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Language Was The Biggest Challenge While Playing Pari In ‘Suno Chanda’: Arjumand Rahim

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Be it the role of an aspiring pilot’s beloved from “Qurat ul Ain”, of a traumatized young girl from “Diya”, of a gangster’s daughter strolling along the rivers of Scotland from “Thori Khushi Thora Ghum” or of an empathetic woman running on the snow-clad mountains of Murree from “Woh Kaun Hai”, Arjumand Rahim has always carried herself with grace, something which she probably derives from her inclination towards classical dance, the most elegant of creative art’s genres. Lately, however, Rahim has stepped out of the “pretty young girl” persona and has started donning more challenging roles, such as that of a Punjabi woman bent upon finding a suitable match for her son or of a prostitute residing in the winding alleys of the sub-continent. I caught up with the film and television actor, theatre performer, and classical dancer to ask her a few questions which are as follows:

1) You have always been very selective about the work you do. Why is that so?

I wanted to be an actor because I love the process; the process of rehearsing, reading, discovering the subtext or new layers, or the back-story of a character to make it more tangible and relatable. Sadly, not everyone likes to invest that kind of time and attention to detail, so I try and refrain from working with directors who are only interested in the surface text. Shooting for a project is a grueling business. That’s why, for me, it is rewarding only if I feel creatively satisfied at the end of the day.

2) People remember you as Ashfaq Ahmad’s Qurat ul Ain. How do you remember playing Qurat ul Ain?

“Qurat ul Ain” was my second project for television. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy television acting much in those days as I was working more frequently for theatre and hadn’t gotten used to the process of performing on screen. Since I wasn’t comfortable with the camera back then, the mass appeal which “Qurat ul Ain” generated was way beyond my expectations. I have always felt after every project that I could have done better.

3) Your character in “Suno Chanda” was quite different from your usual roles and your real personality. Did you readily accept that offer? What were the main challenges you faced while playing Pari?

I jumped at the opportunity to play Pari in “Suno Chanda”. It was a rare chance for me to showcase my versatility and accept a challenge as well, as I had to completely let go of the real Arjumand and allow myself to look and sound utterly ridiculous in certain scenes. One of the biggest challenges was the language and dialect for which I received tremendous support from the director, Ahson Talish, and my co-stars, Nadia Afgan, Tipu Shah, and Ali Safina. Playing a loud character like Pari helped me break my internal barriers and reservations.

4) What is your real calling; dancing or acting?

Acting for sure! It comes more naturally to me. In dance, I always had to work hard.

5) If you were to tell a story, would it be through classical dance or the written word? And what would the story be about?

The written word. I enjoy telling stories. Perhaps not many people know this but I have been collaborating with writers on scripts for the past fifteen years. I developed the story and screenplay for a serial called “Band Khirkiyon Ke Peeche” written by Sameera Fazal and have always been involved in the writing process of the scripts that I have produced. I also headed the content department of Six Sigma for two years and collaborated on scripts with several established as well as upcoming writers.

6) You played a prostitute in the film “Manto”. How was your experience of it and how was that role received? Does viewers’ feedback matter or is it primarily about your inclination towards a role?

Once again, that was an opportunity to break out of my comfort zone and I am so glad that Sarmad Khoosat chose me to play the part. I enjoyed the process thoroughly as Sarmad is a refined director and very clear about his vision for all of his characters. The overall feedback of the film was quite positive. When it comes to choosing a character or a project, I don’t think I worry about the audience’s response, as it’s too early a stage to be mulling the ends over. However, if a character or a project receives negative feedback, I am compelled to reflect upon whether it was a bad choice or poor execution. One certainly tries to learn from mistakes.

7) What do you do when you are not acting?

Various things! I enjoy reading and am very passionate about my dogs as well. Given the opportunity and my resources at the time, I try to help animal rescue teams from time to time. As a side career, I also lend my voice to various commercials and animated films that you see on television.

8) Mohammed Ahmed’s scripts have unparalleled beauty in them. Did you feel that while doing “Azar Ki Ayegi Barat?”

Absolutely! I am a huge fan of his writing skills. The first television soap that I produced, “Dil Ki Madham Boliyan”, was written by him. Accepting a cameo in “Azar Ki Ayegi Barat” was a no brainer. Written by Ahmed sahib and directed by Marina Khan and Nadeem Baig, the play boasted a stellar cast of seasoned actors. The story had drama, realistic characters, brilliant dialogues, and some utterly cute moments evoking mirth and laughter.

9) Which is your personal favourite project and why?

I honestly don’t have a favourite. Each project has come with its challenges and delight!

10) Name one writer and one director with whom you wish to work but haven’t been given the opportunity until now.

Shoaib Mansoor. As it happens, I did have the opportunity to work with him when he was casting for “Alpha Bravo Charlie”. Since I was in college then and couldn’t have taken so many months off for shooting on army bases or outside of Karachi, my mother politely declined the offer and told me much later about it! I was gutted.

11) Have you done your ideal role or is it still somewhere in the pipeline, waiting to be enacted?

I certainly hope I haven’t hit the ceiling yet! One only improves with age and experience, so I am hoping to do far better than what I have hitherto accomplished.

12) Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I have just finished shooting for a serial penned by the great Faseeh Bari Khan. You must know that he writes very well-etched characters, especially for women, and this play is no different. Amongst all the usual stories of women being and abused, this drama will hopefully stand out as a testament to the fact that our viewers are interested in well-told stories with strong female protagonists. It has been directed by Ahmad Bhatti and will appear soon on ARY Digital.

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