LAHORE-Film actress and television series director Zeba Bakhtiar is a household name in Pakistan. She made her television first appearance in play Anarkali in 1988. She became the first Pakistani actress to venture into Bollywood and star in Raj Kapoor’s Henna (1991). Her performance in the Pakistani film Sargham (1995) awarded Zeba the prestigious Nigar Award. She is charming &confident artist, who has a fan following that runs in millions. In an exclusive interview with The Nation she talked about her career in showbiz and the secrets of her success and beauty. Following are excerpts of the interview:

Tell us about your Miracle Journey in the entertainment industry. How much did you struggle to become a prominent name in this industry?

A person’s life and need/desire to achieve self-realization can never be without trials and tests. I don’t like to call it a struggle, I consider it learning. Yes, there were many disillusionments and disappointments in fact those are what stand out most in my memory. Until you experience a thing for yourself it always appears more desirable and attractive. I had a sincere mentor through my journey and I wish I had been aware of this need and sought such persons with experience out, asked their advice and followed it. It would have saved me from so much at so many crucial points.

You have directed and produced many films like 021, Babuin and many more. Where did all that start? What inspired you to switch from acting to making films?

I was executive producer of 021. The first film I produced was Babuin 99/2000 after which I produced and directed a few TV serials. Actually work behind the camera was never really a switch. Had I the opportunity I would probably have gone that way in the very beginning. I was never really an actress at heart. I just loved stories, romance, fantasy and to dress up. I wanted to be a part of them and create them. The raw reality of human nature fascinates me to date. I wanted to write when I initially went to PTV in 1988. My work was unacceptable to the producers I met. It was shocking and too full of truths that our society hates to accept. Aside the fact that I was from a Convent school, had a European mother and was from Balochistan therefore my Urdu grammar was off the mark. Besides at 21 I appeared to be more promising prospect on screen than off screen to them.

Do you intend to direct more films?

I can’t answer that question either way at present. At the moment I feel that the new generation of film makers is more capable of understanding the technical and creative requirements of present times. However, it is important to be a voice of experience and support for them. I feel more in place producing films at the moment. I have been working on a couple of scripts for a while now I may want to direct at some point in the future if inspired enough. For the time being I am happy where I am Alhamdulillah.

With a number of films under production do you think revival of Pakistan film industry has begun? How can we keep up the momentum?

The film industry is definitely at a revival which is heartwarming. I never expected to see this change after the ravaging this industry had been through. It is amazing and exciting for me. Cinemas coming up are keeping family and youth audiences entertained and off the streets to an extent along with providing employment, a nationally urgent need.

Have you considered branching out into directing or screen playing?

I have directed off and on since 1999 and been dabbling in screen writing since the beginning of my career. Wholly and solely I am not working on either at the moment, when I do I cannot say. Inspiration can strike at any time.

You have worked in many serials. Which one role that is close to your heart?

Actually the only serials that I really enjoyed acting in were “Tan Sain” where I played Tani and “Abkay hum bichray” an adaptation of Pygmalion directed by my very dear friend Najm-uz-Zaman .

How would you define your acting skills?

I have never attempted to define it as I have a lot to learn and barely know anything about acting. I am never satisfied with my work.

Why did you get your voice dubbed in Sargam, although you yourself have a very sole & pleasant voice?

I never opted to have my voice dubbed in Sargam .I was travelling and had time constraints at the time and Syed Noor sahib considered it best. Besides Irsa Ghazal did such a brilliant job she sounded so much like me.

How difficult is it for a woman to establish her name in a male-dominated society like that of Pakistan? What challenges did you have to face initially when you set foot in the industry?

First of all let’s not feel sorry for ourselves, the whole world is male dominated .At the end of the day it is a two way street and both genders are interdependent. Yes I have been frustrated at not being taken seriously and being considered less human because I am a woman. Then I came to realize that a woman has far more inherent strength, resilience and tolerance than a man. Besides it is much easier for a woman to make her mark than a man. it depends entirely on your attitude and approach to a situation that empowers or weakens you.

What’s the secret to your ever-youthful look? With your busy and hectic lifestyle, how do you take out time for yourself?

There is no long story here, except that I love sleep and food. I cannot stay awake till late at night and I cannot do starvation dieting. I have been a type 1 diabetic for over 25 years and have to exercise and keep to my medication routine and meal times. I love spending whole my time with my family.

You being nominated as the Pond’s Miracle Mentor 2016, how did you select your 10 Miracle Women?

My 10 Miracle Women are true miracle women in my eyes. They are truly dedicated to what they do, excel in their fields and are making very important contributions to our society with selfless dignity. They are women who deserve all the respect and recognition possible for their work in changing the lives they have touched. I admire, respect and love them that is the only reason I selected them.

You have worked in both Indian and Pakistani film industry. What is the major difference between both medium?

It is unfair to even speak of Pakistan and India as competitors. India is a much larger country where the industry that has been growing for 70+ years uninterrupted by political and religious factors. Culturally they have many advantages on artistic freedom of expression. Also there is a very big difference in attitude, commitment level, discipline and work ethic between the people of both countries.

You were awarded prestigious Nigar award in Pakistan for your film Sargam in 1995. Share the experience.

Awards are a very kind and generous token of appreciation for ones work. However, there is no award greater than the direct acknowledgement from ones viewers that you have touched their lives.

Would you like to share something about your current projects?

At present I am working as producer of a film.