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‘I never sign a film just to be in it’ April 27, 2008

Posted by lollywoodhungama in Uncategorized.
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Mehr Hasan’s repertoire of acting roles includes a whole lot of Shakespeare’s leading ladies in theatrical performances that were part of her education in Film Acting at the University of Louisville. City Times caught up with her for an exclusive interview

 

MEHR HASAN was featured in South Indian cinema, opposite the likes of superstar Madhavan and, more recently, in some award-winning movies made by New-York-based Indian filmmakers.

Lollywood’s Samina Peerzada also happened to see one of her performances in America. This was in the year 2002. Fresh-from-the-success-of-her-Meera-Resham-starrer-Inteha, Samina was looking for a young, educated actress who also possessed a certain polish, to do her next, and Mehr seemed to fit the bill —literally. It was to be a dream-combo that would give the creatively impoverished Lahore-based film industry a kiss of life. Only it turned out to be much-ado-about-nothing. Their film together —a badly made comedy, titled Shararat, bit the dust at the box office. Hugely disappointed (with the workings of the Lollywoodwallahs), Mehr returned to US. She needed to redeem her starry status (as well as her self esteem) and found an outlet in a classical dance-based music video with well-renowned Lollywood choreographer-turned-singer Khanu Samrat who had earlier helped Mehr fine-tune her Kathak training. Together, the ustaad-protégé duo created magic with ‘Piya nain mila’, a video shot at the exotic Sheesh Mahal in Lahore’s Walled City. The popular feedback, says the US-based Pakistani artist, was so overwhelming that she ended up doing two more videos with Khanu. Today, the videos are part of an entire music album, catchily titled The Dance of Courtship. Mehr was recently in Mumbai to launch the album, and claimed big-time media spotlight.

Why does an artist like you, who has a degree in Acting from a US university and is also a trained classical dancer, not have more films in hand?

My artistic experience has not been linear. I didn’t finish one form or training then start another. While I was acquiring my degree in Shakespearean theatre, I would travel to Chennai in holidays and do film work. My training in various forms of dance started from a young age and continues till date. I have never limited myself to film work alone. There is a difference in my opinion between being a complete well-rounded artist versus being “a film heroine” alone. I would always choose the former over the latter.

But still given your multi-faceted training, films would seem to be the ultimate goal.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the film work that I have done. But I have equally enjoyed the work I have done on stage as an actor or as a classical dancer. Each medium provides a particular type of creative satisfaction. There is no high like performing live in front of an audience that gives you instant appreciation. Like wise one cannot compare the luxury of a retake in film or seeing oneself on the silver screen with any other feeling. Each feeling has its own worth and its own beauty.

Why did you choose not to enter mainstream Bollywood?

See, it’s not that I didn’t choose Bollywood but rather I would hate to be pigeonholed into just one film industry.  I have been very fortunate in that I have worked in Chennai, Mumbai, Pakistan and Hollywood.  I have had the opportunity to do leading work in Tamil (a language I do not even speak!), Hindi, Urdu and English.

They say a heroine’s shelf life is relatively short. What is your take on that?

It depends on the roles one chooses. If a female who is 50 is trying to squeeze herself into a 16 year old’s shoes, well, then, good luck! One has to adapt with age to what character would be most complimentary.  In my eyes Shabana Azmi is still very much a “heroine”. It is true that generally speaking the roles written in the sub-continent for heroines tend to be young ingénues. This is something that has started to change in Hollywood where characters are more realism based rather than fantasy driven. Hopefully the sub-continent will start to follow suit at some point.

What does it take, according to you, to be in a Hollywood film?

Every industry has the same basic requirements. One should have command over the character one is to portray, have the energy, discipline and focus needed to essay the role and be technically aware of the genre and style the film is going to be shot in. Those rules do not change.

Why are you not acting on TV?

Television is a medium that I respect but for now I have my hands full. Between film work, dance training, production, direction and stage performances I really do not have the capacity to take on one more medium at this time and do its requirements justice. Perhaps down the line!

What about production and direction?

I have a production company called Little Maid Films, which has produced two award-winning music videos along with my dance partner Khannu Samrat.

What movies do you feel have done justice to your talent?

If I did three or four films because they had author backed “heroine oriented” roles, I also did films because they might have a genre of dance I hadn’t done before and wanted to experience or because the film was a comedy or an art-house film etc. I never sign a film just to “be in a film”. That’s a waste of time, energy and the producer’s money.

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