Armeena Khan may have been selective about projects in her six-year career, but there's no doubt that she's one of the most followed actors on social media and has proven her mettle as an actor in serials like Bin Roye, Ishq Parast and Rasm-e-Duniya.
She returns to the silver screen after almost two years with Azfar Jafri’s Pakistan Air Force extravaganza, Sherdil. The film, which released on March 22, has been produced under the banner of NK Productions and stars Mikaal Zulfiqar, Hassan Niazi and Sabeeka Imam. Even though Khan doesn’t play a fighter pilot on reel, she felt being “in the proximity of the planes and hangars was good enough.”
In a telephonic conversation with Images all the way from her hometown London, Armeena opened up about Sherdil, addressed the rumours surrounding her absence from the film's promotions in Pakistan and more. Read on:
Images: Tell us about what made you sign on to Sherdil?
Armeena Khan: I’m an army brat! My father was in the forces, my entire maternal side of the family is in the military, it sort of runs in the blood. Even when I’d initially taken up Yalghaar, I only had two scenes. But I wanted to do it for the love of the country so much so that I didn’t charge them anything.
I also feel every other girl wants to be a pilot. I was no different. For a short period of my life, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I imagined being up there, soaring free. It was a cool dream, and so when Nomaan Khan approached me for an air force film, I was thrilled.
I knew it would be amazing and even though it wasn’t exactly a pilot’s role, I’d get to be near real pilots and see them in action. My role was quite pivotal and I had a hook, so I said yes. Pakistan Air Force is our pride and it’s great to be a part of something that represents them.
Images: Do you feel a film like Sherdil, which focuses on the Pak-India conflict, promoted war during an already volatile time?
Armeena: I have not seen the film, I finished my work and that was that. I can only talk about what I know, which is the script, and that in no way [encourages] division or conflict. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — it has theories, it discusses new ideas, there’s a commentary and dialogue between the two pilots [Pakistani, played by Mikaal and Indian, played by Hasan Niazi].
Without giving away too much, I felt the general gist of it was friendship, unity and that certain things are needed. It’s done logically and considering it’s an air force film, I found it very positive, provided it’s still kept in the final product.
Everything that’s happened recently is just coincidental, we were speaking among ourselves about how bizarre all of it is; we were astounded.
Images: You haven’t taken part in the promotions of the film. Many speculate that there is tension between you and the producers. How far is that true?
Armeena: There are things to be discussed. Right now, I am not commenting on the matter. I will let everyone know in due course.
Images: You’re also set to return to the TV screens this year. What has kept you away and what appealed to you about this very serial?
Armeena: I haven’t worked since Daldal (2017) because I'm only offered roles of women indulging in rona-dhona. I’ve said no to all of them, even though some of them very high-profile. As an actor, I’m very conscientious and I believe in the social responsibility I have. I have to be very mindful of the messages I project through my brand onto the viewers. Someone rightfully asked me on Twitter how I played a subjugated role in Daldal and yet speak of women’s rights. I thought about it, realised their point and thus haven’t worked in over a year.
I wanted to come back because I don’t want to give up on my voice and the script I’ve signed onto is fabulous. It features Zahid Ahmed and Sonya Hussyn alongside myself, and is being directed by Barkat Siddiqui and written by Abdul Khaliq Khan. It’s women-centric and I found it quite interesting when they narrated it to me; I was really excited. If I’m bringing something, it will be cool; you can associate that with me (laughs).
Images: You’ve also been active on social media lately more than ever. Speak a little about what you make of social media and what inspires your vocal, opinionated posts?
Armeena: Whenever I tweet something, it’s out of conviction, not for the likes or re-tweets. There are many products attached to what we do and you never know who’s associated with what I’m speaking against, so I feel it’s almost detrimental to my career when I make a statement. I’ve been accused of attention-seeking, looking for publicity, but that’s never my motive.
Not too long ago I was offered a skin-whitening campaign, which I rejected, and so I’ve driven by my principles and values. I’ve finally found myself because it’s also about discovering yourself as a person I know where I stand, I know what I’m about and that I have to lend my voice to the voiceless.
Images: Lastly, what other projects have kept you busy and what do you have in story next?
Armeena: I had signed an Indian-Punjabi film last month and I was due to fly out the week after the Pulwama attacks happened. What happened next was history. I had been prepping since November for that, so it affected me in more ways than one. I think it’s sad when artists are affected by politics, I don’t think that should happen. Now there’s a ban, so that part of the world isn’t accessible to any of us now, which is a loss for everyone.
I’ve also been working behind the scenes on an anti-Islamophobia project with Fesl [Armeena’s fiancé] and a lady, Jude, in the UK. It involved latest cutting-edge 3D cameras and it was from the point-of-view of a hijab-wearing Muslim woman walking around city centers and how she would see the world. It’ll also be used by the police force in the UK in the future to tackle Islamophobic policies with the public and offenders.
I’m currently preparing for the drama serial and I’ll be flying down to Pakistan next month to begin shooting in Karachi. I’m also in talks for a British project, the funding for that has just been completed, so let’s see how that goes.