I meet Mansha Pasha at a crowded restaurant. For someone who has been in showbiz for five years, she has quite a few hits to her credit. She is a good looking girl, and at a stage in her career when actresses tend to stay in front of the camera, but the Zindagi Gulzar Hai girl has turned to direction by making videos on social issues, especially related to women. Her videos, released online, touch on issues such as child marriage and how to handle postpartum depression.
When we meet, the first question I ask her is about why she has chosen to become a director at the tender age of 29. “As actors, we have become laid back,” Mansha says. “We have become dependent on somebody else’s vision and ideas, which is at times frustrating for those who are meticulous about their performances. I have always wanted to have the right to control and that’s one of the many reasons why I studied media [for a bachelor’s degree]. My stint with MD Productions as a producer groomed me. I have always kept the director in me alive, right from my student life.
“The reason I chose to start right away was that there was no reason to delay it or not attempt it for the fear of failure. I teamed up with social activist Jibran Nasir and we decided to come up with six short videos that targeted separate issues — the first was about child marriage and the second was regarding postpartum depression. They have been released under the banner of Elaj Foundation. The slogan for this short film series is Ilm Se Elaj and like ads made abroad, especially across the border, we have tried to keep the message subtle with a hint of suspense so that people can understand the message.”
Mansha Pasha talks to Icon about the importance of doing substantial roles as an actor and her decision to turn to direction to serve society through message-oriented videos
Born in Hyderabad to parents who are doctors, Mansha shifted to Karachi for higher studies. Replying to a question on how it feels to join the small but distinguished league of female directors in Pakistan, Mansha says she still has a long way to go. “Direction is a very difficult and demanding job. We had to go through a very arduous process after the one-day shoot since the pre-planning took a week and a half. The editor stayed at my place and worked 24/7 while I would sit with her whenever I was free. For the four-minute videos, we changed our routine and thank God that everyone liked the idea and execution.”
As I converse with her, many heads turn in our direction mostly because of the unique quality of Mansha’s voice. She also does TV commercials. “It feels really good when people recognise you,” she says about her stint as a commercial model. “Working with creative people always helps you as an actor — Farooq Mannan is a very good director and I have done a few ads with him this year. Umar Anwar is also one of those directors who work hard.”
The actress doesn’t mind talking about her plays where she didn’t play the lead — she played supporting roles in Humsafar, Shehr-i-Zaat, Madiha Maliha, Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara, Mera Naam Yusuf Hai and To Dil Ka Kia Hua. She believes that doing an uninteresting role (even if it is the main lead) is easy, but that’s not what she has signed up for.
For me, roles with substance are the ones that have a margin to perform. I want characters that grow with the drama, something I can relate to and get excited about. If I don’t find the lead role exciting enough, neither would the audience. You can either be the lead or be an actor — the choice is yours.”
“I have a problem when a character lives a tense life and doesn’t say much about it,” Mansha says. “For me, roles with substance are the ones that have a margin to perform. I want characters that grow with the drama, something I can relate to and get excited about. If I don’t find the lead role exciting enough, neither would the audience. You can either be the lead or be an actor — the choice is yours.”
Not many know that Mansha could have been lost to the world of news since it was Plan B for the actress at the beginning of her career. “I’m glad I chose acting over anything else. I interned with an English newspaper when I was deciding which field to explore and thankfully I ended up with acting where I have earned recognition.”
The year 2017 has been a prominent one for Mansha Pasha — not only is she working in Yasir Nawaz’s upcoming drama Qarz, she has also had two back-to-back hits in To Dil Ka Kia Hua and Jalti Rait Par. Her film debut Chalay Thay Saath too happened this year. The film didn’t do well at the box office when it was released in April, but her acting was appreciated by most who saw it.
On her decision to do films after learning the tricks of the trade through television, she says, “I did a film at the right time. I had quite a number of film offers but none seemed fine to me. A few things went wrong with Chalay Thay Saath such as marketing, PR and no channel association, but not from the actors’ side. People appreciated the acting in that film, proving that my decision was correct. I will do a film that has a good script and a character that is different from what we see on the big screen.”
We take a detour in our conversation to talk about other things. Mansha feels in the days of PTV’s Dhoop Kinarey, our dramas were more advanced and had diversity. “If there is one character I would love to do from the past, it would be that of Dr Zoya in Dhoop Kinaray. In those days, the lead actress didn’t have to be tall, fair and support long hair. There was drama, there was tragedy and comedy all rolled into one in that play. Today you can’t have a touch of comedy in a serious play, a little seriousness in a comedy play and/or a hint of both in a drama. If that can happen in a film, then why can’t we have diversity on TV?”
Mansha reckons Ghoongat with Mehreen Jabbar as one of her best telefilms (it got a million hits on YouTube) while she picks Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara as her serial with the most recall value. She wants to work with Kashif Nisar on TV and Shoaib Mansoor in films and is sorry she hasn’t had the chance to act in a Farhat Ishtiaq play. But she is of the view that people shouldn’t quit TV for films because TV is a powerful medium.
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