Mahira Khan is acknowledged as a driving force in the Pakistani film and television industry, and has made waves for her work both at home and abroad. OK! Pakistan catches up with the force of nature beyond the screen.


“I don’t feel the need to explain or comment on my personal life.”


Celebrity status is a double edged sword. It makes a larger than life, high contrast projection that is rendered in bright colours. It is beautiful and it makes reel life take over the real person.

Mahira Khan the coveted star, an actor who has managed to make the camera fall in love with her to the point of obsession is a rare breed of celebrity that wears both her mantles to perfection. Yet she slips back to a life that is ordinary. It is marked by milestones that made a superstar; her journey however is a passion play.

When the lights go off, she is still grounded in the space that is unwavering. That is her magic, she creates an extraordinary with ordinary by being herself. Her effortless beauty is just that, effortless. The actor is a hardworking professional who will refuse intrusions into her personal space rendering her a Wonder Woman who is made of a steely strength, talent and a sense of innate affection and honesty that needs no filters when she lights up print and pixels.

A leading newspaper wrote when you signed Raees, “All Mahira needs is a bit of luck”. Post the movie’s success do you think it all worked out in the end? Do you feel you missed out on the promotions in India? How important are promotions for a film as it’s been more of a recent practice where films are promoted heavily on every platform available?
Mahira Khan: One can analyse this situation any way they want. I have my own personal feelings towards it but on the whole I think everything worked out just fine. Promotions are important in a time like today I guess; due to social media and the constant information that we receive, attention spans are also decreasing. Promotions are just so to keep the audience excited till the release! But no amount of promotion can make a film successful; a good film will do well with or without promotions.

There is a lot said about Fawad Khan the star; as an actor did you manage to find an on screen chemistry that resonated both on and off screen?
MK: He was one of my first co-actors and someone I enjoy talking to. I like his work ethics. And I think we get each other, so it’s an easy, comfortable environment and that translates on screen.

The digital media publishes any news without verifying facts about celebrities’ private lives. How do you handle such situations and do they affect you emotionally?
MK: Initially it is rattling, even now I don’t like reading stuff about myself especially in such situations but I’m getting better at brushing them off. Also, I don’t feel the need to explain or comment on things like these.

Last year at the Lux Style Awards while you were getting your hair done you mentioned you had sprained one of your ankles right before your dance performance. While you still danced to perfection how was the experience as it was your first live gig? Do you enjoy the song and dance in films?
MK: I only do films for song and dance (laughs). I’m joking! I do love it though, and I look forward to songs in a film. Dancing in LSA, however, was a big decision for me. I had always been wary of dancing on stage and I never really wanted to. It took them months to convince me and then some for me to convince myself. Eventually, I am glad I did it. I managed to get over a huge fear and I discovered how much fun it was, dancing on stage to my own songs.

You often say there is an old soul in you, and you love old Bollywood songs. Which songs are your all time favourites and are there any memories that you associate with each song?
MK: Ufff so many! Hum bekhudi mein tum ko, all the songs from Pyaasa, Pakeezah, Kabhi Kabhi, I also love Hemant Kumar. I could go on and on! Jaaney woh kaisey is my mother’s favourite, so it reminds me of her singing that when I was little. She still does and has an amazing voice.


Asim Raza feels that you have been underutilized and there is much more to your talent than the audience has seen. He wants to see you doing roles like Pakeezah and Umrao Jaan. Sarmad Khoosat refers to you as “Ganga” (Madhuri’s role in Khalnayak). How do you feel when such compliments pour in?
MK: There is no better feeling than when your director gives you appreciation or even when they push you to do better. Asim was technically my first director, I did my first ad with him. And he knows me well…he’s like a father and friend wrapped in one. We have spoken about making a period film together. I hope he does someday; even if I’m not in it, I’d be happy to see him make it because I feel he’d do an amazing job. Sarmad is my soul director. Him and I are soul friends. I love it when he calls me Ganga, I don’t think he’s ever called me by my name. I can’t wait to be on set with him again.

