When it comes to the discussion of mature actors of Pakistan, Maria Wasti’s name becomes ineluctable. Fluency at speaking Urdu and a clarity of dialogues are the characteristics of this actress, who has given us a large variety of characters. While she played a stubborn and defiant lover in “Maa”, she also performed as a victim of harsh domestic violence in “Badlon Par Basera”. While she portrayed a woman trying to recover from her depression on her own in “Dhund”, she also played a harassed working woman in “Ustaani Jee”. While Maria Wasti’s interesting and influential roles are those of a Punjabi speaking wife in “Jalaibiaan”, of an educated woman stranded in an illiterate family in “Tujh Pe Qurban” and of a bold police-woman in the film, “Ramchand Pakistani”, her richest period of acting is the one in which the revival of Pakistani dramas took place and Wasti gave back to back hit drama serials like “Kuch Dil Ne Kaha”, “Diya Jalay”, “Kuch Ankahi Baatein”, “Aye Ishq Humein Barbad Na Kar”, “Baarish Ke Aansoo”, “Ruswa”, “Rehaai” and “Buri Aurat”. Currently, the actress is doing a commercial drama serial on GEO and a morning show on SEE TV which is one of its kind. Conversation with one guest at a time takes place in a ship floating in the waters of the mystical city, Istanbul. A segment titled “Message in a Bottle” also takes place, reminding us of the beautiful novel by Danielle Steel. I asked Maria Wasti a few questions, which are as follows along with their answers.
Most of the modern drama serials do not seem to be of your calibre. Are you satisfied with your roles in “Malika-e-Aaliya” and “Naik Parveen”?
Yes, it’s true that when I started my career, both the content and the style of writing were different. In the modern times, most of the dramatists are those people who have been writing in digests. Being a good story-writer of digests does not mean that you can also effectively execute your story in the form of a script meant to be played on television. So, it’s the essential craft which is lacking. The other problem lies in the topics we are addressing. While there should have been an abundance of topics with the moving times, the case is different altogether. We are forced to do the drama serials like those you mentioned in your question because we are told that they bring ratings. The unfortunate fact is that drama serials showing weeping women bring ratings. This is something the producers have to succumb to. So, the rating system aligns with the shortage of good writers and good scripts, making all these problems a collective reason for our drama’s downfall.
One apparent reason for your morning show’s success is that you do not gather multiple guests at a time. What other strategies do you adopt to keep the dignity of a morning show intact?
I was offered other morning shows as well but I resigned because I felt that they do not suit me. It does not mean that I am labelling something as “good” or “bad”. It’s your level of comfort in doing something that matters. For me, having one guest over and focussing entirely on him or her was more enjoyable. I also felt that it would be something even the guest would feel comfortable with, since I have been to morning shows and I have always felt as if I am nothing more than a decoration piece. The guest feels neglected amidst the music and the discussion on facial massages. So, it is the focus on the guest which differentiates “Sunrise from Istanbul” from other morning shows.
You performed in the works of Ashfaq Ahmad and Bano Qudsia in the very start of your career. Did you realize back then that two great writers' works are being added in your acting profile?
Back in those days, the work would always be done with the likes of great people. We not only had great writers but excellent directors as well such as Yawar Hayat and Qamar Aftab. It is now that I feel that we are left with nothing when I recall those days. Currently, there is no focus on the production of quality Urdu Literature. Even when it comes to the genre of poetry, nothing significant is found. So, it is in the modern times that I miss working with the legends. I never realized in the early days of my career that I am doing something different, for we had all the good people in the field, having the same calibre.
Which character of yours do you relate to the most?
I try my best to relate to every character that I perform, for if the written character is not translated well on the screen, you are not able to effectively communicate with your audience. However, a lot of responsibility lies in the hands of the person who is penning down the character and also the director in whose hands the script falls. It is after these two people that the actor’s work commences. I try to give my best but at times, things do not turn out to be well if the character has not been developed well by the writer and is not shaped as someone realistic with complexities and various shades present inside it. When this happens, quality work is not produced. But still, I put my heart and soul. A character presented on screen has to be a collective effort of the writer, the director and the actor.
You worked in Mehreen Jabbar’s film first, and then in her issue-based serial, “Rehaai”. Which project with Mehreen did you enjoy more?
Working with Mehreen Jabbar has always been a pleasure. She is a great person and a good friend as well. I enjoyed working in both “Ramchand Pakistani” and “Rehaai”. In a drama serial, you attain more margin, considering that the genre is episodic and Mehreen provides you with space to work. She tells you the limitations you have to follow, and then leaves the rest of the work to you without interfering a lot. I enjoyed both the projects and wish to work more with Mehreen.
You, Ayesha Omer, Angeline Malik and Savera Nadeem seem to have a very good chemistry. Would you like to tell us something about it?
Yes, I have a lot of female friends and colleagues in the industry and I share a very healthy relation with all of them. Tooba Siddique and Sania Saeed are also to be included in the list. I have never experienced any sort of rivalry with them, as is often presumed by many people about female colleagues. Infact, we have always lent a helping hand to each other, be it in the field-work or some other aspect of life.
You played a very different character in your recent series, “Dhund”, that of a woman who can see the unseen. Did people manage to easily digest it?
Yes, “Dhund” was quite different but we went for it and even produced it ourselves, since no one was ready to accept it, believing that its novelty will not be accepted by people. However, TV One played “Dhund” and as is visible, all the other channels have started airing similar content. There are very few people who want to do something different and are ready to take risks for it. Playing a unique character like the one in “Dhund” was quite interesting. Mohammed Ahmed is a great writer and my director (Farrukh Faiz) was also very good. Playing that character as it was written and also as it was executed was enjoyable and I will always consider doing something different like this if offered.
How was your experience of working in Elysee Productions’ projects such as “Maa” and “Khaali Aankhein”?
Working with Zulfiqar Sheikh and Tasmina Sheikh was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed the two to three projects I did with them, both in Pakistan and Scotland. They are great people who take care of their actors. The scripts they work on are also very good. On the whole, it has been a great experience working with Elysee Productions.
What do you think is the difference between woman victims created by the likes of Noor-ul-Huda Shah, such as your character in “Badlon Par Basera” and the kind of woman victims being created by modern writers?
Realism lies in presenting characters with different layers and shades, for that is how people are in real life. This is not being done today in our drama serials except by a few good writers. Our topics have become mundane and revolve around nothing but divorces, weeping women and a yearning for sons or the cursing of daughters, which is the same thing. I do not know when we’ll be able to come out of these topics. As far as Noor-ul-Huda Shah is concerned, she breathes life into her characters by giving them different dimensions. Her woman is not presented as someone who is crying all the time. She gives layers, habits and attributes to her characters which is something we are lacking today. Self-actualization or the victory of a woman are not shown, neither are they depicted as humans having other relations as well besides the one with their husbands. There should be a message of hope given through the presentation of ways to find a way out of suppression. In the modern times, writing is being taken very lightly. It is a craft which should be carefully dealt with. Picking up a pen and starting right away with writing is not the proper way. It is in the crafting that the difference lies between old writers and some modern writers. Also, the topics should change now.