After debuting in Jami Mahmood's Moor, Sonya Hussyn is set to star in her second film Azaadi that puts the struggle for Kashmir on the big screen.
It tells the story of a man who sacrifices it all for the freedom of Kashmir and how his vision is carried forward by young people he inspires. Sonya stars as journalist Zara.
We find out more about her character and the film:
Images: Tell us about your character in Azaadi?
Sonya: My character Zara is a strong-willed British-Pakistani journalist. I think I instantly connected to her when I first read the script simply because of the way she’s been written. I feel in a time where we’re all sort of jumping onto this bandwagon of demanding better female representation and characterisation, there’s a lot of talking, but not a lot that is actually being done. Women are still being portrayed as eye-candy in films, they are still being objectified with no substance and that’s why I haven’t signed onto another film after Azaadi.
Zara is an inquisitive person, who evolves with the film and it’s about her journey of discovering what's behind a scenic Kashmir. I feel she’s somebody young girls can look up to and I’m proud because I have been able to do something that serves a purpose. At the end of the day, I’m always driven by what I have to offer in every project that comes to me and with Zara, I knew I didn’t have to think much before taking it up.
Images: Was it difficult to play Zara's character?
It was difficult to shoot the film, you’ll know when you watch the film that it takes a lot to make a film like Azaadi come to life. The character, like I said, was of a girl I instantly connected with. I think I understood where she was coming from, what was in her heart and how I could help translate that in front of the camera. It’s challenging in a way that I didn’t want to mess it up because of its pertinence, but it definitely wasn’t an alien space for me to get into.
Images: How was experience working with the Azaadi team, director, Moammar Rana ?
Sonya: Phenomenal! Azaadi is a labour of love, it’s been made with blood, sweat and tears quite literally. Our production team, crew, director, my co-actors and our brilliant cinematographer from Australia, Ben Jasper, I think each and every person on set was fully involved and committed to mounting a film that is honest with its narrative and execution.
Moammar, I feel, is a great actor and he’s given the film his all. He looks great and a pleasure to work with. I’m not comfortable working with stars who are not actors, but he’s someone who knows what’s important to him and that’s his craft.
Images: What is the most interesting thing about Azaadi that no one knows?
Sonya: With Azaadi, we’ve purposely not [left] a lot [to] theimagination since it’s such an important film to make and share with the audiences. I think we look beyond global politics and governmental policies, the suffering of Kashmiris is what is really not being addressed.
Freedom isn’t only limited to border disputes, but of thought and expression and above all, life. Azaadi, at its core, is a beautiful humane ode to Kashmir that’s been wrapped with impeccable romance, high-voltage action and drama, soulful music and pretty much everything that makes for an Eid watch.
Images: And is it true that Danish Taimoor was initially the main lead hero of this film...
Sonya: Yes, Danish had shot with us briefly when the film had just gone on floors, but he left soon after that because of differences with the team. I respect his decision entirely and I can’t blame any of the two parties. I know where Danish and the Azaadi production came from, and it was perhaps in the best of interests for both. Moammar fits the bill exceptionally well too and I’m glad he came on-board.
Images: Tell us about a memorable or funny incident on the Azaadi set.
Sonya: I always spend Ramadan with my family in Karachi. It’s one of those times of the year that I give to myself but I had to shoot Azaadi last year and it was freezing up-north. I think that’s something that will always stay with me.
Images: Why has the movie been in the pipeline for so long? What has it been like waiting for the release?
Sonya: Like I said earlier, Azaadi isn’t a very easy film to shoot. It has a number of integral supporting characters, all of which have really been well-defined and with proper backstories. We had to shoot up-north at really low temperatures, so we kept having really short shooting spells.
It has a lot of action also and we’re not as technically adept in Pakistan as we’d like to believe. Yes, I was constantly fluctuating between emotions of excitement and tiredness, but in a way, I’m glad that it’s coming out when the team is satisfied with the final product. We were in no hurry.
Images: What are your upcoming projects?
Sonya: I returned to TV last year with Aisi Hai Tanhai and I’ve received an overwhelming response. What really moved me was to see how well the audiences responded to a rather taboo subject of social media exploitation, but I hope that it’s changed our mindsets and how we view women that have seemingly been ‘disgraced’.
In that very pursuit, I’ve begun shooting for my next serial with Big Bang Productions. It stars Mohsin Abbas Haider and some very talented actors alongside myself. I can’t speak much about it at this stage, but it, again, highlights something that deeply affected me and the whole of Pakistan.
I’m blessed that being offered projects that are not only up my alley and give me room to perform, but actually help me become part of a revolution.