Talented, Strong-willed and Attractive – Introducing - MARYAM FATIMA

Lagao, Udaari, Zara Yaad Kar – what do all these dramas have in common? A focused, hard-working new face who is ready to make her presence felt on-screen. Maryam Fatima is only about two years old in the field but has already done a variety of roles. The 20-year-old Gemini gave a stellar debut performance in a leading role alongside actors Zainab Qayyum, Adnan Jaffar and Sania Shamshad and continues to move forward without worrying about workplace politics or being typecast. She might still be in her honeymoon phase, having married fellow actor Haris Waheed this year, but this stalwarth is more focused than ever and knows exactly what she wants out of her life and career. Here, she talks to MAG about her childhood, how she landed her first gig and her work so far. Excerpts:

Q. Tell us something about your childhood; what were you like growing up?

M.F: Coming from a broken home, I matured quickly as a child. I was talkative, brainy, fearless and very blunt. Being shy was never a part of my personality, yet I chose not to play with other children since I was never fond of childish games. Most of my time was spent reading, playing scrabble with my grandmother and listening to her jazz collection. I had a very vivid imagination and love for writing poetry. Owing to the eccentric person that I am, I was always found in front of the mirror. I got excellent grades throughout my academic life, but I hated Mathematics – still do, always will [Laughs].

Q. What made you gravitate towards the fields of modelling and acting?

M.F: It was a matter of chance. I accompanied a friend to her audition and ended up giving an audition myself. The next day I got my first commercial, the same week I got my second commercial and after a week I got my first acting project as the antagonist in Lagao two years ago. I never had to struggle to get my first project, it all happened unexpectedly.

I matured quickly as a child. I was talkative, brainy, fearless and very blunt. Most of my time was spent reading, playing scrabble with my grandmother and listening to her jazz collection.

Q. In our culture, acting isn't the most ideal profession. What was your parents' reaction when you told them you want to pursue it?

M.F: I don't belong to a conservative family, so it was never a matter of culture or societal expectations. Coming from a background of writers, my mother had different plans for me, but I chose to follow my heart. I have always been indomitable. Following rules and confining to societal standards was never my thing. I like what I do, I do what I like.

Q. Any funny stories from the time you first started acting?

M.F: In my first serial, I played a very aggressive character. My co-star Ali Ansari and I were recording in a restaurant. In the scene, we were having a normal conversation where something triggers my anger and I storm off. I screamed at Ali so loudly that he actually got frightened and both of us were in fits of laughter.

Q. Who inspires you as an actor?

M.F: Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr and Elizabeth Taylor are my biggest inspirations. Cleopatra, Mata Hari and Queen Nefertiti are historical personalities that I love and admire, as well. In music, I'm obsessed with Lana Del Rey.

Q. What appeals you the most when selecting a role?

M.F: Anything that's interesting with a hint of mystery appeals to me. I wish the mass audience wasn't so obsessed with the idea of a damsel in distress who is always crying. The portrayal of strong female protagonists is something that's still missing in our plots. I want to change that.

Q. How have you found working in the industry so far, talking about lobbying, prejudices and other such things many actors have to go through?

M.F: The only thing that I focus on is doing my work. There are good and bad people in every walk of life. As long as you're original, you don't need to worry about lobbying and prejudiced opinions. Nothing good ever comes easy, and I'm willing to fight for it.

Q. Which project have you enjoyed doing the most?

M.F: I enjoyed playing Maham in my first drama because it was a very interesting character; almost bipolar, stubborn, emotionally unstable and very impulsive. To some degree, Maham's impulsive nature was like mine. I could relate to her and her madness.

Q. Did you get a chance to actually sing in Udaari?

M.F: I got a chance to lip-sync, not sing, something I've been meaning to tell just about everyone! But yes, I can sing and music has been one of my strongest passions.

Q. Have you ever felt at risk of being typecast as an actor and do you regret taking up such projects later?

M.F: I have always done very different characters. I have played an intelligent psycho, a talkative nincompoop, a singer, a lovelorn girl, a damsel in distress and many more. How am I being typecast? In fact, I have managed to play a different character in every project. And yes, I never regret anything in life.

Q. With so many newcomers entering the industry with almost every serial and film, how difficult do you think it has become to carve a niche for oneself?

M.F: That's where all the thrill lies. If these challenges weren't present, how would anything be enjoyable? I don't like things that come easy, and I am happy that things are the way they are.

Q. Haris and you tied the knot this year. While most young actors would worry about their career and fan following being effected, did such thoughts ever cross your mind?

M.F: My marital status or personal life should have nothing to do with my career. I am the same person, nothing has changed. My success as an actor relies upon the perfection of my craft, not whether I'm single or not. Hence, such thoughts never crossed my mind.

Q. How did things develop between the two of you?

M.F: Initially, we were just good friends. Our deep friendship slowly blossomed into a romantic relationship and now, we're married. I know he's told this story a million times [Laughs].

Q. How is your equation with Haris?

M.F: Both of us are best friends. Our love is strong, but our friendship is stronger which is what makes this relationship so special. He's as crazy as I am and that's the reason why everything works so well.

Q. What are his three best and worst habits, according to you?

M.F: What I love most about him is his sense of humour, the fact that he's such an excellent cook and the way he brings positivity to my life. He tends to overthink sometimes which can make me impatient. Apart from that, I can't remember anything I dislike about him.

Q. What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

M.F: I'm playing the protagonist in Kab Mere Kehlaoge, which is scheduled to appear on-air towards the end of December.

Q. Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

M.F: Honestly, I don't think about the future, I live in the present. All I want from life is to spend every moment doing what I love, living happily and laughing heartily! •