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I know one word from me can make headlines: Mawra Hocane dishes on her journey to stardom

Mawra talks about work, celebrity endorsements, family and fame as she gears up to shoot JPNA2
Updated Nov 09, 2017 11:37am


Mawra Hocane is having a great year.

She kicked off 2017 with her sensational TV drama Sammi and as the year comes to a close, she's been named in the casts of two of the biggest projects hitting Pakistani screens — Nadeem Beyg's sequel to Jawani Phir Nahi Ani and Hum TV's all-star period drama Aangan.

In between all of this, she was snapped up as ambassador for big beauty brands such as Lux.

We ask Mawra all about what's going through her mind during this very exciting phase of her career.

Images: Tell us a little more about JPNA 2 and when you started talking about signing on to the film.

Mawra Hocane: These days, there's a lot of pressure to announce your projects, though I personally believe in not talking about them until I'm actually on the set. But people are talking about their projects so early, and one after the other, people find out, so you're kind of put in a situation to say yes. So that's the only reason I said yes to the publications asking me if I had joined JPNA 2.

Other than that, I don't really want to reveal too much about it.

But yeah, JPNA 2 is going to be a very exciting project. I feel at times, some things are just meant for you. I didn't realise that my starting off with films in Pakistan, it would be with a name as big as Nadeem Beyg. So it's exciting for me.

Images: What did you think of the first JPNA?

Mawra: I think the first JPNA was the film that made everybody realise that wait, Pakistani films can also make numbers. After JPNA, everything has done a lot of business, particularly Punjab Nahi Jaungi, which is the same team's latest.

Every time they come out with a film, they get better. And I'm glad I'm going to be in the fourth or fifth film they're making, because they'll be at their best. So I'm just gearing up for it on a personal level.

Fans are curious: Who will Mawra pair with in JPNA 2 — Humayun Saeed or Fahad Mustafa?
Fans are curious: Who will Mawra pair with in JPNA 2 — Humayun Saeed or Fahad Mustafa?

Images: Did you see a script before you signed or was it a case of just 'OMG! Great team, I'm going to sign it.'

Mawra: Basically, you need that OMG to actually sit in the first meeting. Over time, your character develops and Nadeem and I have had several meetings since then.

In the initial stages, we spoke about what we think my character could be like because the film was still in the writing stage. Nadeem is that director who further develops characters once he knows who's playing them. That is amazing.

I've seen this process with Urwa when [her PNJ character] Durdana was being created and I know that the first script is only like a structure of what the film will be like. After that, it's all developed with every actor who comes in.

So we're still in that process. Like, I'm having a meeting with Nadeem tomorrow about how my character will look, the hair and makeup. Because everything leaves an impact in Nadeem's films. I still can't get over Durdana's nails, you know? So Nadeem has that eye for little details.

Read on: Misogyny and sleaze — how JPNA heralds a 'naya' Pakistan

Images: One thing that people criticised in JPNA was that female characters were accessories to the male characters. But the team has also matured a bit with time like we saw in Punjab Nahi Jaungi. Do you see that here in JPNA 2? Is that going to be a problem? You probably wouldn't take on a role that is second to anyone else...

Mawra: I believe how a character eventually turns out is completely attributable to an actor. Even with a meaty role, if I am enacting it as an accessory, I will look like an accessory.

Not to say anything about how anybody has played any role, but as far as I'm concerned, I've always given my all to whatever character I've been given. I don't think anyone could have done Durdana better than Urwa, you know? So it's what you also give to the character.

I've appeared with Ahad Raza Mir who's my age, and also Adnan Siddiqui and Fahad Mustafa who are much older than me. Somehow people prefer that: a mature guy and a little girl. But I think now that's changing.

Images: Tell us about your TV drama Aangan. How will you manage the schedules of both?

Mawra: I'm a pro at managing multiple things. That's because I was in school when I started doing theatre. When I was working for TV, I was finishing my second year. I've been managing my LLB with my full-time career. So that doesn't scare me at all.

Both my teams know each other very well and will manage the dates and all.

What's worrying me is that my two characters are poles apart. My character in Aangan is also something I've never played before, it's very different. As you know, its a pre-Partition drama, it's not contemporary. We're still developing that character also. I'm reading everything I can possibly getting my hands on.

Images: The male actors in the first JPNA installment, they're all older than you. What is the dynamic like on set? How is it that we have so many young actresses acting opposite some very mature actors? What's missing — is it younger male actors who are missing or older female actors?

Mawra: I think now [the trend is] slowly changing. If you think of a Neetu Kapoor or Hema Malini, the day they get married, they give up their careers. Probably the trend has come from so many years ago, that women left their career earlier on. Now if you see a Deepika or a Kareena, they are working at 33 or 35 and even in our country, women are working for 12 to 15 years, nobody gives it up anymore.

In a way, it's women empowerment, that people now feel confident enough to manage their household and their careers. My sister was shooting six days after her wedding for PNJ and she didn't take any gap. So I think things are changing.

I've appeared with Ahad Raza Mir who's my age, and also Adnan Siddiqui and Fahad Mustafa who are much older than me. Somehow people prefer that: a mature guy and a little girl. But I think now that's changing.

And I don't think there's a lack of younger male actors. I feel some actors just pair better. I've appeared with Ahad Raza Mir who's my age, and also Adnan Siddiqui and Fahad Mustafa who are much older than me. Somehow people prefer that. I think people like that: a mature guy and a little girl. But I think now that's changing.

