Singer turned actor Hadiqa Kiani has been a prominent fixture on television in 2021 and we're not complaining one bit. Her debut in the drama Raqeeb Se was critically acclaimed and recently, her character Mehru in the HUM TV drama Dobara has people talking all over again. For Kiani, the characters she chooses to play are a means of exploring her own self, characters that are often drowning in loneliness and the experience of having others define your life for you. These characters are also Kiani's attempt at redefining the 'leading lady' in Pakistani dramas.
The singer-actor sat down with Something Haute for an interview in which she talked about the many things that have marked her journey in life so far.
The Dobara actor dwelled on being the daughter of a single mother in Pakistan. "I come from a very lower-middle class family," she said. "My mother was a principal and her family was mostly in education. My father's side was mostly in the army and they were loaded elites, but when I was three years old my father passed away. After that my mother went through a lot of turmoil in life, [but] she was saved by the education she received.
"Her life was the life of a struggling single parent and the way she raised us — that we don't develop any psychological issues [as children of a single parent] — it all really defined our life. She made extracurricular activities important for us. She enrolled us into the PNCA and really wanted to know what kind of talents her kids had. She was ahead of her time."
For Kiani, it was hard to imagine she could do dramas before Raqeeb Se. "Before I never thought that I could do dramas," she shared. "God opened up a door for me [that lead to] acting. During Covid-19 I was in a really helpless situation, there were no music shows happening and at that time [was when] I got a call from Momina Duraid. If Momina had offered me the kind of role that I could not relate to then I might have said no at the time, but God was so kind that I got to do the role of Sakina. I [got the chance to] explore myself and take out all my emotions through Raqeeb Se."
For her, acting is a chance at self discovery or as Kiani put it, a chance to "un-peel myself layer by layer". It is important that Kiani finds herself through the characters she chooses to do, characters that are drowning in "the feeling of loneliness, suffocation, [or the experience of] other people defining your life and navigating you".
Dobara is very much about a character whose own self is stifled by her husband's desires of how he wants to see her and for Kiani, this character allows her to reveal something about herself that people don't really expect from someone like her. "For people I am a very strong entity, very larger-than-life. A strong woman of substance, but nobody knows how much wreckage there is inside me, all of which I am slowly stitching back together.
"People might not like to listen to this but I like the feeling of somewhat being navigated or rather I have been conditioned to be navigated by others since childhood. Not in music though, or even acting now. Music is that one pure thing that is solely mine, in which I don't accept being navigated by others, even my surroundings felt suffocating."
That is why Kiani agreed to do Dobara; she related to the experience of being 'navigated' by others, very much like how Mehru is throughout her marriage in the drama. "I know so many Mehrus around me — including myself. There are so many Mehrus around, they come up to me at weddings or at the airport and they tell me 'we see Mehru in ourselves'. Their husbands are standing right there but they still come up and say it openly."
Mehru is also Kiani's attempt to break some norms as an actor. "Viewers usually expect dramas to show these fair-skinned, young age, beautiful women," she said. "Why not someone in their mid-30s, mid-40s or mid-50s? Why not? We are all human beings and we should not get stuck in 'age brackets'. Why can't we redefine the leading lady [in entertainment in Pakistan]?"
Life isn't just about acting though. Music will always be the love of her life and she's coming back to it in a special way — by releasing a new album. "The album I am releasing right now is called Wasl," she disclosed. "It is something I have really experimented with and pulled it out of a tunnel within myself. It is not for [everyone] but people who are like minded and like to listen to it, they will relate to it. [The album has] easy listening kind of ballads. They aren't the kind that people can dance to while playing them at shaadis. They aren't popular songs." These songs are just what my heart felt, things I have expressed, she said.
"They aren't songs that are commercial, very much like how Raqeeb Se wasn't as well."