film; it’s that close to reality. But Khirki has been made more from the child’s perspective than a parent’s."
Juggan is also working on a film with Shahzad Nawaz (of Botal Gali and Chambeli fame) in the lead, where her role is of a successful media personality. "She’s strong, independent and knows her mind," is all she can reveal about the film or her character. But yet another film that’s an exciting first for Pakistan and has already been shot is Altered Skin, featuring Juggan in the lead. Adnan Ahmed has written and directed Altered Skin, which features Robin Dunne, Juggan Kazim and Salman Shahid.
"While caring for his ailing wife, an American engineer in Pakistan stumbles upon a deadly pharmaceutical conspiracy. The film is about how drug companies abuse the power they have and such content has not been explored here before," she says. The film was borne from Sedare, a short film made in 2012 that did well on the festival circuit and gave the director the platform to make Altered Skin.
She has taken a very socially responsible role in Khirki and Altered Skin but Juggan actually ventured into mainstream cinema several years ago. Khamosh Raho (2011) opposite Shaan, however, is work she’s rather not be reminded of. "It was awful," she says.
"I’m now trying to do work that means something to me," she adds. "For example, I’ve lost so many people to cancer and refuse to believe that there is no cure. We’re just victims to pharmaceutical companies and that’s what Altered Skin is about. Shahzad’s film is about relationships."
Does that mean she wouldn’t consider mainstream, commercial films if the opportunity came along?
"Of course I’d like to get into mainstream commercial films too, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t," she says, as always razor sharp honest in her response. "I like to act, dance, sing and laugh. But I need a story that gives me a role. I am an actor; I want to act."
The most refreshing thing about Juggan is her honesty; she has never whitewashed a situation or experience to make herself look good. She opened a clothing brand three years ago but it was shut down last year. She candidly admits, "I had given my name to the company but had no control over the quality. If we made a profit on it, the quality would suffer and if we made better quality, we’d go into losses. Opening a fast fashion model like that only makes sense if one has their own mill but outsourcing it did not make business sense."
Having made several wrong choices in her life and career, Juggan has now settled down both personally and professionally. She’s in a happy place, admitting that all her experiences have helped shape the person she is today. While her family is the core of her personal life, she admits what she truly enjoys, professionally, is acting, hosting and writing and will continue to keep exploring these avenues.
"Oh, I’m also opening a restaurant called Shitake this month, so I’m very busy. I’m happy," she concludes in classic Juggan-Mad Hatter mode.
-Photography by DeeVees