The recently shot Lux commercial features two other actresses, Mawra Hocane and Maya Ali as well. How was it working with them?
MK: Really good! They are both so talented. They know their job so well and are so professional! We used to be listening to loud music, chilling in each other’s make-up rooms…it was really smooth with them.

Saba Qamar and Sajal Aly are the other two actresses who have done amazing work in films this year but they quickly went back to doing TV with Baghi and O Rangreza respectively. When do we see you next on TV?
MK: I admire both of them. Not just saying that because it’s the right thing to say, they both are hugely talented actors! I would love to get back to TV, and I was very close to doing a serial this coming November but again, old commitments for films came in the way. TV for an actor is much more fun!

How do you prepare for your roles? Are you a method actor and prepare for weeks in advance? Do you adopt a different style of acting when doing films?
MK: Sarmad says I’m a method actor but I don’t think so. I obviously have a method but I am still not sure how anyone would define it. I see my co-actors and how they get into character, it’s cool. I just go with the flow. Simultaneously,

“I start living the character I am performing in some way. Sometimes I can really go deep into psychoanalyzing the part but only for a few scenes, not all the time. It’s taxing when I do that…”

but what I do depends on my directors a lot and my own instinct about the character I’m playing.

Given that it’s made out to be a man’s world, even on screen, how do you exercise your craft as an actor?
MK: It might be a man’s world but it does not hold true in the film and television industry, especially in Pakistan. In fact I would say it’s the other way round, especially in the television drama industry. The parts written for female characters are a lot stronger than the ones written for men. After the time spent working in television dramas, I believe the entire framework has to be strong. The characters, beyond those of men and women, have to be well written and strong for anything to work, especially for drama. Stories work well if both characters, those for men and women, are well written. The female characters are inadvertently stronger and that makes the framework skewed. I don’t believe it’s a male-dominated industry and hence I don’t consider my male co-actors as competition. I don’t need to match up, and neither do they because the characters have to be working with each other. In fact, I think stronger male characters need to written.


What are your personal dynamics of working with ‘names’ and remaining grounded as a professional?
MK: My own personal dynamics differ with each team I work with. Each person is different hence the dynamics differ, but if I were to think about the common thread that runs through, I would say that I need to like my directors. I need them to love me, and I say directors here because they are the people I interact with the most. I am very fond of most of the co-actors I have worked with but they are not the primary source of interaction. I connect with my directors, there is a process of learning and a repertoire of ideas that can only be exchanged easily if I get along with them. In any case, the best kind of relationships or partnerships work where there is collaboration. For that, it is important to be able to listen and then hear each other out. I have also realised that the best kind of projects are put together when there is honesty in communication. Where the film’s ego is bigger than anybody else’s. With Shoaib Mansoor for example, I am blunt, there is no respect lost but I will tell him what does not work for me, or if I don’t understand something I will want to learn. The project collectively improves when there is a willingness to hear each other out.

What about the celebrity buzz? How do you hear yourself think beyond the noise?
MK: There is a lot of noise, definitely. Even if I try and block it out, it’s constantly there. I have noticed it’s there on sets too, it was never there before. It’s constant, the more you try to pull yourself away from it, it pulls you back. It affects the process of how I work.

“The sense of being watched and talked about, gets too close for comfort. I have great noise cancellation headphones though and those are my friends. There are times when I leave work at 3:30 am and I run to them. These are the people I have known all my life.”

These are people who love me, they will never let me get lost in the incessant buzz. However, the noise does exist and it trickles into my personal life.

Maula Jatt 2 is part of a strong I start living the character I amLollywood legacy. Does the project place itself as part of the franchise, considering it’s a bold statement as a film that looks unlike its predecessors? How do you think it will be viewed?
MK: I have only shot for one scene so far. I will, however will be going back for the upcoming round of shooting next month. I trust Bilal Lashari’s vision for the film. It’s a one of a kind project and if it remains true to itself I believe that it will go well. InshAllah.


