“Acting is not my bread and butter anymore.”

July 19, 2020

Model turned actor Tooba Siddiqui, who recently returned to the limelight with hit serial Dushman e Jaan, shares why we don’t see her onscreen more often.

One local drama that had audiences hooked to their TV screens lately, before coming to an end earlier this week, is Dushman e Jaan that featured Mohib Mirza, Madiha Imam and Tooba Siddiqui in prominent roles. A unique storyline, impressive performances and fast pace made it a must watch amidst an array of dramas television is offering these days. One major highlight of the project was the incredibly talented lead cast that included actors who do not appear in dramas very regularly.

Model turned actor Tooba Siddiqui is one of those actors who made a rare appearance on the small screen with Dushman e Jaan. She essayed a small but impactful role of a strong and independent working woman Ramsha, who is the sole breadwinner of the family. Though her character met a tragic end after the first few episodes, it left a very strong impression. Fans and viewers will now get to see her in upcoming drama serial Khuda Aur Mohabbat 3 that she is currently wrapping up in Karachi.

In this exclusive telephonic conversation with Instep, Tooba admits that one reason we rarely see her onscreen is the fact that acting is no longer her bread and butter and she is tired of cliché portrayals. “I do not want to do anything that doesn’t excite me anymore,” she asserted, adding that acting is what she loves doing and unless a role is convincing enough that she has fun reading it, she will not do it.

“The character and story matters a lot to me; I am sick and tired of crying women they present onscreen,” she continued. “I like to be challenged; I want to show society that there are other women than the ones we see on TV. This is the reason I loved Ramsha’s character in DJ; she was very headstrong. She got into a tragic end but I liked the character and I have been getting a lot of messages and praise from fans of DJ. The feedback endorses the idea that people are ready to see women in these strong roles.”

One reason why the Karachi-based actor does lesser work now is her personal engagements and the fact that she has to take care of her kids. Before she resumed shooting for Khuda Aur Mohabbat 3, Tooba had an amazing time during the lockdown, as she got to spend some quality family time and reflect on a lot of things.

Speaking about her role in the upcoming drama, Tooba shared that it is the complete opposite of what she played in Dushman e Jaan. “I enjoy doing such characters; it is a lot of fun and I like to challenge myself with different things. I hope viewers like it.”

Having started her modelling career in 2000s, Tooba was very active during the initial years both as a model and an actress, after which she took a break to get married almost nine years ago. She made a comeback with a song in Wrong No in 2015, followed by a small role in Mehreen Jabbar’s Dobara Phir Se and drama serials Iltija and Tumse Hi Taluq Hai in 2018.

The actress reflects that Dushman e Jaan was refreshing because Tumse Hi Taluq Hai that she last appeared in, featured her in a very typical role. “It is done to death; if I am not doing it, there are 20 other actors taking it up,” she maintained, adding that people who hold key positions in the industry have stereotyped women, unfortunately.

Tooba Siddiqui with costar Junaid Khan from the set of upcoming drama serial, Khuda Aur Mohabbat 3.

The 30-something actress also highlighted that now that she is in her 30s, she feels all of the actors who are her age do not get any kind of roles. They are also sitting at home with no roles or extremely banal and useless side roles. “There is no grey shade in the characters,” she pointed out. “There are so many women out there who can be overweight, have short hair, can be bankers, police officers or even in the army but we don’t show these things on TV. There are 25 plays running a week and 20 out of those have similar stories that revolve around second marriages, acid attacks, assault and other social issues.”

In fact, she shared that since Dushman e Jaan did not have a run-of-the-mill story, the channel had speculations on whether it would do well at all. It was shot almost two years ago but ended up in a box; due to Covid-19 and lack of content, the drama was aired and it worked well.

“I think our audiences are ready for different content, especially since Netflix has become a part of our lives,” Tooba observed. “When we compare what we watch on Netflix to our dramas, we realize what’s happening? Why are we lagging behind in terms of our stories? Where is our imagination? The reason we like Dirilis: Ertugrul is because it offers something different; a historical drama about Muslims that everybody could relate to. I’m a big fan myself, I loved it.”

Tooba went on to share that our concepts and stories have gone down the drain now. She reflected that in the 80s and 90s, our dramas portrayed women who were more progressive than the women they are showing on TV right now.

“Our film industry is not as big but we have our dramas that can help break stereotypes and change society’s perceptions if we make an effort,” she opined. “By saying that this is what the audience wants to see, we have been stuck in a rut. As a society, we consume news 24/7 and that is enough reality; when one comes back home at the end of the day, they want to watch fantasy dramas too. There are no thrillers, horror or action dramas in Pakistan. Our heroes are just romantic heroes, where are the boys who can do some action onscreen?”

On a parting note, Tooba stressed that we need to have a broader vision and decision makers in the business, who are only running after TRPs, need to sit down and work for change. There has to be some investment in terms of equipment as well as studios. She pointed out that PTV has so many studios that are being wasted and there should be a way to utilize those while the channel should also re run old dramas if nothing else.

Tooba Siddiqui shares why we don’t see her onscreen more often