I didn't think of it as an 'Indian' film, says Madiha Imam of her Bollywood debut

I didn't think of it as an 'Indian' film, says Madiha Imam of her Bollywood debut

All set to star in Mehreen Jabbar’s upcoming Eid telefilm, the VJ turned actress gets candid about her film debut & more
15 Jun, 2017

Madiha Imam’s Bollywood debut is out and she is ecstatic to say the least.

VJ-turned-actress, Madiha Imam bagged a leading role in veteran actress, Monisha Koirala’s comeback film across the border, Dear Maya which is helmed by first-time director, Sunaina Bhatnagar, only after a handful of acting assignments on local television.

All set to star in Mehreen Jabbar’s upcoming Eid telefilm, Madiha speaks to Images from the sets about her film debut and more. Excerpts follow:

Images: Unlike other Pakistani actors’ debut across the border, we weren’t aware of yours until Dear Maya’s trailer came out. Why did you choose to keep it so low-key?

Madiha Imam: A lot of people have been asking me that. I think I’ve never really been very vocal about my projects. Whenever an offer comes my way and I feel I can comfortably perform and would creatively enjoy the process, I take it up. Be it a music channel or an acting assignment, as long as I get to explore myself, I take it up. That’s how I took this offer as well.

I never took it as an ‘Indian’ film. I calculated what good it would do for me and I simply said yes. It’s funny now that I think of it because I understand the need of spreading the news, but I guess I didn’t really feel the need to tell the world when it was in the process of becoming. However, I wasn’t really hiding it either; my colleagues from Pakistan knew I had shot for a film across the border last year.

Images: Your film released at a time when political relations between the two countries are unstable and that has adversely affected the film industry. Do you believe in the trade of talent?

MI: I am aware of what is happening and I feel it’s my social responsibility to closely look into the kind of project I sign. I have to keep certain aspects into consideration and I need to know that my country will always come first.

I did want to be a part of the promotions, in fact I did whatever little I could do here, but I couldn’t go all the way to India and understandably so.

Dear Maya marks Madiha Imam's Bollywood debut
Dear Maya marks Madiha Imam's Bollywood debut

On the whole, I do believe that talent has no boundaries. It is, indeed, true that we live in a world which functions in a certain way and there are things that one cannot control, but what I can assure is that I do my work with dignity, respect and make my own people proud, and while also creatively better my craft. One does always opt for better options, but I guess we all do have limitations and we should.

Images: Tell us a bit about how the film was offered to you and what is it that made you take it up?

MI: Well, basically my director, Sunaina had previously assisted Imtiaz Ali and was looking for a young girl to play the protagonist in her first directorial. While searching for the right fit, she actually went through MTV India’s website because VJs are very comfortable on-camera; they’re young, confident and very spontaneous.

That’s where she saw a video of mine and it wasn’t until she has seen the entire thing that she got to know it was from MTV Pakistan instead. After that, she basically started tracing me down and called me towards the end of 2015 for the film.

At first, I thought of it as a prank call because I had always wanted to do a Disney tale and Dear Maya sounded the closest to that.

I just had to take it up. I was comfortable and the narrative was of a project I had always dreamt of. I feel I’m an extremist – either I look for fantasy, or realism and Dear Maya offered me both. It had a world of its own and I absolutely loved working on it.

Images: Dear Maya also marks yesteryear actress, Monisha Koirala’s return to the cinemas. Tell us a bit about your experience working with her and what do you think you’ve learnt from her as an actress?

MI: Well I didn’t get a chance to shoot extensively with her, but she is an amazing actress. She’s very involved in her work and since she’s also fought cancer, she’s a very brave woman, who brought so much optimism with her presence on-set.

She’s not very talkative. She likes to be in her own zone and I would just carefully observe her. It was slightly difficult to bounce off her incredible acting prowess while sharing the screen with her, but I tried to make sense and she told me that she liked my performance.

Monisha Koirala returns to the big screen with Dear Maya —Screen grab from trailer
Monisha Koirala returns to the big screen with Dear Maya —Screen grab from trailer

I can’t specify any one thing I feel I’ve learnt from her, but the experience of shooting with her on the whole has taught me a lot. She takes her work very seriously and I think once you do that, people can’t just take you for a ride either. Her dedication will always stay with me.

Images: How do you think the release of your film has changed your own self and the way people look at you, particularly from within the industry?

MI: I don’t expect a lot once I’m working on a project. I thoroughly enjoy the process when I get to work with good a good team and on a strong script; I feel that’s what makes me give my absolute best. I was overwhelmed by the response in Pakistan, even from India for that matter of fact.

I never realized how huge a platform Bollywood is until the trailer came out and I came across such humbling articles and social media pages. I also received a lot of messages and calls from my seniors and contemporaries here in Pakistan only and I think that’s all you want, your co-workers to appreciate your work.