How will you describe the process of choosing your projects now? What are the projects you are excited about?
MK: My process is a bit complex. It starts off simple: I read a script, if I like it, if it excites me I will take on the project. Then the complication comes in – I am not very decisive. I also base taking up a project on the basis of dates and where it’s being shot. I like to shoot in Karachi so I’m not away from Azlan.

But yes, if I like something a lot, I will drive myself insane over it. I get a lot of good scripts so it’s difficult to choose. Certain lines get stuck in my head,

“I remember when I read Verna I kept on reciting certain lines, I enacted a few scenes and I saw myself doing it. It is an incredibly simple film, linear almost with the focus entirely on the girl’s story and what happens to her. The project brings me back a full circle since my first film was with Shoaib Mansoor.”

and it was a very different experience, with the film being commercial and I was new to the craft. Now I am able to appreciate the project with a more seasoned eye, I am more involved in the development of the character, the film itself in its entirety is unique because the writing makes it almost alternate. However, I also understand that the release of the film will not only be a Shoaib Mansoor production but it will put me in the limelight as well as the main protagonist. That is where my nerves start kicking in, to be responsible for a project such as Verna.

How do you see yourself, both as a part of and as a driving force, in the Pakistani film and television industry?
MK: I hope I am a driving force! I hope I have been part of the movement that has propelled our television and film industry forward, and we have set some precedent for the next generation. I hope that I have something to do with the fact that they have it easier and better.

What do you go home to, where do you centre yourself in order to find a sense of normalcy that rejuvenates the woman after the show and tell is silenced?
MK: I am constantly anxious, I am constantly thinking. That, however, is professional hazard; we never shut shop. The show and tell stops but our brains never stop. It’s not a 9-5 job. We have to go on otherwise we will go insane. At this point we can’t afford to go insane. So early on in our lives.
The solution is, I think, we have to surround ourselves with people who will not let you go insane. Who will turn around and tell you it’s done. The act is over, you are home now, who pull us back and tell us that it’s done. Bas hogya.



What does an ordinary day look like?
MK: An ordinary workday is about juggling my work and my son’s schedule, back and forth with shoots. An ordinary day at home is bumming around, spending time with my son or chilling with my friends.

Your idea of perfection?
MK: Perfect are those moments when you can stop and realise: I’m alive and what a luxury it is to be alive! Sitting with my friends having chai and laughing is perfect. Hearing Azzu laugh is perfection. Moments are perfect, life isn’t.

Your celebrity crush?
MK: Nobody right now!

Favourite actor?
MK: Loads of great actors. The list is endless.

Your dream project?
MK: Abhi bohat khwahishen baqi hain. There isn’t one project that I can envision as a dream come true, not just yet.

Your fashion philosophy?
MK: I don’t really have a fashion philosophy. I will put a look together that is comfortable, it will be something that is expressive of how I feel.

Who would you exchange lives with?
MK: No one! I am so grateful for the life I have, despite the usual ups and downs.

Mahira Khan, five years later?
MK: I have no idea, really. I am trying to live by the day.

Oscar speech dedication?
MK: I will dedicate it to my brother, my son and my country.

What would be the film you get an Oscar for?
MK: I don’t really have a set idea about the kind of film I would do in Hollywood.

I love Woody Allen, really love his work and I can see myself working with him.

It would be cooler to win an Oscar for a Pakistani film!

Favourite designer?
MK: Feeha Jamshed.

Star style icon?
MK: Someone as classic as Audrey Hepburn and as crazy as Gwen Stefani.

Your biggest fear?
MK: Losing something, anything. I fear losing my friends, family and work.

Best gift you ever received?
MK: I have received amazing gifts in my life, not the big material gifts but the more thoughtful gifts. I’m also a sucker for notes and letters.

Word or phrase you say the most?
MK: Trust me!