The flamboyant and endearing Hania Aamir has become a phenomena post her debut film, Janaan, in which she plays the role of the exuberant Palwasha.
Hareem Farooq calls her a "natural," while Osman Khalid Butt feels she’s been incredibly "lucky" – When I tell the starlet this during our meet, her face lights up with joy. And I agree with both, Hania has marked a niche for herself in the industry within a year and that’s what desperately drew me into speaking to her.
We decided to meet in the capital as she was visiting her family in Islamabad after a grueling shoot in Karachi.
Walks in Hania fashionably late at the café where we are due to meet, donning a plain choker, a fleecy grey tee which complemented the inclement weather of Islamabad expected on a February evening. She completed her look with a pair of ripped-jeans and bed-head hair. Her personality comes across as that of someone dinky and cute. She confessed she has a sweet tooth and placed her order as we sat down on a table. So begins our conversation.
"I feel good about what I’m doing, but I don’t think it’s hit me that way,” she says when we discuss the nature of fame. “People keep telling me I’m the new sensation, but it hasn’t changed me as a person. At times I think I don’t deserve it, I didn’t know I had it in me until I watched myself on television. But I’ve probably become more disciplined and particular."
And she has indeed become an overnight sensation. "I don’t think I am one," she quickly denies when I refer to her as a star.
"I still don’t know what I want to do. I’m just trying different things; in fact I’ve always wanted to work at McDonald's. So there are no huge plans, I just want to take it as it comes,” says Hania.
She adds, "All of us are here to work. I take it as my job and it shouldn’t get to my head or affect me. I always knew I wasn’t the kind of person who could work from 9am-5pm.
"However, when Imran (one of the co-producers of Janaan) made me act, I realised I had started enjoying the process, I felt like I could improvise and do better, and I never got tired – I would shoot all night and go to my university in the morning from the set."
Hania’s claim-to-fame before Janaan were her entertaining Dubsmash videos which she posted on her Instagram account, revealing that was her only experience of acting before shooting for her film.
"I hadn’t imagined when I was first approached. However, after we moved to Islamabad from Abbottabad, I was called for the screen-test and I was given the contract the very next day," she explains. "My mother was in disbelief, but it wasn’t until the first day at the shoot, when it got a little late and she was extremely worried and I guess it was just natural; we were never exposed to the media before this [smiles]."
I ask how she initially felt sharing space with more experienced actors such as Armeena Khan and Ali Rehman, who took acting as their profession compared to a debutante who fell into it, but she wasn't unnerved.
“I hardly get intimidated by anyone; I just do my own thing," says Hania while enjoying her waffles. "So I was friendlier with the production team then my co-stars. In my mind, I don’t care who’s a star or who's not."
“When we were shooting, all I thought of was how the lights-people kept standing all day and we sat down right after the director said 'cut.' It’s not fair, they’re working as hard or perhaps more, but that’s how it is," she says while stating that discrimination in workplace occurs in every walk of life and isn’t limited to showbiz.
“When you’re new, you don’t know the politics and the ugly faces of the people you work with, so you do everything very openly,” she says of shooting for her debut film.
"We live in a very hypocritical environment. When you start off, people literally hate you, but when you become something, the same people are inviting you over for tea," says the starlet.
But she quite enjoyed her time of being raw and vulnerable as a first-timer. "Osman (writer) and Azfar (director) had a strong role in making me believe I was Palwasha. I remember going to Osman’s place daily and we used to rehearse extensively, he’s a very strict teacher, but I think that’s something that will stay with me forever."
On the topic of women's objectification in the entertainment industry, Hania agrees that that was her mother's initial concern, however, she says she won’t let anyone dampen her spirit.
"We live in a very hypocritical environment. When you start out, people literally hate you, but when you become something, the same people are inviting you over for tea. But, I just feel it’s all a part of it and we need to decide what kind of lives we lead. I am my own person and I don’t let negative vibes get to me. I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve become very calm."
