Frolicking her tresses to and fro, posing for the camera as it flashes on her vibrant face – all amidst a cheerful chatter about herself, Islamabad and yummy Isloo biryani – Mariyam Nafees spends her evening with MAG and tells us all about her life, career and future plans as part of the growing entertainment industry in Pakistan. In the past two years, the actress has made quite a name for herself by acting in projects like Diyar-e-Dil, Ishq-e-Benaam, Haya Ke Daaman Main, Munkir and Kuch Na Kaho to name a few. She was currently seen playing the role of Khajista, a victim of domestic abuse in hit drama serial Yakeen ka Safar, and has a long way to go with respect to her aspirations in the entertainment realm. We let you inside our conversation with the chirpy lass who calls herself “a very spontaneous person, one who takes life as it goes”.

"It’s been a wonderful learning experience,” says Mariyam, when asked how her journey in the entertainment industry has been so far, adding, “Diyar-e-Dil debuted two years ago and it’s been great ever since.” The serial marked her first acting stint. However, before making an entrance into the world of television, Mariyam was already familiar with acting, not as an actor but in terms of production. She already knew how things worked and was aware of the differences in both the mediums, be it theatre or TV.

As far as acting is concerned, Mariyam deems herself a method actor. “I am a method actor when portraying a certain character,” she says. For those who don’t know, method acting is where an actor is so immersed in the character that they actually live it in real life. “When I have to cry and feel I’m not putting my heart into it, I will sit for 15-20 minutes and try to think of all the hardships and depressing events that have taken place.” I ask if that has ever taken a toll on her personality. “It hasn’t, but it does affect my days. When I’m playing a depressed person then I’ll feel depressed throughout the day,” she makes it known.

What makes her claim of method acting genuine is the fact that Mariyam is not one of those actors who use glycerine to pour teardrops when her characters demand. “I have tried glycerine, Vicks and everything [to make the character cry] but to no avail. Until and unless I feel the character and cry, nothing works on me. I feel that I’m not doing it right. So I always put my heart into it, spend some alone time, get back and cry,” Mariyam reveals the secret to how she gets the job done. However, she feels that good chemistry with a co-actor also helps in portraying the character’s emotions on-screen. “A wonderful co-actor is God’s blessing. It’s important to have harmony and happiness on set because it brings out a good actor and emotions in you and [then] there is good chemistry,” she says and adds, “That’s one of the reasons, Obi (Osman Khalid Butt) and I have a wonderful chemistry on-screen. Even though we played brother and sister, we were great together, in fact, all of us in Diyar-e-Dil knew each other very well,” she talks about how comfortable acting gets when actors get along well, which eventually reflects in their work.

From Diyar-e-Dil to Yakeen Ka Safar, how much has Mariyam changed, I ask her, as we continue chatting. “I haven’t really changed. I have always been a people’s person. A part of me is a little reserved at first, but I enjoy mingling with people, getting to know them and making new friends,” she discloses the serene yet friendly side of her nature, adding, “I have made some great friends in the industry and interacted with my fans, which is an overwhelming feeling. In that, I haven’t really changed.” Nevertheless, it is the characters that have changed her into a sympathetic person, for she feels, “Sometimes, when you’re doing a certain character, you absorb it, you go through its pain, its ups and downs, and what it is supposed to feel. That is something I have never felt before,” she says, quoting the example of portraying the character of a domestic abuse victim, which she feels was something no one should have gone through.

I don’t have any favourite movie just like I don’t have a favourite actor. I’m not a movie buff.

Mariyam has so far acted in six to seven projects and all her characters, according to her, have been different in some way or the other. Does she have a favourite amongst them? “I have actually enjoyed all my projects but Haya Kay Daman Main takes the prize because of the character’s graph, for initially, she is a positive character who gets negative and then again takes a positive turn, so the shifts between the character was hard to pull off,” she reveals, while deeming it challenging yet enjoyable.

Mariyam would have been an architect if not an actor, for she has a penchant and aesthetics to set up beautiful homes. She is a Mills & Boon and Greys Anatomy kind of a person and if she ever happens to produce or direct a project, she wants make something of that sort, but with a social message. For the actress, the role of a blind person is what intrigues her mind. “As an actor, I want to feel what else can be done except for crying and laughing, and to play someone who can’t see anything must be challenging.”

The character and the script is what matters the most when signing a project. How is my character making a difference in the script? Even better, if it carries a social message and if it can make a difference in even a single person’s life, I consider myself the luckiest person on the face of this planet.

The starlet who belongs to the younger lot of the country, aims to bring freshness to her craft, yet most of the scripts on TV often portray women in depressing roles. When asked what can be done to change these circumstances, she opines, “This should not happen and we should not continue doing it. There are other women too who are fighting against domestic violence, who are doing wonderful things, running corporate firms and what not, why can’t we make dramas about them?” She seems to have a solution to this age-old gimmick. “We need to include youngsters in the content and writing department who can add more freshness to the script and connect with all sorts of people. Because our generation doesn’t watch these [depressing] dramas, they don’t want to watch roti dhoti larkian all the time,” she states and stresses on the idea that we need to take up more social issues and appreciate women who are doing wonderful work.

Talking about the perks of her glamorous profession, Mariyam promptly acknowledges. “You get invited to all the cool events,” she laughs incessantly and adds further, “fame is definitely one of the perks. You get to meet so many people; you learn so much from the top professionals in the industry. Also, you go through so many emotions when portraying a character.” However, the one con that really bothers her is that “there is no privacy at all!” Mariyam laments about the disadvantage of being a celebrity. “You wear sleeveless, you are thrashed; if you are seen out with your male friends, you are judged. People are so judgemental that every move you make and everything that you do is judged,” she protests adding, “I do understand that we’re out there for the public to see and know about us but there is zero privacy; especially in today’s time when [the use of ] social media is on a rise.”

Keeping all this in mind, what is it that keeps her going in this extremely competitive profession? “Faith in Allah and belief in myself. You believe in yourself and you don’t become an insecure person,” quips the girl whose driving force is her mother and she is all praises for her. “I know a lot of people but I haven’t seen anyone who is as strong as her. Her strength and her faith in Allah have kept me going even in my darkest hours. If I am half as someone like her, then I’d consider having accomplished something that’s beyond my capabilities,” says the doting daughter.

My idea of a perfect life is a wonderful career, a wonderful family, with all my people around me, vacationing once or twice a year, working towards building my country and making it one of the best in the world and raising social awareness among my people.

Born on February 19, Mariyam lies on the cusp of Pisces and Aquarius but her time of birth makes her a true Piscean. She is the eldest among her four siblings and calls herself a typical one who can die for her sister and two brothers. According to her, wolf is her spirit animal, for “they are strong but very family-oriented and I’m all about my people,” she divulges. Currently reading Rumi's Daughter, a novel by Muriel Maufroy, Mariyam finds joy in reading and is “a book junkie”.

In a previous interview with MAG, Mariyam spilled the beans about her plans to get hitched, which made me curious to know how that has progressed so far. “It’s very much happening and you’ll Insha Allah hear about it soon,” she discloses.

The budding actress wants to try her hands at production and will soon be starting her production company, along with other future plans that the lass aims to accomplish. “I plan to run a successful production house, do more for my country and do more acting projects. Also, I would try to become a better entrepreneur and a better daughter to my parents,” she says with hope evident in her optimistic demeanour. •

Hair & Make-up: N-Pro
Designer: FnkAsia by Huma Adnan
Photography: Nadir Toosy