Muhammad Asad Ullah
Meera likes to make an impact — and she doesn’t seem to care if it’s a good or bad one. Being politically correct doesn’t appeal to her, she’d rather deliver punchlines, create controversies or even allow herself to become the target of jokes. If she makes an appearance on any red carpet, there’s no way she won’t be mobbed by media and paparazzi; they want to talk to her and snap her, as she bats her eyelids and proceed to pass scathing commentaries on others.
Deep away from the spotlight, ‘Meera’ just fades to be her stage name, Irtiza Rubab is just a wonted girl from Lahore – who likes her mixed tea just like everybody else, nothing too extravagant or pretentious.
Lollywood starling in real sense, Meera made her film debut with Kanta in 1995. Little did she know that a film with an unpopular pitch would go on to put her on the path of becoming one of the renowned Pakistani film actresses of today’s time. From Kanta onwards, Meera has earned quite an acclaim for a string of roles portraying many versions of a real Pakistani ‘heroine’, a phenomenon that is well on its way for a change, for good. She is unabashedly proud of her acting repertoire; the bold Punjabi dances and the glossier roles. Although Meera didn’t really come forward to be a part of the new age changing Pakistani cinema in full of its form, however she did make a couple of cinematic outings that weren’t too great either. From Ishq Khuda (2013) to Hotal (2016) or Shor Sharaba (2018) badly bombed at the box office, Meera has gone all out in making her silver screen choices carefully now.
Lover her, hate her, you cannot ignore her. The MeeraJee as she is known on Twitter and hence in real life is indomitable. She’s also recently been making waves for her witticisms on Twitter, delivered in English that is so fluent that it has followers wondering if it really is her on the other side.
Yes, there are flights of fantasy and many a laugh, but this is a woman who has learned from experience. Community skims over some of her journey and her views on the new Pakistan film scene, its players and her new upcoming film Baaji, a Pakistani film of today’s time in real sense. Before she got into a conversation with us, Meera clarified how she charges PKR5,00,000 for an interview and this sitting was just because she felt like talking.
Two decades in film industry and Meera has some important notions to look for in-order to get the fledgling Pakistan film industry well on its way to success. “I think the most important thing to do is to give respect to directors and film-makers like Asim Raza and Saqib Malik. They know about filmmaking better than anybody else in today’s time in Pakistan. Filmmaking is not an art, to know how to do it perfectly and engage the audience is a task in itself. They’re educated in filmmaking and unless they make 4-5 films an year, Pakistan film industry is going nowhere,” adds Meera, “Also, we need budgets for the film. Bollywood is successful and huge because their budgets are huge, they’re as glitz and glam as one can imagine. So, we need allotted budgets for these filmmakers to make wonders.”
She particularly feels that local cinema’s young crop of actors refuse to show respect. “Today’s young actors haven’t done much work but they still consider themselves to be superstars,” she continues. “They may have strong followings on social media or they may have acted in a few movies but they are yet to build a body of work for themselves.”
Why did she agree to work in Baaji then, co-staring young actors like Osman Khalid Butt and model-turned actress Amina Ilyas, in the lead roles? “I signed Baaji because of its big production size, script, director and everything in short. From stylists to their DOP and team, everything was top-notch and I wanted to be a part of such production, so yes, the director knows his craft and that’s what attracted me,” she continues, “I loved sharing screen-space with Amna and Osman. They both are very hard working, fashion savvy stars!”
Directed by celebrated Saqib Malik, Baaji has yesteryear’s star Meera playing a fading actress who is now referred to as Baaji (Urdu for ‘older sister’), and whose existence is threatened by a young and scheming aspirant who shows up at her door in the guise of a fan (played by Amna Ilyas).
Osman Khalid Butt is cast as a film director and Baaji’s former beau, who becomes enchanted with the fresh entrant. It’s a women-centric film through and through, with Meera and Ilyas at the heart of all action. For Meera, the film holds a special significance, as she has reached a stage in her career where she can understand the dynamics and motivations of the character she’s playing even better.
“I’m the biggest movie star in real life and I’m playing the biggest movie star in the film. So yes, there’s a lot of similarity between Baaji and me in real life. I started working when I was extremely young, I was merely 12, I wasn’t even an adult,” says Meera.
It is said that a heroine’s shelf life is short. However harsh this might sound, the fact remains that the entertainment industry anywhere in the world thrives on youth, and this is especially true of the ladies. There are no takers for an ageing actress, no matter how great she is. This isn’t quite the case with men who are known to set the cash registers ringing even when they hit their fifties — think Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or George Clooney or, closer to home, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. But an actress past her prime isn’t considered worth putting your money on. Meera responds, “I love my age. I don’t think age is anything. I’m playing a role of 16-year-old in as another upcoming film, and you’ll see what acting is. Hollywood and Bollywood has surpassed this age dilemma, it’s only in Pakistan now. As an example, look at Madhuri Dixit and Rekha Jee, they’re still performing exceptionally well. Age is just a number. Amir, Salman and Shahrukh Khan in their 50s play a role of school boy who’s merely 22 years old. If they can, so can we.”
Meera Jee is known for her unbashful statements and tweets. Is it all part of a planned act, or that’s just how she is? Meera clarifies, “I just say what I feel strongly about. I don’t need to act, I don’t know how to do drama. I’ve been blessed with everything – fame, money, what have you...I’ve seen everything. Why would I act and lie. Why would I lie? I’m the most beautiful and richest woman. People love me. I’m the Meera Jee. That’s enough.”
Meera has word for her fans and followers worldwide. “Please go and support Baaji. I need to raise funds for a hospital and support Pakistan film industry. I need to raise around PKR200 crores. Also, as a message to people, they’re not going to get Meera again. Meera is just one in Pakistan. If you’ll stand beside me, then the destiny of Pakistan film industry will change for good. Follow my foot-steps. Also, I am just not saying it randomly but I mean it; stand with me and I’ll take this industry beyond success. I’ve sacrificed a lot for this country, so if you’ve finally found the right person (me), then follow her and avoid all other liars and posers. I left Hollywood, Bollywood and foreign nationalities for Pakistan. Next, I’m also going to run for prime minister elections. I’m going to join politics soon just to take forward our film industry.”
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