Pakistan’s beloved actress Mahira Khan, who plays the title role in her Eid Al Adha release ‘Superstar’, is keenly aware about the idol status bestowed upon her by her fans worldwide.
While she is overjoyed at all the love and adoration that has been showered on her, fame can come with its own baggage.
“A star has so much responsibility. You go beyond your performance or role as an artist… Suddenly, you connect with people in such a way that they look at you for everything. You become their sister, their daughter, their best friend,” said Khan in an interview with Gulf News tabloid! in Dubai last month.
These admirers also have the right to tell you off and even reprimand you, believes Khan, who paid a visit to our Gulf News headquarters along with actor Bilal Ashraf as a part of their UAE press junket, organised by Parallel Lines.
“But they will also fight for you fiercely. Carrying that [superstar tag] on your shoulders is tough and heavy,” said Khan.
In ‘Superstar’, directed by Mohammad Ehteshamuddin, Khan plays Noor — a relative unknown — who enters into a complicated relationship with high-profile and seasoned theatre actor Sameer Khan (Ashraf).
They belong to two different worlds and drama peaks when the ascending actor Noor, whose screen name is Noori, courts fame and wealth of her own, eclipsing Sameer Khan’s fading career.
Heartbreak, emotional breakdowns and power struggles ensue. In case you are wondering, it isn’t inspired by searing blockbusters such as Hollywood’s Oscar-winning hit ‘A Star Is Born’, Bollywood’s corrosive romance ‘Aashiqui 2’ or Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachcan’s ‘Abhimaan’, a disturbing tale of a musician husband who cannot handle his wife’s increasing popularity as a singer.
“‘Superstar’ is absolutely original… It comes from a place of truth. ‘Superstar’ comes from a place of purity and innocence. It comes from a child-like place,” said Khan.
For Ashraf, his festive movie ‘Superstar’ — which competes with wedding romance ‘Parey Hut Love’ — taught him how to love again.
But not love of the romantic kind alone, he added.
“‘Superstar’ has taught me how find love in little things and your relationships — be it with your father, grandfather, your son or daughter. It carries a message of love. I connected with the characters in this film,” said Ashraf.
Khan said she identifies with the first half of the film, the part where Noor is an unknown artist, but her character’s transformation in the second half is something that she had to create from her imagination.
At the press junket in Dubai, she felt a sense of deja vu as she was about to step onto the red carpet. There is a scene in the film where Noori is inside her car, on call to meet her legion of fans thronging the red carpet. Her memories of her troubled relationship are on her mind, but she has to put her game face on and dazzle her admirers.
“Even as I was about to step out today, I was thinking of some weird memories. But I had to walk out like a star … I can relate to this film a lot,” said Khan.
Khan is one of Pakistan’s most bankable and recognisable stars. Her turn at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival red carpet and her hit works such as her debut film ‘Bol’ (2011), ‘Bin Roye’ (2015) and her hit TV serial ‘Humsafar’ have placed her on top of show business.
Does her role as a troubled superstar push her to the dark zone?
“We have all been there. We have all felt lonely, felt like people don’t understand the position I am in… Loneliness can make you a lonely person and can make you grudge things … Though I don’t know the definition of what dark is, the place where we stand can be dark. Hopefully Sameer [her on-screen lover] will not allow Noor to go there,” said Khan.
While Khan and Sameer don’t plummet to despairing depths in this drama about the dark side of fame and the toll it takes on relationships, there are times when the actors feel they are living in a fish bowl in real life. Their fans peek inside without really understanding them wholly.
“But what they see is not what I see. What they feel is the truth is not my truth. Lots of time we can’t go and say it out loud at all. My life has its own story,” said Khan. According to her, the essence of a celebrity or a public figure attaining a ‘superstar’ status is aptly encapsulated in one of the dialogues in ‘Superstar’. A dialogue which essentially translates into a superstar being a person who isn’t understood by everybody, but who pleases everyone and touches their heart — but isn’t lodged in there forever.
“I don’t think an actor will ever know why they are a superstar or what makes you one either,” said Khan. While she hasn’t figured out the mechanics behind superstardom, she left the UAE local press waiting for more than two hours for her to show up at the press conference in Dubai. Her tardiness was duly noted, but forgiven because she had an unexpected ‘wardrobe malfunction’ where her sari blouse tore at the last minute, forcing a last-minute dress change. Her earnest apology made us forget the long wait.
“But I don’t think of myself as a superstar,” said Khan modestly. Her festive release is her way to conquer the young Pakistani film industry, one good film at a time. A sturdy entertainment industry is built over decades and decades of good work, believes the actress. Her credo is simple: artists must ‘take responsibility for their own content’.
“Pakistani cinema is evolving and there’s this synergy we have now. We are headed in the right direction where we are gracing certain topics. We want to entertain our audiences globally now … We are past revival, now we are evolving,” said Khan.
In the spirit of the festive mood that will prevail during the Eid Al Adha holidays, ‘Superstar’ will also tap into spreading a positive, life-affirming message.
“We are surrounded by negativity… We live in a world where you are constantly feeding off negativity. Therefore it’s very important that we send out positive messages to everyone… There’s a strong message in ‘Superstar’, where we say: if you want to fight hard, let’s fight the hardest for love’.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Superstar’ is out in the UAE on August 8.
WHEN MAHIRA AND BILAL CAME TO GULF NEWS
Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf’s exclusive visit to the Gulf News headquarters on July 25 was studded with some hilarious moments as they took part in a ‘How Well Do You Know Your Co-star?’ quiz.
Khan, who was grace under fire, started strong by answering like a boss for questions such as ‘For which film did Bilal have to learn Pashto’ in a snap (Answer: Janaan).
Ashraf wasn’t as smooth a player. He stumbled on several questions about Khan. He was seen floundering when asked at what age did Khan begin VJing on MTV? (Answer: 21).
While both floored with their charisma and wit, it was Khan who emerged the winner.
Go to gulfnews.com for the full video.
“If you do love someone, go out there and get that someone,” said Bilal Ashraf on the message behind ‘Superstar’.
“I would give up everything up for love. But I don’t think the person who loves me would ask me to give up everything I love though. It isn’t love if that person asks you to do that,” Mahira Khan’s understanding of what love is and whether she would ever give up her career for the person she loves.