Mahira Khan appeared at Cannes last year and this year Pakistani actress Hareem Farooq also went to Paris. Ahmed Sarym spoke to Hareem about her experience in France and her upcoming film 'Heer Maan Jaa'.
Acclaimed Pakistani producer-actor, Hareem Farooq has had a meteoric rise to success. Having started off with theatre in her hometown Islamabad and receiving rave reviews for her performance in the theatrical rendition of the classic TV play, Aangan Tehra, to starring in a number of hit television serials, and now finding her métier with cinema, both in front of and behind the camera. Having partnered with childhood friend, Imran Raza Kazmi to present movies under the banner of IRK Films, Farooq has now devoted herself to contributing to the local film fraternity.
Her latest endeavor, however, had her fly to Paris, France to take part in the 110th anniversary of cosmetics’ giant, L’Oréal. During the three day affair, she met with Nathalie Roos, President of L’Oréal Professionnel’s Products Division. Farooq also attended the Défilé la French event with a unique hair-fashion-show featuring international hair stylists and live musical performances. Not only that, she also engaged with noteworthy L’Oréal representatives from other countries, stylists and fashion influencers.
“Initially, I had no idea I’d be going. Then one fine day my PR manager messaged me whether I want to go to Paris, and then she asked me if I wanted to represent Pakistan being there and I was blown away when I found out,” she told Masala UAE exclusively, reflecting on her experience. “It was a complete shocker, a pleasant one of course. But I think more than that, I took it on as a responsibility to be representing Pakistan at such a platform; I knew I had to be careful about a lot of things. And it was beautiful, everyone’s asking me what the most memorable moment from the trip was, but I can’t answer that, it was a journey on a whole; in life, this was one of the most memorable things I’ve done.”
“For L’Oréal, they do have a market in Pakistan. But generally, and I’m not just talking about myself, the team that went with me as well, people that came from other countries and whom we interacted with were pleasantly surprised; they found us to be educated and progressive,” she transported back, continuing of leaving a lasting impression on other ambassadors. “Some of them didn’t know much about Pakistan, so for them, this was it, and for others, their negative perceptions had changed, they were surprised and they were happy about it to be honest, they talk about it more and are keen to know more. Being able to do that, share what my country entails is definitely one of my greatest achievements.”
What also stood out from Farooq’s odyssey beyond her putting forth a positive portrayal of Pakistan, were the chic ensembles she wore, albeit, entirely tailored by local, Pakistani houses — Sania Maskatiya, Munib Nawaz and Rici Melion. In the global centre for art, fashion and culture, Farooq held her own in intricately designed attires. Even though she says that the ethnic element that was missing was due to the given dress-code by the organizers, she did try in making the most of localizing her wardrobe.
“I think I was very conscious about wearing Pakistani designers, more so than I was for what I was actually wearing. I had offers to wear international designers, but I think one of the first things I did was get local labels on-board. I wanted to flaunt Pakistan; I’m very patriotic, you have no idea,” she chuckled. “I think we have so much talent here. The red suit I wore on one of the days by Rici Melion; it was brilliant, in terms of the fitting, the color, the material they used and it was something I felt proud donning. Sania and Munib were also fantastic. It all got me a lot of attention in Paris, I kept telling people desi designers can do bespoke suits just as well.”
Her wardrobe however, was also consciously selected as per the sensibilities of her Pakistani followers and not upsetting their sentiments. Keeping the protocol in mind, on both ends, Hareem, as L’Oréal Professionnel’s spokesperson, was the second Pakistani starlet to have been selected to make a global appearance. Mahira Khan, who walked the Cannes Film Festival red carpet, for which, L’Oréal is a major sponsor, last year had initiated a wave that Hareem most elegantly rode, which likely seems to be opening the floodgates for greater representation.
“I think the fact that Mahira went to Cannes last year, opened up a lot of opportunities for others, including myself, she remarked. “After me, there will be more and so, it’s not just about me. The more amounts of capable, deserving, modest people that go, the more cross-cultural avenues will open up. Be it L’Oréal or even cinema for that matter, if there is any new territory that I’m exploring, as a producer, releasing my movie in a new market, it’s just the beginning for more. I think the industry will only grow if all of us, as one, do. What I do isn’t for my personal vendetta or fame, going abroad isn’t a level up for me alone.”
