Born and brought-up in Lahore, this talented young actor today calls Karachi home. As someone who was always interested in acting but hadn’t ever thought of making it a profession, Sajal Ali began her acclaimed on-screen career in 2009 when she was not even 16-years-old and there has since been no looking back. Today, almost a decade and half later, Sajal is recognized across borders as one of Pakistan’s finest young talents with her diverse and acclaimed repertoire boasting 39 internationally popular television serials, 14 telefilms, one international web-series and four films including Mom – a Bollywood hit with the iconic Sri Devi – and the recently released British romantic comedy What’s Love Got to Do With It? written by Jemima Khan and directed by Shekhar Kapoor. The film features a large ensemble cast including Lily James, Shabana Azmi and Emma Thompson.
Over a decade into your acting career, how, in your view, has Sajal Ali the person and the professional grown? Are you, today in 2023, a different person from when it all began?
SAJAL ALI: Each journey is unique – both personally and professionally, I believe the path to growth is powered by passion, dedication and persistence. My career started with an idea – I wanted to pursue a profession doing what I loved. I wasn’t sure if I would succeed or not, there were no assurances, no guarantees, but I knew I had to give it a try. Not many people get such an opportunity.
As an actor, over the past decade I have explored multiple genres, styles, and mediums of my craft to expand and diversify my repertoire, seeking roles that not only challenge me but also make for me to push boundaries and showcase my versatility. My craft has taught me not only how to explore different emotions but also how to live in the present.
As an individual, I try to learn, to learn every moment, to learn every day – from people, from places and from experiences. I am forever a student of life as I believe there is beauty in evolution and change is the only constant.
2023 saw your big international debut with What’s Love Got to Do with It?. Tell us about how you landed the role of Maimoona and what does the experience that came with it mean to you personally and professionally?
SA: Being part of an international film is a learning and transformative experience, one that has made for me to step out of my comfort zone, learn to adapt to new environments, and navigate unfamiliar territories with ease. What’s Love Got to Do with it? has so far been one of the exciting projects of my career because it gave me a chance to make a lasting impact globally. Working on an international film collaborating with artists, crew members, and talents from diverse backgrounds was a great experience as it helped me gain a deeper understanding of different perspectives. It has been a journey that has not only boosted my self-confidence but has also made for a broader worldview.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? gave you the opportunity to share screen space with the legendary Emma Thompson and Shabana Azmi and work with Shekhar Kapoor and Jemima Khan – do you feel this kind of exposure has opened up a whole new world for you?
SA: Being part of an international ensemble cast has undoubtedly opened up a whole new world of experiences to me, helping me grow both professionally and personally. For an actor, there are always two sides to any project, what you see on screen and the other the journey behind it. For two years working with and sharing screen space with the likes of stalwarts like Emma Thompson and Shabana Azmi, working with esteemed directors like Shekhar Kapoor on a project written by Jemima Khan, has been an incredible learning opportunity for me. My close interaction with fellow actors like Lily James and Shazad Khan among a host of others has provided me a window seat to their expertise, insights, and work ethics – absolutely invaluable, an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
The characters you’ve essayed in Sinf-e-Ahan, Kuch Ankahi and even What’s Love Got to Do with It? discuss and promote women empowerment and independence. How important for you personally, and audiences at large, has such narrative building in the public realm been?
SA: Narratives that promote women empowerment and independence in the public realm play a crucial role in fostering societal progress. I am a firm believer in and a strong advocate of gender equality and financial empowerment for women; that lays the groundwork for an equitable society. Therefore, through my work I do my best to showcase women as leaders, decision-makers, and agents of change. These narratives not only help break down barriers but also realign and expand society’s perceptions of what women can achieve, and provide women with inspiring role models to look up to. When women see other women succeeding and making a positive impact in the public realm, it boosts their self-confidence, encourages them to pursue their goals, and validates their aspirations for leadership and independence. By amplifying the stories of empowered women, we can build a more inclusive and equitable society for all.
Henceforth, how do you as an individual and a professional, wish to see Sajal Ali evolve and grow?
SA: As an actor I understand the importance of continuously evolving, hence I seek out new challenges, take risks, and embrace opportunities to expand my repertoire. Looking ahead, I hope and endeavour to explore different mediums of my craft apart from film and television. Maybe stage, maybe something else – the possibilities are endless. I have always pushed myself, and never shy away from trying my hand at something difficult or different. This has enabled me to open up a whole new world for myself. In the future, I will endeavour to strive against odds, and persevere in a bid to succeed. I hope to continue to strive to give audiences the best content I can and do more for my industry. Many exciting projects in the pipeline – stay tuned.
FEATURE: YUSRA ASKARI
DESIGNER: RASHMI KUMARI
JEWELLERY: SHEREZAD FINE JEWELLERY
PHOTOGRAPHY: NADIR FIROZ KHAN
STYLING: TABESH KHOJA
HAIR & MAKE-UP: NABILA’S SALON