I believe since it’s not a typical Bollywood masala flick, it drove more attention anyway. Now that the film is out, I feel different as an actor only. I think I’ve started taking my work more seriously and I aspire to do even better.

Images: Do you think you’ve been getting more offers with better monitory, now that you’re also an export to India?

MI: We all know Bollywood is a bigger platform. And I feel it’s not only about working there, even in Pakistan if you’re a part of a mega-project, you obviously get better offers. It’s work for me and I take it very positively. I am getting great offers, but I was even before people knew I am doing a film there.

It might have slightly changed, but I don’t think experienced a lot of that. Everyone I know is appreciating my work and I am truly grateful for that. So I’d say it’s all still the same for me.

Images: Do you think you had the baggage of being a true ambassador to Pakistan and its talent on your shoulders? Tell us how it was being on the sets shooting.

MI: I wasn’t worried about that at all. Dear Maya was a challenge for me on various levels, but definitely not that. I belong to an Urdu-speaking family, so I had to make a conscious effort to doing like a 14-year old Indian girl from Simla. I had a dialect coach and our casting director would always be there helping me out.

Also, I had to play Anna as a 14-year in the first half of the film, but post interval, I am supposed to be 20 in the film. The transition needed to look smooth yet drastic, so I did have to work on that.

Imam on the sets of Dear Maya
Imam on the sets of Dear Maya

Lastly, I had to learn cycling. I did not have much time to practice and it was hilarious how I would ask people to push me and I would paddle after that since I am actually alien to the concept of cycling. Nonetheless, I wasn’t worried about the film. You need to know what kind of a film you’re taking up, but once you’ve signed it, you can’t really think of that.

Images: Are more offers from across the border coming your way?

MI: Yes, people are approaching me. Producers have been offering me films even when I was in India shooting. But, like I said earlier, there are certain things I can and cannot do. There are certain aspects of a project that I need to look into before making any decision as an actor. At this point in time, I also don’t want to bother the team that I work with in India, myself, my country and my people. When circumstances aren’t really favorable, you have to figure a way out and for now, I can’t seem to find a solution.

Images: Lastly, what’s next for Madiha Imam – are you focusing on television assignments or we’ll see you on the local celluloid anytime soon?

MI: I have been offered a number of films in Pakistan as well, but I’ll only take up the one where I know I could do it with all my heart and give it my absolute fullest. For now, I’m focusing on two TV projects. I want less, yet quality work. I want to work-hard and collaborate with teams that I resonate with and who understand the work I want to do.


