The Pakistani entertainment industry is an interesting yet equally unforgiving arena, where dreams are created, superstars are born, and many unforgettable stories are given birth. But not all is hunky-dory in this cut-throat world of glitz and glamor which requires careful treading, for one wrong move can ruin a career in the blink of an eye. Artists have to build and maintain their careers with a combination of the right choices at the right time with the right type of people. One wrong project could sometimes get you down the spiral of a never-ending abyss.
Brandon Fraser, the star of the 90s superhit cinematic franchise “The Mummy” was asked about his unexpected absence from Hollywood screens. The actor responded by saying “There is a moment when the phone stops ringing in your career, and you start asking yourself the reasons… There are many reasons in my case”. Fraser’s case isn’t unique.
The rather petite tinsel town of Pakistan is not short of examples where artists started or developed their careers showing immense future prospects, yet at some point took a wrong turn where their careers seemed to fall off a cliff, but not because of a lack of talent. A wrong choice of teams or projects, a public freak out, being difficult to work with, or just a lack of ample opportunities or choices are many of the countless reasons where a talented artist’s career would have to end in a cul-de-sac or at least appear so.
There are some cases where film stars manage to claw their way back into the limelight from the seemingly impossible positions – for most, retiring from the public eye with whatever acting jobs at hand. A lot of them consider an alternate career path altogether. Here are a few Pakistani celebrities whose careers could have taken a substantially sustainable trajectory. However, some unfortunate choices led to unfavourable outcomes.
An actor who gave hit films in an era when Lollywood was taking its last breaths, Zara started out with photographer Khawar Riaz and became a successful model. Due to her unconventional looks, slender frame, and height, she grabbed everyone’s attention in showbiz. With her successful debut in the year 2000s blockbuster ‘Tere Pyar Mein’, Zara made sure to be part of every major Lollywood project thereafter. All big projects of that era like ‘Chalo Ishq Larraen’, ‘Laaj’, ‘Pehla Pehla Pyar’, ’Kabhi Pyar Na Karna’, ‘Tere Bin Jiya Na Jaye’ and ‘Salakhen’ had Zara’s name in it.
However, other than ‘Salakhein‘, none of the films worked at the box office. The blame obviously couldn’t be placed on the actress as Pakistani cinema itself was in its final moribund phases. Urdu cinema was replaced by extremely subpar Punjabi films in which Zara refused to work.
Imaginably, the situation of her resume could have been different, had she given a shot to some big TV projects at the peak of her cinematic career, just like Reema did with her association with Geo TV. Now, Zara must solidify herself as an adaptable actor in order to get the limelight that she deserves. Currently, she is part of Hum TV’s drama ‘Raqs e Bismil’.
Zara’s contemporary, Veena, proved to be much bolder and versatile with regard to her career choices. Veena also started as a model albeit on a far smaller scale than Zara and played a supporting role in the movie ‘Tere Pyar Mein’. She played supporting roles in multiple films and was type-casted as a skin-showing “bold” heroine. However, her one Punjabi romantic film ‘Mohabbataan Sachiyan’ gave her an opportunity to ground herself as a serious actor. Despite the film being a musical and box office hit, it was too late for Veena to build a sustainable film career ( just like Zara) because the film industry simply lacked quality opportunities for the actress to build the right reputation for herself.
Veena moved to television where she performed in multiple TV shows and became a proven comedian. Her stints in Bollywood included her ‘Bigg Boss’ participation and some forgettable second-grade Bollywood films which garnered a lot of controversies as well as fame for the actor, so much so that she would be dubbed as the Paris Hilton and Rakhi Sawant of Pakistan.
Veena could have easily banked on her on and off-screen resume in Pakistan, however, she got married and moved to Dubai, which happened quite suddenly. This obviously clouded the spotlight she generated for herself and it is quite unlikely to be created again. But it’s safe to say that at her time, Veena gave us some spectacular performances that further cemented her as a fireball of talent. We would love to see her back with her impeccable skill of parody and comedy, similar to her role in Geo TV’s ‘Hum Sab Umeed Se Hain‘ if nothing else.
