Srha Asgr’s five year acting career may have navigated through mostly supporting roles but with her latest, she’s proving that she has the mettle to take on much more
There’s no denying the abundant pool of actors Pakistan’s entertainment industry is blessed with. Every drama serial introduces at least one new face that proceeds to potential stardom. One such new, or at least relatively new face, rising to prominence on TV these days, is Srha Asgr. Currently on air as rape survivor as well as a woman suffering a crippling patriarchy in her lower middle class household in drama serial Akhir Kab Tak, Srha has previously performed to distinction in the very popular Pyar Ke Sadqay and Mehreen Jabbar’s web series, Ek Jhooti Love Story. Her five year career may have navigated through mostly supporting roles but with Akhir Kab Tak, she’s proving that she has the mettle to take on much more.
One of the thousands of people to have caught the fourth wave of Covid in Karachi, Srha ensures she is well in the clear before agreeing to meet up; her symptoms were mild, she says, basically because she was vaccinated. She sits down with a beaming smile and a public service message, urging everyone to realise the importance of taking vaccinations seriously.
She’s very young and yet Srha has a maturity that one usually associates with age and experience. Life has delivered her some serious knocks, she shares. With her father passing away when she was just 3 months old, she was raised as the youngest of five siblings. One of her elder brothers was killed in 2012; he was serving in the US Army in Afghanistan. As the youngest, she was somewhat over-protected but no one could save her from the betrayals she suffered at the hands of so called friends. They come up as she explains how she taps into emotions for her characters.
“I’ve been very unlucky with friends, which is why I don’t make friends anymore.”
When she talks about Fajar, her character in Akhir Kab Tak, Srha explains how she just dipped into the mistrust she has for everyone. But that wasn’t all. Srha worked hard for the role; she was advised to watch Freud and The Alienist as references; she was asked to read and understand her character in context of the entire story. “It got very dark,” she smiles, but I was committed. I’ve always had a passion for acting, which is why I also studied filmmaking. It’s a craze in me.”
That craze has brought her work, but since her first significant drama serial in 2016, she’s landed only supporting roles; Akhir Kab Tak is the first drama in which she has a central character. She played Faysal Qureshi’s sister in Waada (2016) and then Bilal Abbas Khan’s younger sister in both Pyar Ke Sadqay and Ek Jhooti Love Story. It’s odd, because when you look at her, Srha has all the qualities that are considered heroine material. Why then, do we see her in all these sisterly avatars instead of leading lady?
“I can only stop doing sister roles if they stop giving me those kind of roles!” she laughs. “I don’t know when that will happen but if I maintain a positive approach, it will happen. I believe there’s a time for everything. I feel I wouldn’t, maybe, have been able to do Fajar before I was married. I channeled small moments and gestures I had internalized and then let them out. I then go with the flow.”
Despite its strong storyline and unconventional characters, essayed by a star cast that includes Adeel Hussain, Ushna Shah and Haroon Shahid, Akhir Kab Tak isn’t getting the kind of attention it deserves. The story revolves around two sisters, Noor (confident, go-getter) and Fajar (under-confident and perpetually nervous) who are oppressed at home. They suffer their father’s unfair dominance, mother’s submissiveness and male cousin’s sexual harassment. Fajar, nervous to a fault, is raped by her tutor at the tuition centre she attends and worse, she is drawn into the trap by her only friend. Unable to cope with this issue, her mother brushes the issue under the rug and marries her off to the first suitor. Fajar’s father suffers a stroke and bed-ridden, is unable to run the business and so Noor steps in and takes charge. While Akhir Kab Tak began on a typical note, it gets increasingly intriguing as the story progresses.
Why then isn’t it doing so well in terms of viewership?
“The audience doesn’t want to relate to reality on TV,” Srha explains. “They want to be entertained. Akhir Kab Tak is for a slightly more mature audience. So much harassment does happen in universities and colleges; people have been messaging me so they are relating to it. But it’s not your everyday drama.
“I love Ushna’s character, Noor,” Srha adds. “She’s bad-ass. And Ushna has done it in such a measured way; she doesn’t go over the top.”
Srha doesn’t go over the top either, which is what makes her so interesting. In this day and age of overexposure, she keeps to herself and commits to her work. She has a love for dance, which is why she teamed up with her friend Rabya to create Dancography, their YouTube channel. Item song dances are not her cup of tea though, she says. She wants to steer clear of vulgarity and sensationalism of any sort. That doesn’t necessarily mean she only wants to play it safe. One of the drama serials she performed in, Chakrees was both risqué and offbeat.
“Chakrees was odd and fun,” Srha says, revealing that they are now thinking of making Chakrees 2. Other than that, she has completed Gumm with Sarmad Khoosat and will feature as one of the five girls in Bee Gul’s Working Women, which is being directed by Yasra Rizvi.
“I hope to get good projects now,” she concludes. “In two years I would like to see myself doing good work and working with good directors.”