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Akil Akhtar Jun 15, 2017 08:54am
Obviously you did not .....who cares about Pakistan and its respect as long as I can make money...
irfan shamim farooqui Jun 15, 2017 09:13am
But movie is flop
Kulbhushan Yadav Jun 15, 2017 09:42am
Well in that case she is incapable of thinking.
Harris Azhar Jun 15, 2017 09:49am
My best wishes for Madiha Imam for her debut film. May she conquer the hearts and always progress in her career.
Ajay Jun 15, 2017 11:16am
Just amazing to see Pakistanis fascination with Bollywood!! With virtual ban on them...still they are ready to work!
P.R.Koduri Jun 15, 2017 11:29am
Great Write-up.
hussain akhtar Jun 15, 2017 12:00pm
@ Ajay : That's because how much ever the politicians on either side want to, we are the same people by culture, by blood and by DNA which cannot simply be wished away. The common man on the street on either side just wants peace. He is more bothered about his rozi-roti. When will our politicians ever learn?
Alanore Jun 15, 2017 12:37pm
Madiha Imam is also a British national so she can continue working in Inda, Saba Qamar and Mahira Khan cant inspite of give block buster hits in India.
Suresh Handa Jun 15, 2017 12:42pm
@hussain akhtar well said akhtar..... let us not fall into politics and do our work.
muhammad idrees khan Jun 15, 2017 01:10pm
Why to waste her talent in the big Indian industry. She should learn from her seniors, who went there for shurat (fame) and money and then fell flat. No one now likes them in Pakistan. She was a good actor of Pakistan TV dramas. Alas!
Jawad Pakistani Jun 15, 2017 01:19pm
Soon Bollywood would be full with Pakistanis because Pakistanis are beautiful people and know Urdu.
Kiran Jun 15, 2017 01:24pm
@Akil Akhtar how can acting in India be equal to disrespecting Pakistan?
Kiran Jun 15, 2017 01:24pm
How can acting in Indian movies be equal to disrespecting Pakistan?
Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Jun 15, 2017 02:53pm
What else can she say?
CHARU Jun 15, 2017 03:16pm
Best Wishes from all of us in India ....!! We are eagerly waiting for Pak TV Serial to start again. ..!!
Shailesh Jun 15, 2017 03:26pm
Loved Hindi Medium. Looking forward to seeing this too.
Asad Jun 15, 2017 04:02pm
@Akil Akhtar Why should she care about Pakistan? What has Pakistan done for her? Give her 20 million rupees for a movie and she won't go to India simple. I am sure if anyone got an opportunity of a better lifestyle they would take it. Has nothing to do with nationality.
BABU Jun 15, 2017 04:16pm
rr Jun 15, 2017 05:42pm
She is right. Manisha Koirala is from Nepal. Plus a good part of Bollywood loves Pakistan more than India.
Akil Akhtar Jun 15, 2017 06:15pm
@Asad Everything she is today is because of Pakistan....what has she given to Pakistan....sad to see our lack of any national pride.
venkob Jun 15, 2017 07:24pm
@Jawad Pakistani just remember the roots
gullu Badsha Jun 15, 2017 08:32pm
Then what did you think it as Madiha Imam. You must have thought that you were working for a charity organisation, is it not.
Bilal Ahmed Jun 15, 2017 08:35pm
Nice play on words. Seems like she thinks it is a pakistani film
kaly Jun 15, 2017 09:04pm
@hussain akhtar - Correct
Ravi Jun 15, 2017 09:32pm
As long as she is beautiful we, Indians should not mind from where she is. Bollywood must welcome beauties from all over the world. On a serious note I don't want Pakistani male actors in Bollywood, but stunning female actors are most welcome.
Vinod Narang Jun 15, 2017 09:56pm
Why is that everything has to be looked at it as Indian or Pakistani. When are we going to get out of this rut. If some one has gotten a chance to show their talent in a movie support them, do not make sarcastic comments about them. What is she had acted in a Hollywood movie would the haters still make the same comments. Come on grow up haters this is 21st century and women are free to choose the profession of their liking
Omar Jun 16, 2017 12:11am
Selling their soul, principles and nation to act in a neighboring countries movie industry. Grow some self respect.
Kiaan Jun 16, 2017 12:36am
It is an 'Indian film' no matter how you try to spin it.
Kiaan Jun 16, 2017 12:39am
@Jawad Pakistani Really !! Which world are you living in? If that is the case why doesn't Pakistan has an industry as prolific as Indian one ?
Vijay B. Jun 16, 2017 01:48am
Madiha Imam comes across as a very sweet, smart, talented, intelligent, and worldly young lady. Ever so lovely and ever so lovable. Who cares whether she is from India or Pakistan? And why should it matter anyway? I wish her success in all her endeavors.
Awaz... Jun 16, 2017 04:11am
Madiha Imam Who?
Malamal Jun 16, 2017 04:12am
@ Ajay money talks !!!
Albela Jun 16, 2017 04:51am
Why go to India?China is the best friend,go and act in China instead.
Humza Jun 16, 2017 06:25am
@hussain akhtar You are mistaken. Yes there are similarities but there are also differences. Most of India apart from the North has little in common with Pakistan. Most Pakistanis are deeply offended when you try to wash away any difference, especially people in KPK and Baluchistan or Northern Areas would rather leave than be told that they are part of the same DNA and culture. Such comments will antagonize half of Pakistan. Just because you want to watch an Indian movie, don't spread gossip that it's all the same. A lot of Pakistanis do not watch Indian movies because we can't relate to it.
Uday Kulkarni Jun 16, 2017 07:19am
@rr How much is that good part of Bollywood that loves Pakistan more than India ? 10 % ? 15 % ? 50 % ? One can safely say that more than 95% of people working in Bollywood are Indians. And you say that a good part of it loves Pakistan more than India ? Are you serious ? I can understand or even agree with you if you say that a good part of Bollywood loves art and culture irrespective of which country it comes from. But Please come out of delusion and please allow me to state that whether it is Bollywood or Hollywood; whether it is Pakistani actor or Indian actor ; money is the only song or the tune to which majority of these actors dance to.
indian Jun 16, 2017 07:54am
sometimes I wonder if there is lack of talent in India.
deva Jun 16, 2017 09:06am
Talent cannot be tied in boundaries. All the best
rk Jun 16, 2017 09:26am
The actress says she did't look at it as an Indian movie. !! can someone pl explain what actually it means? Movie was shot in India, the lead actress is an Indian with Indian director and India set storyline... Is this some ind of pseudo arrogance or ignorance or just that Pakistani artists carry too much negative complex to say they were dying to be part of Bollywood movie ? Indian when act in Hollywood show no such reservations...
dheeraj INDIAN Jun 16, 2017 01:51pm
@hussain akhtar absolutely agree with you mr.akhtar. Let talent from PAK get a chance to flourish in India.
Om P.Gandhi Jun 17, 2017 01:04am
Dear People of South Asia: You are not so different from each other either ethnically or in your history or in food habits. Please encourage and expand such projects. so that all of us can live in peace and work on removing poverty.