On a beautiful spring day in Islamabad, we met a capital native Mariyam Nafees whose passion for acting and theatre has led her to be quite active on the small screen. Last year she debuted in the critically acclaimed and fan-adored serial Diyar-e-Dil. We talk to the young thespian on her latest ventures, her burgeoning career and the responsibility of media.
Tell us a bit about your background: where did you grow up and when did start acting?
My early childhood was spent in Lahore where I attended the American National School and Convent after which we moved to Islamabad and since then this city is H-O-M-E! I started acting three years ago with a year’s gap in between so, two consistent years.
What was your first theatre production? How would you describe the feeling of taking the stage?
My first theatre experience was with Sir Shah Sharabeel as an assistant director in Tom, Dick and Harry. At the age of 17, I learned so much which helped me in great ways later when I joined Kopykats Productions as one of their core team members.
How did your television debut come about? What was the role and how did you prepare?
Acting was an accident which I’m grateful for. After reluctantly agreeing to a brief cameo in a play, I was approached by Nadeem Siddiqui who to date
says ‘I saw her and I knew I’d found the perfect Anju’ – which was my first full-fledged role in Munkir. Nadeem bhai asked me to completely be myself and carry the character as me, which was a lot of fun.
From there where did you appear next? How many shows have you done?
Next was Diyar-e-Dil, which was the ultimate for me and an unforgettable experience. I’ve done seven shows altogether including my first guest appearance and a telefilm.
What kind of roles do you actively look for?
I want to be associated with good projects and play the characters that brings out the better actor in me. Challenging roles with emotional graphs, characters with a strong message because I believe we have a responsibility towards the audience. Entertaining them is one thing, but we should create awareness too.
Is there a particular role you are hoping to get? What would be a dream role?
I hope I get to play a role full of action one day with lots of stunts. I love experimenting and there’s just not one role that I would say is my dream role. I want to play all sorts of characters; tragic, biopics, satires – you name it. I want to experience all.
Whose work in the industry behind and in front of the camera do you admire?
Oh God! That would be a long list for both. Behind the camera it’s Shoaib Mansoor, Haseeb Hassan and Ehtasham Uddin. In front of the camera it’s Mahira Khan, Saba Qamar, Sarwat Gillani and from the male actors Ahsan Khan, Osman Khalid Butt and Hamza Ali Abbasi.
How did Women Through Film come to be and what is your involvement with it?
Women Through Film is a small initiative founded by Madeeha Raza and co-founded myself. In March we organised Pakistan’s first Women International Film Festival in Islamabad. We aim to make it a yearly festival, taking place in different city every year. We showcase films made by women from all over the world including Pakistan and help them raise their voices, be heard and explore a diverse range of topics and genres.
Tell us a bit about your work with PTI and how it came about?
It all started with the jalsa held by PTI before the elections in 2013. I remember the adrenaline and the excitement of voting for the very first time. Then I took part in Azadi march and became an active member for PTI. Although in the previous year I haven’t been able to give it much time but I plan on rejoining them very soon.
How important is it for the young people of Pakistan to be in tune with country’s political climate?
It’s extremely important for everybody not just the youngsters – men and especially women, of all ages. Everybody should be aware of their rights, who they’re electing and what elected representatives are doing to serve us. It’s very important for our people to be in tune with the country’s political climate.
Do you think the industry through story telling and plays, and politics have room to overlap?
Most definitely. I believe not just films and television, but all creative mediums have a responsibility to bring awareness. Since television has the biggest outreach than any other medium, I’m glad we’ve started raising social issues and that it has been well-received. We should also focus on showing the brave and wonderful side of women instead of portraying them just as damsels in serious distress at all times.
Where do you see yourself in five years and what projects do you have coming up?
Portraying different characters, working towards the betterment of Pakistan, taking Women Through Film to a higher level and enjoying an amazing married life with my wonderful man. You’ll soon see me back on HUM TV with another never-done-by-me character and along with that, I continue reading scripts.