A woman of remarkable talent, Zeba Bakhtiar is an icon in the media industry. Her career has taken her from acting to script-writing to direction and production, and it can be said her works speak volumes about her success. She reigns with quiet dignity and grace, and has won the hearts of every Pakistani, as an actress, a role model and above all, an individual. HUMSAY meets her to discuss her success, her latest serial â€˜Mulaqatâ€™, and how she has balanced family life with her work.
Q — How it does it feel to be married, and with â€˜Leghariâ€™ attached to your name?
A — I think being married is a good thing, because one needs companionship, provided you have enough in common with your spouse, and itâ€™s a comfortable situation to be in. Wedded bliss has done me well; it takes a bit of getting used to, but one adjusts â€“ people around me tell me it has indeed suited me and I too, feel happy. Itâ€™s odd, people in the industry constantly ask me how I feel about being married, but I am sure itâ€™s no different than what any other woman would feel. Apart from the Islamic angle, it was the right thing to do, so I went ahead with it; given that choosing the right things in life is important to me â€“ but one could say Iâ€™m a romantic idealist.
Q — How did you start your career?
A — My career started when I was fairly young. It’s been 20 years now. When I was in third year of college, I got into an arranged marriage that lasted exactly a year which left me severely traumatized. I returned to my parentsâ€™ home, and didn’t want to depend on them any longer, so I tried to become an independent earner. I thought of the various options open to me, spent six months abroad and started writing serials. PTV freaked out when they saw my first script as they felt I couldnâ€™t show women taking drugs and smoking cigarettes, although I insisted “But they DO!” So that script never saw the light of day.
Let me tell you, when I go on stage I begin to tremble, and can’t stop. I’ve always been shy and reclusive â€“ hardly the person who wants to be in the spotlight. I did my first long play as an experiment â€“ partially, because Iqbal Ansari let me write part of the script. Next thing I knew there was a troupe here from England that wanted a female actor who could speak in English and Urdu. They needed me in London for four or five months, so I agreed as it also gave me the opportunity to do a few short courses in production. In the meanwhile I was asked by Haseena Moeen to do â€˜Taan Senâ€™ – and no one says no to Haseena Apa! She asked me to come to India, and after much persuasion, I went along for the screen test, with my mother in tow, quite sure I would be rejected, so there wouldnâ€™t be any problem. To my horror, I was asked to return in a month for the filming. Aside from my nervousness about what my father would have to say about it, I was conscious of the fact that a big responsibility rested on my shoulders — I would be representing my country at a time when relations were less than cordial between India and Pakistan. So I knew I had to be very careful about how I conducted and carried myself.
Q — What milestones do you feel you have achieved?
A — None — except my son! Iâ€™ve always been very fond of children — theyâ€™re so untainted by societyâ€™s expectations of them. I feel I can relate better to children than to adults.