I appeared with Ahad and Bilal Khan in Sammi and I was not questioned. But when we were casting, my team asked me if I was sure I wanted to act with all the new boys? And I had to tell them, 'Listen, it's going to look very fresh.' Because I've been crying all over the place and I need some freshness and that can only come from my cast. So yeah, that was a decision on my end.

Mawra says that she's been paired with actors young and old, but audiences seem to prefer 'little girls' like her with 'mature guys' like Adnan Siddiqui
Mawra says that she's been paired with actors young and old, but audiences seem to prefer 'little girls' like her with 'mature guys' like Adnan Siddiqui

Images: You've been super vocal in past. Like, you took a stand against Shaan a couple of years ago on Twitter and everyone really admired that, because not many actors in our industry speak out. Are you still the same way? You don't seem to be as vocal as you were in the past, and I'm wondering why...

Mawra: When the Twitter spat happened, it happened between me and this other person. So I spoke. I don't find it necessary to give a sermon everyday, I don't think I should be speaking about everything that's happening in the world. Because that would be very stupid of me.

Whenever there's a situation, for myself or for others, I only want to speak positively because that's what we need. Nobody is speaking positively so at least I'm going to do that. It might be a very philosophical approach but, dude, we need that. We really need to calm down about each other, we need to work on ourselves. It's an inward journey. We need to focus on what we need to do.

I believe in not spreading hate or engaging in politics. Because I understand my responsibilities, I know what a tweet from me can do.

And I have not changed at all, I'm still the same but I believe in not spreading hate or engaging in politics. Because I understand my responsibilities, I know what a tweet from me can do. So many girls and boys are looking up to me and I have to conduct myself in a way that I don't disappoint too many people and I don't generate any kind of hate or propaganda for any reason. And I think we all should do that.

Images: Do you often feel afraid of disappointing people?

Mawra: I don't feel the pressure of it, but my purpose is to generally be a good person, which my mother has raised me to be. So I'm just trying to basically do my job, but not create too much of a frenzy for no reason.

That's why when you guys constantly ask me why I'm not talking about my next, it's because till I've signed a movie I'm not saying anything about it. I take my responsibility very seriously. I know that one word from me can make headlines.

Images: The industry is developed enough now that people within it have formed opinions about our actors and their range. Someone might say Mahira Khan is perfect for a certain type of role, or that Saba Qamar is good for another kind of role. How do you think the industry perceives you?

Mawra: I think that one thing that everyone would unanimously agree to is the fact that I'm very hardworking and I have no issues so that kind of works for me. Since I love my job, I don't have any reservations about what roles I'm playing or what anyone thinks of me as long as I'm getting work and a lot of it, I'm thankful.

Mawra on the sets of Sammi with director Saife Hassan
Mawra on the sets of Sammi with director Saife Hassan

I think the perception has recently changed because I'm growing in front of their eyes. Initially when I came in, I was a little girl who was quiet and nice and shy, so those were the characters I was getting. Slowly as I was growing up in front of them they were giving me characters of a girl who changed the world, who changed perceptions.

Independent women, of which I am one today, tend to intimidate men who are not secure or making the same money or famous. It's a difficult place for a girl to be.

Many use the words 'cute', 'sweet' and 'professional' for me. It feels nice to be thought of that way, although you have to work hard to be called that.

Images: After Sammi, you had a lot of big high profile, expensive endorsements like Lux. How important is financial security to you? And as you're becoming more successful and financially independent, what's changed in your life? How does it feel?

Mawra: It's very comforting when you hear someone say you're becoming successful, it tells you that you're on the right track.

Earlier this year Mawra starred in a high-profile Lux campaign with Mahira Khan and Maya Ali
Earlier this year Mawra starred in a high-profile Lux campaign with Mahira Khan and Maya Ali

I feel I am definitely financially independent but I'm still not made to think about what to do with my money. I'm still under my parent's shade. It's not like my parents say 'do whatever with your money.' I'm never given that liberty to do whatever yet. So that also kind of controls me and the person I am.

I don't think I'm someone who gets carried away with this industry or the money I'm making. But yeah, it makes you feel independent, it makes you feel secure. It also makes you feel capable that you're making money for your own talent. It makes you feel you have something in you which is yours and you're being paid for it.

If you ask me what I should say to the girls who are making money: I think it's as normal as a guy making money. In the times that we are living, I don't know any girl who doesn't work.

If you ask me what I should say to the girls who are making money: I think it's as normal as a guy making money. I don't know any girl who doesn't work. Girls in my friends circle who are not actresses are doing their masters and are working because they want to work. I feel the times have changed. Every girl, every guy is working. And it's not that odd for a woman to feel that they're making money.

Images: Are you dating anyone right now

Mawra: I told you I can't lie, so can I just not answer?

Images: I look at pictures of you and I think it's really cute that you're always with Urwa and Farhan.

Mawra: I've become the third wheel since Urwa and Farhan were married, or since our parents have spoken. And I don't mind, I'm pretty comfortable this way.

Images: What kind of people interest you? Romantically, I mean.

Mawra: I feel that secure people interest me, people who are very comfortable with who they are. I tend to not like men who are too full of themselves or narcissistic. I feel like it's the girl's part to be a narcissist, not the guy's. I like stability in a man, honesty and security about who you are and what you think of yourself.

Third wheeling like a pro!
Third wheeling like a pro!

And independent women, of which I am one today, tend to intimidate men who are not secure or making the same money or famous.

It's a difficult place for a girl to be. Although times are definitely changing, had I been in this position 10 years ago, things would have been really really different. I remember being 14 years old and me speaking out would be intimidating to boys.

But my vision has been a part of my upbringing so I've always been this person. Now I'm famous so you see me, but I have always lived like this.