Then And Now: Debut Projects That Launched These Leading Ladies

While it is easy to recognize stars from their breakthrough projects, not many people are aware of the projects with which they started their careers. Often underrated, undiscussed, and even undocumented; the very first or the debut projects of many of the popular actors are not known by the general population.

Despite there being many actors that dominate our television screens, only a handful of actors have proved their mettle over the years in a way that makes them worthy of the title of being a “leading star”. These actors have been working in the industry for quite some time now and have cemented their positions as being part of the top-of-the-list category of stars. The journey of these stars is truly inspirational.

We present to you a list of some of the leading ladies of the Pakistani entertainment industry. Take a look at and see which projects actually launched these actresses’ careers and how much they have grown in the industry since then!

Mahira Khan

Mahira Khan was a popular video jockey prior to becoming an actress. She was approached by several filmmakers during her stint as a VJ, however, she ended up saying yes to the celebrated director Shoaib Mansoor. Mahira first made her acting debut in the 2011 film Bol where she was cast in a supporting role opposite Atif Aslam. The song picturized on the pair, Hona Tha Pyaar, became a national anthem and contributed to Mahira’s first brush with mainstream popularity. Later that year, Mahira Khan made her television debut with Mehreen Jabbar’s directorial Neeyat on ARY Digital. Mahira’s last project was the blockbuster film Superstar (2019) and her next film, Quaid e Azam Zindabad will be released later this year.

Saba Qamar

In 2004, Saba had gone to see a shooting of a play but when the heroine for the play opted out at the last minute, Saba was asked by the director to perform in her place. Saba acted out the lines given to her and received praise from the director and the crew. It led to Saba initially making brief appearances is some PTV plays that are undocumented. However, in 2005 Saba debuted with a prominent role in the drama Main Aurat Hoon for which she won PTV Award for Best Actress. Later in 2007 with Khuda Gawah on PTV, Saba got more mainstream popularity and was approached by several private channels. Saba was last seen on TV in the drama Cheekh (2019). Her next projects include two feature films, Kamli and Ghabrana Nahin Hai, and a web-series titled Mann Jogi.

Mehwish Hayat

Mehwish got her first experience of being in front of the camera at the age of eight in a commercial as a child artist. She forayed into the world of acting with a short film, InshaAllah with Mohib Mirza which was premiered at international film festivals in 2009. However, Mehwish’s first prominent performance was in 2010 with the multi-starrer soap Larkiyan Mohallay Ki, produced by Momina Duraid for Hum TV. She did her first drama in the lead role in the following year titled Mere Qatil Mere Dildar. Mehwish’s last project was the film Chhalawa (2019). She will be next seen opposite Humayun Saeed in the Nadeem Baig directorial film London Nahin Jaunga.

Sajal Aly

Sajal’s first acting stint was in Nida Yasir – Yasir Nawaz starrer sitcom Nadaaniyaan in 2009, where she appeared briefly in one episode. She auditioned along with her sister Saboor Ali for ARY’s soap, Mehmoodabad Ki Malkain produced by Humayun Saeed’s banner. Both sisters passed the audition and got cast in the ensemble soap serial. Sajal impressed the critics with her natural yet impactful performance and she immediately signed on more projects. She was last seen in the drama Yeh Dil Mera on Hum TV. Her next project is a web-series titled Dhoop Ki Deewar which will be streamed on Zee5.

Ayeza Khan

Ayeza was discovered through an event held at her college. She had auditioned for a commercial campaign during her teenage which ultimately led her to make her acting debut in a supporting role in Fahad Mustafa – Sunita Marshal starrer Tum Jo Miley (2009). Despite limited screen time, Ayeza managed to make an impressive acting debut and the project got her more work as an actor. Ayeza is currently seen in the Geo TV drama Meherposh.

Maya Ali

After a brief stint in the field of television hosting, Maya landed a small supporting role in the Sanam Baloch – Mikaal Zulfiqar starrer Durr-e-Shehwar. She played the role of Sanam’s younger sister in the drama. The project was produced by Momina Duraid, directed by Haissam Hussain, and written by Umera Ahmed. Maya managed to impress the team with her dedication and the director signed her as the leading lady in his following project Aik Nayi Cinderella (2012). Maya was last seen in the 2019 blockbuster film, Parey Hut Love. She is currently shooting for a drama serial titled Pehli Si Mohabbat which is announced to go on-air next year.

Mawra Hocane

Mawra’s first stint on television was a VJ on ARY Musik before she got noticed by television producers. Her debut as an actress happened through a sitcom titled Kichari Salsa in 2011 which aired on A-plus where Mawra displayed her acting chops. She was immediately noticed by bigger channels such as HUM TV. Mawra went on to act as a lead in several primetime dramas in the year 2012. She is currently seen in the Hum TV drama serial Sabaat.

Yumna Zaidi

After a brief stint with hosting, Yumna was encouraged by fellow-actor Affan Waheed, who was friends with Yumna’s older sister, to pursue acting in a serious capacity. She bagged her debut role in ARY’s Thakan (2012) which was produced by Asif Raza Mir. Yumna acted as the antagonist in the drama, which starred Saba Qamar as the protagonist. Despite being her first acting project on television, Yumna managed to impress the audience and ended up getting more projects as a lead actor. Her last drama Pyar Kay Sadqay got much critical and commercial success and currently, she is seen in Geo TV’s Raaz e Ulfat. Her next project is a Kashif Nisar directorial drama serial that is produced in collaboration with Kashf Foundation.

Sanam Saeed

Sanam debuted with Mehreen Jabbar’s Daam in 2010 which starred Sanam Baloch, Amina Sheikh, and Adeel Hussain in lead roles. Sanam played the antagonist in the drama and was praised for her refreshingly subliminal performance in the role. Before her television debut, she did theatre plays, modeling and even hosting as a teenager. Sanam got her first drama as a parallel lead in 2011 with Mera Naseeb. She was last seen starring in A-Plus drama Deedan (2019). Her next project is a film titled Ishrat Made In China.

Hira Mani

Hira started off as a VJ followed by a stint in hosting. Hira made her acting debut in a sitcom Teri Meri Kahani in 2013 opposite her husband Salman Saqib a.k.a Mani. Hira played a fictionalized version of herself in the sitcom. She displayed her humorous side on the show and was appreciated for her comic timing. The show, which initially aired on ARY Digital, was extended due to its popularity with its target audience and had a second season which aired on Hum TV. Hira is currently seen in Hum TV’s Kashf. She has a couple of drama serials in the pipeline that are being shot and will air either later this year or earlier next year.


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