She also points out the growing intolerance in our society and finds it important to be well-grounded. "I was away from home for six month shooting in Karachi and at one of the sets, my co-stars were screaming and I felt like I was slowly becoming like them. I became frustrated and it all got to me," she says when she initially started. "There was this one time when somebody was repeatedly calling me and I screamed at them, but later I apologized to the director, because I’m not that person who would make unreasonable demands."
"People talk behind each others' backs and I’ve started feeling very conscious. Some people criticise because they want to see you do well, whereas others are just having fun," she continues describing the harrowing face of what people mistake for glitz and glamour. "In fact, what really shocked me was that it’s not only limited to contemporary actors, but even the veterans. They forget that they’re humans and have a starry attitude which came to me as a surprise."
On a much lighter note, I ask the budding actress about her thoughts on debuting on television with Titli and that too as an unlikable and judgmental woman.
"Television is very time consuming, but if the content is good I wouldn’t want to limit myself. I like to do films, but I feel I can reach a lot more people with TV. I want to do roles that people understand and I connect with. I am not scared of doing what I want to do," she claims while sipping on fresh-orange juice we both ordered after devouring our scrumptious desserts.
Not only has she shot for two serials, but has also bagged a leading role in the highly anticipated Parwaaz Hai Junoon – a MD Productions and Pakistani Air Force joint-venture co-starring Hamza Ali Abbasi and seasoned actor Asif Raza Mir’s son, Ahad Raza Mir.
Hania was a 'little upset' when she came to know that Osman Khalid Butt was no longer a part of Parwaaz Hai Junoon.
While she seemed overjoyed about the film, she gave me a coy smile when I asked her whether she’s replaced Mahira Khan for the role or not. She expresses her love for the Raees actress and adds that she had a "fan-girl moment" when she first saw her at the Hum Style Awards 2016.
"After Janaan premiered in Karachi, I received a call from Haseeb Hasan (director) the very next day and he asked if I was interested and I just couldn’t believe it – it was too good to be true,” she chuckles.
“Nevertheless, I think I’ve become a lot more confident about my acting abilities and I feel I’ve polished my skills after having done television. And I’m just very excited to resume shooting,” Hania adds with a hint of pride and fulfillment.
“I was a little upset initially,” she acknowledges when she came to know Osman Khalid Butt was no longer a part of the movie since the shoot clashed with his film, Balu Mahi’s promotional schedule. “However, after I met Ahad, we just clicked and I think he’s amazing to work with and we share such great off-screen camaraderie."
While the first spell is done and dusted, the Pyarey Afzal actor has yet to begin shooting for the upcoming film.
"I’ve met and interacted with Hamza, however, we still have to begin shooting with him. Everybody I meet asks me what sort of a person he is since he’s always in the news," she laughs. "But all I know is that he’s really cool, we haven’t discussed politics but I know he’s very enthusiastic about his views and even though he’s such a huge star, it doesn’t feel that way when you speak to him."
While the film mainly narrates the journey of a bunch of cadets, according to Hania the film will awaken the inner-patriot in all the viewers.
"I remember watching a documentary on all that the Air Force does during our shoot and it literally brought tears to my eyes. I feel they’re the true unsung heroes of Pakistan. And with Parwaaz Hai Junoon, you can expect a lot of nationalism,” the starlet discloses.
Spinning some beans about her role in the film, she says, "I essay a very strong woman. She is a go-getter, knows her priorities, and is confident, funny and very clear about her goals and what she wants. In fact, she’s a lot like Palwasha, just a more mature version [of her] I’d say."
On an parting note, we’re interrupted by Hania’s younger sister who apparently planned a pre-birthday celebration for her since she won’t be in town to celebrate; it’s a pity to know that the surprise didn’t remain a surprise after all. "She doesn’t know how to lie," Hania explains.
"I still don’t know what I want to do. I’m just trying different things; in fact I’ve always wanted to work at McDonald's. So there are no huge plans, I just want to take it as it comes,” concludes the starlet.
Here’s hoping that this emerging star goes on to win accolades and is cherished not only for her alluring personality, but for her brains and immense talent.