On the production front, after having co-produced the family-drama, Janaan and last’s year’s comedy-action-thriller Parchi, the latter having starred in as well, Hareem’s third offering from under the IRK banner, Heer Maan Jaa is also slated for later this year, aiming at an Eid-ul-Adha release, battling the box office with Asim Raza’s Prey Hut Love. Primarily a love story, Heer Maan Jaa’s vibrant first look poster saw Hareem dolled up as a runaway bride and promises a commercial cinematic experience, from the film itself.
“We love experimenting with genres and we also really value the audiences’ preferences. Rom-coms do work and we want to be able to cater to families because purely in terms of numbers, unless and until Pakistani households don’t flock to cinemas to watch the film together, we can’t create a good business model,” she suggested. “I think through Heer Maan Jaa we wanted to talk about an issue as well, but in a light-hearted manner, so it’s commercial and not really message-oriented. It’s something that gives the masala, but has a very desi, Pakistani love-story primarily that couples, mothers, fathers will relate with, especially with the humor that comes with these relationships.”
Apart from Hareem herself as the female lead, the film features frequent collaborator, Ali Rehman Khan opposite her and yesteryear star, Zara Sheikh in an extended cameo. Having shared space with Khan on multiple occasions in the recent past, the makers announced the lead pair poking fun at themselves for repeating the couple in their movies. Revealing how the two ended up working on Heer Maan Jaa yet again, Farooq commented;
“It’s more of a coincidence that Ali and I have worked on projects back-to-back. From Diyar-e-Dil to Parchi, it just became coincidental. And to be fair, we haven’t really done a lot of work together,” she clarified with a laugh. “I think people do enjoy seeing us together and with Heer Maan Jaa, I think the character, even when it was being written, it was something we could just picture Ali performing best, even though we did think of other actors initially. He is a brilliant actor and people love him, so why not? Just for a few naysayers, we won’t ruin the project or let go of an opportunity.”
Speaking of opportunities, Hareem hasn’t stepped outside of her own productions as an actress as well since Mehreen Jabbar’s critically acclaimed Dobara Phir Se (2016). She agrees to put in conscious effort in developing well-rounded, substantial, yet equally glamorous and filmy characters for women in her own movies, however, what’s kept her from taking up any offers from the outside haven’t been the lack of meaningful parts, but has been the hard-pressed affairs she deals with related to the banner that she now spearheads.
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Oh what a wonderful week it has been! Its hard to describe my feelings of pride, honour and above all gratitude, in words! Having been able to represent Pakistan on an international platform amongst thousands of people from across the globe makes me an even prouder Pakistani and gives me the encouragement to carry our flag worldwide with absolute pride wherever I go! Thank you to @lorealpro for giving me the opportunity I am immensely grateful to my family, friends and foremost my fans who’ve always loved and supported me in every phase of my journey and have always made me feel so special. A special shout out to all the designers @saniamaskatiya @munibnawaz @ricimelion @zuriador @esfirjewels @sherezadjewellery and my stylist @amnaniazi81 who made me look beautiful and showing the world that Pakistanis can match up-to any international standards. Lastly, Paris thank you for being so kind and welcoming. I say goodbye for now but your beauty, warmth and aura will definitely bring me back soon. Thank you. #hairgoeshareem #lpro110years #lpro #LaFrench #lorealpro
“It’s not that I don’t want to work with anyone else and I probably will very soon, but I think when I started production, I wanted to use my reputation and what I’d gained as an actress for my own movies. I wanted to give my own productions time and effort; this is my business, even though I joined later, I take complete ownership and so it became something I prioritized more,” she maintained. “I poke fun at myself for this, in fact, I was joking with Humayun Saeed that it’s him and I only working in our own films over and over. I think Humayun understands that too, as an actor-producer, you have to make certain choices.”
As our conversation comes to a close, Hareem affirms on a parting note that despite featuring in her own movies, she has no intentions of influencing the creative aspect of a production. “I think all of us partners believe that the story is above all of us. As an actress, I don’t believe in screen-time, I believe in my skill and showcasing that,” she noted. “If I’m not going to fit into a story or a song, I won’t do it, even if I could make it happen and nobody would object to it, but why should I? I don’t want to take advantage of my position as a producer, for me be it any project I do, my own or if I’m offered from another house, it simply has to be meaty and character-based.”