Mawra Hocane claims to be the youngest Pakistani entertainer ever to make a film debut across the border. The 22-year-old, who started her entertainment career as a video jockey at 17 before pursuing a career in modelling and acting, is excited about the release of her debut Bollywood film, Sanam Teri Kasam, on February 5. Directed by Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru, it stars Telugu actor Harshvardhan Rane, Vijay Raaz and Sudesh Berry, with music by Himesh Reshammiya.
Hocane tells The National about her decision to work in the Hindi film industry, and why Pakistan is better known for its television soap operas than its films.
The move to Bollywood is a bold one for Pakistani actresses. When did you feel you were ready for it?
A: For an actor, growth is very important. I have always chosen to take a different route. I’m 22. No other Pakistani actress has set foot in India at this young age. Public reaction has always been in my favour. Even now, people are telling me that they have faith in me and believe I will do them proud. When you receive criticism, you should take it in your side, but I’ve received love more than anything else and that’s what motivates me and keeps me going.
Why did you pick Sanam Teri Kasam for your Bollywood debut?
Sanam Teri Kasam wasn’t the first Bollywood project offered to me. I was offered other projects with more established actors, but I always knew that I could easily be seen as just eye-candy. In my country, I’m known for my performances. So, across the border, I wanted do something at least as good, if not better. When I was offered Sanam Teri Kasam, I could see it was a very different script and an offbeat story. I’d appear opposite a new actor and play this introverted girl with spectacles and a braid, who’d be made over in the latter half of the film. I knew that for me to grow as an actor, I couldn’t opt for a role that didn’t give me scope to perform. I’m not at that stage where I can do a glamorous role and come back home.
Isn’t that putting a lot of pressure on yourself?
It is. But you know what they say: a diamond is cut under pressure. Here, I’ve played a lead role and whether the film does good or bad, the burden lies on me. One should have the courage to take on responsibility and that’s why I did this: to prove myself.
Describe the essence of Sanam Teri Kasam in your own words.
It’s a love story between a girl who’s bound by social norms and a boy who doesn’t abide by them. Their paths cross and they fall in love. A love story can’t be more than a boy and a girl falling in love, but you can garnish it with good music, good visuals and beautiful twists and turns. Sanam Teri Kasam manages to do that.
Is Mawra Hocane a romantic at heart?
I’m an absolute hopeless romantic and that’s why I adore the script. It’s a classic fable which you don’t get anymore. In the 21st century, love has become so temporary. I always say that I was born in the wrong era. I should’ve been born in the 70s or 80s when love meant so much more than it does today. In this busy world we forget to find each other, fall in love and go all the way for our soul mates.
In real life you’re a fashionista whereas in the film you have such a simple look. Didn’t you want to make your Bollywood debut with a more glam role?
It’s amazing to get such an unorthodox role where your performance outshines everything else. People won’t look at how glamorous you look, but focus on how well you perform. An eventual transformation into the quintessential Bollywood glam girl is a part of the film too, so it’s a win-win.
How do you compare the Pakistani film industry with Bollywood?
I don’t like comparison in any shape or form. I don’t compare the industries, and I don’t compare myself with any other actor. I’m overwhelmed by and in awe of the work that I do. I adore my work. I live to work. So for me to compare anything would be demeaning to what I’m doing.
Having done both TV and films, which medium do you prefer?
I don’t necessarily prefer one over the other. I‘ve done films in India, which is the dominant medium there, and I’m going to go back to Pakistan and do a serial, which is the dominant medium there. I’m currently not reading Pakistani film scripts because, though cinema is growing, I prefer to be a part of the industry that we’re known for around the world and by that, I mean our beautiful serials.