By Muhammad Asad Ullah
From a relatively moderate theatre actor profile to making it big on television dramas, Hajra Yamin has traversed some distance. Each year, a handful of fresh faces stun on the TV screen, but when someone is coined even as a nominee for the Best Film Actress, and that too just after her second film, it’s a big deal. Which is why you need to pay attention to the game-changers. Meet Hajra, a trailblazer who is leaving her mark on the world, for good. She is a young actress dominating Pakistani television screens these days – ready and waiting to seize the next-big-thing crown. I wanted to know what this young girl is all about. What I discovered was meekness, love for her craft and aspirations to create change with her acting prowess.
I met Hajra for the first time around four years ago, back in 2015, when she was staging in a theatrical play by Anwar Maqsood, Pakistani scriptwriter, television host, satirist, humorist, and infrequent actor. It was a brief encounter, but it was clear that this girl has exactly what it takes to make it big: acting prowess. It has been an incredible run, groundbreaking in its creative and financial might, but Hajra got there by working almost nonstop through her teens and 20s. Well, she’s still in her early 20s!
By now, as many of us have probably read a thousand things about how Hajra Yamin is just like the rest of us — ambitious, hardworking and how she is exactly the kind of Pakistani actor non-head case you’d want to chill and share reasonably priced tea with. This is true. Amid a breezy conversation that ranges from her landing up her first role, to her transition from theatre to film to drama, her take on Netflix and other streaming services and the kind of scripts that excite her, it’s easy to forget you’re in the company of someone now hailed as the next big thing for Pakistan Entertainment industry.
Beginning with theatre in 2011, followed by her TV debut in 2016 and film debut in 2018, she did her second feature film, Pinky Memsaab that earned her a nomination for Best Film Actress at Lux Style Awards. From 2017 till date, Hajra has been a part of quite a number of serials, all of them doing well. From Teri Raza (2017), on premier entertainment channel ARY Digital, to essaying layered, unconventional, characters on the small screen in projects like Tau Dil Ka Kiya Hua (2017), Tabeer (2017), in which she played the role of a disturbed, psychotic young woman, and Baandi (2018), all on HUM TV, Hajra has been taking up roles of substance rather than going after the leads. Was acting something she always wanted to do? Over to her… “I decided that I wanted to act when I was 13, when I first saw a theatrical play. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it and I just knew it that stage is the place I want to be. So, my first theatrical play was in 2011, in Islamabad, and I never looked back. So, it has been 8 years now.”
From theatre to film to drama, how has Hajra evolved as an actor and which medium she prefers the most, she says. “Honestly, I’m still learning, and I don’t think that process will ever end. I make sure that I make space for theatre once or twice a year because my heart still lies there. It’s something that I can never let go of because it’s an institution and it feels like home,” she added, “As an actor I enjoy every medium thrown my way, be it theatre, drama or films. Every medium is different, the perks are different. But theatre is definitely the school of all, and that is where the learning lies.”
Prior to getting into films and drama serials, Hajra, who has a degree in Communication and Media Studies, has studied film making. It’s often perceived if you know the angles and how the production goes, it gives you a grip and an edge over acting as well. Hajra seems to think otherwise. “Filmmaking and acting on-camera are worlds apart, but it does add pressure because being behind the camera is some serious responsible work. Also, it gives you an understanding of how things work and fills you with massive respect for people who work behind the camera,” says Hajra.
Pinky Memsaab was a low budget film but did wonder in terms of critical acclaim, especially earning her a nomination for Best Film Actress at Lux. Talking about her character and how she resonated with it, Hajra says, “It was exciting, considering that I got chance to work with people across the border. As an actor I definitely learned a lot, it was completely out of my comfort zone and there was no way I could relate to the character Pinky, I had to build the entire character from her personality, to her speech, her dialect, her clothes, how she talked, how she walked, her dreams and aspirations,” she added, “I couldn’t relate to Pinky on a personal level (which is something I’ve learned from theatre) but I became her up until the project ended.”
Where Hajra looks out for the projects that can put her out of her comfort zone and challenges her as an actor, over the period of time — she has fortunately shared screen space with quite some senior actors of Pakistan entertainment industry, including the likes of Sanam Baloch, Ayeza Khan, Mansha Pasha and Hina Dilpazeer to name a few. How has the experience been for this young starlet. “I’ve worked with a lot of senior actors, I’ve been very lucky in that department and it’s always a learning experience. It’s always been a pleasure,” she says.
With Pinky Memsaab getting a worldwide release on Netflix, is the online streaming service changing the dynamics of cinema and drama industry for good? Hajra agrees. “Definitely. Broader audience. Also gives actors a chance to work internationally, and get international recognition. The fact that your work is seen internationally portrays a better image of your country.”
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