Humaima is undoubtedly one of the most versatile actors the Pakistani entertainment industry has seen in recent years. She can act, she can dance, looks incredible, and has an unignorable cinematic presence. With dramas like ‘Ishq Junoon Deewangi’, ‘Tanveer Fatima (B.A)’, and ‘Akbari Asghari’ under her belt, along with a debut performance in Shoaib Mansoor’s film ‘Bol’, Humaima had arrived.
But unfortunately, she couldn’t elongate her period of success. A Bollywood film opposite Emran Hashmi ‘Raja Natwarlal’ kept her in the limelight which led to having expected more projects. However, a sudden deterioration in Indo-Pak political relations caused a huge setback to her prospects in Bollywood, like many Pakistani artists at that time. In Pakistan, she lost big projects like ‘Baji’ due to her allegedly “difficult” attitude towards local filmmakers. An unnecessary delay in her big project ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ caused further damage to Humaima’s career.
Humaima was last seen grooving to the songs of Imran Khan as she performed at the PSL opening ceremony. We really do hope that the talented star says yes to more projects and we get to see her back in action.
Sohai Ali Abro
With films like ‘Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (JPNA)’ and ‘Wrong Number’ at the start of her cinematic career and her stints in TV dramas like ‘Pyare Afzal’, Sohai Ali Abro was perhaps the most loved, chirpy leading lady Pakistani cinema has had after the legendary Babra Sharif.
People loved her “patakha” avatar despite being type-casted in many projects. At the peak of her career, Sohai surprisingly rejected many big projects like ‘Punjab Nahi Jaungi’ and lost Khalil Ur Rehman Qamar’s much controversial ‘Kaaf Kangna’, taking the attention of tabloids away from her. Her last cinematic outing, 2018’s biographical film ‘Motorcycle Girl’ garnered praise from critics for her performance which resulted in her achieving a Lux Style Award for Best Film Actress Critic’s Choice. However, her career choices in both cinema and TV didn’t do much service to her progress and the actress was somewhat forgotten for quite some time.
Sohai presently seems to be on a spree to revitalise her career and is being seen in ‘Prem Gali‘ on ARY Digital, as well as various advertisements. Not just that, you can also see her in Vasay Chaudhry’s talk show as a filler-performer, much on the lines of her role in JPNA. We feel she could use a “big offer” both in TV and cinema, to get her career back on track.
Pakistani cinema has had very few promising male actors in its revival phase; even fewer remained consistent with their big-screen offerings. Danish Taimoor remained the “next-big-thing” for a considerable amount of time in Pakistan’s nascent filmdom and was noticed as the hot-headed protagonist in 2015’s action film ‘Jalaibi’ and later in the action-comedy ‘Wrong No.’, after which ‘Mehrunnisa V Lub U’ proved his last notable project. Thereafter, his film career saw an unfortunate downward spiral, starting with Sangeeta’s infamous return to the director’s chair with ‘Tum Hi To Ho’.
Danish, like many of the above-mentioned actors, can’t be fully blamed for his unfortunate career bearings. There are always limited opportunities for actors in a small industry like our entertainment industry, and most importantly, the public relations game has to be really strong to maintain a steady foot in the industry. Perhaps those with their own production houses, like Humayun Saeed, Fahad Mustafa, and even Sheheryar Munawar, are better examples to be followed; they create content that promotes themselves and meets their requirements as an actor when others have limited options to offer.
Currently, Danish is back on television where he was last seen acting in ‘Meherposh’ and hosting various gameshows on Bol TV.
While we believe that these actors took some unfortunate decisions in their careers that steered them away from the spotlight, not all hope is lost. With the rising trend of OTT platforms among other avenues, the named actors have a plethora of opportunities that are still untapped from their end. We see fresh talent left, right, and center in various dramas and films, but what more could the audience happier than to see these established artists strike back with their amplified skillset?
Zara Sheikh coming back to our screens with ‘Raqs e Bismil’, Sohai with all the adverts, ‘Prem Gali‘, Danish’s display of great acting potential in ‘Meherposh’, most of the above-mentioned actors are on their way to getting their career’s back on track and we cannot wait to see what more they have to offer to their fans.