How often do we come across headstrong, determined and may we say charming artists who have defined their brilliance by representing their work of art in more than one region? Not to mention when coupled with looks which transcend beyond one nationality, you know you’re in the presence of someone extraordinary.
Just as Social Diary was when we spoke with the ever-dazzling and immensely talented Armeena Khan- a happening name that continues to create waves in whatever she pursues. From acting in international projects, to walking on the Cannes Red Carpet as well as working in poignant national projects, here’s to getting to know this fascinating actor a little better:
SD: Was joining the industry always on the cards?
Armeena: No, I never imagined that I would be an actress, I can’t say that I made a decision to step into the industry as I did not have any family connections or legacy. But I am restless, forever searching and aspiring to do better things. I believe this was always destined for me, as things played themselves out in such a way to bring me to the television screens. I was modelling part-time for fun while at university, some Indian producers came across my pictures and the next moment I was auditioning for films in India (which I passed). My trajectory was as surreal as that and the rest is history.
SD: Were there any setbacks you had to face while making a presence in the field?
Armeena: Some experiences were pleasant while others were a shock to my system. For example, the long and arduous hours, constant travelling and dirty politics made it very challenging. It was far away from the 9-5 job as anyone can imagine but the curve was steep and I learnt fast. I was very lucky that the public took to me very quickly and I am grateful for all my experiences, positive and negative.
SD: How do you choose your roles?
Armeena: I cannot tell you how difficult it is to find good scripts these days. I need to do more empowered female characters because I still very much feel that some of my work (if not all) should reflect my conscientiousness as a person. I live by certain principles and in a country like Pakistan where positive role models are needed, I feel I need to err on the side of caution when choosing my roles. Of course, I understand that I may not always be able to do that and some roles I will have to take on because I enjoy the way they are written e.g Tara – But I do try my best where possible. I do not know what the future holds, I may very well have to take on unpalatable roles for the lack of good scripts on offer.
SD: Any genre or role you haven’t played yet?
Armeena: I have yet to play a truly, multi-dimensional and challenging role. I would love to play a superhero, which requires stunts, action combined with a complex, multifaceted character. Conversely, I find histrionic roles very challenging. Having said all of that, I really loved playing Tara in my latest play ‘Mohabattain Chahattain’, multi-dimensional and always keeping the audience guessing.
SD: How far along do you feel our drama/film industry has come on the international level?
Armeena: We have a very long way to go yet. We have not even made a ‘dent’ on the global scale. Our industry needs to be respected, owned and regarded as a respectable career choice by the masses before we can even look towards the international stage. Why would anyone give us credibility and respect if we cannot even do that for ourselves? What would respect look like? Better budgets, scripts, giving space to real talent, better working conditions, minimum wage, royalties, unions and regard for our own actors. But Pakistanis are talented, competitive and learn fast, maybe the landscape might change yet, especially with mega hits like Ertugrul, even though foreign, setting a challenging benchmark for our industries.
SD: Do you consider taking on international projects?
Armeena: I started off my career in India and then the U.K. so I have already done a bit on the international scene and will continue to do so.
SD: Drama or films? Your pick?
Armeena: Celluloid is forever. The thrill of working on the big screen never changes, from the first ‘action’ to seeing your name roll on the opening credits in the cinema is an altogether amazing feeling.
SD: How do you deal with trolling?
Armeena: There was a time when I would take things very personally. But as the years have progressed, I have understood that whilst not every follower is a well-wisher, there are plenty who do want the best for me and are eager to follow my journey. My fans give me strength, it is they who encourage me to the point where I am able to ignore negative comments and trolling successfully. However, there are some days when a particularly nasty comment can catch me off guard and, in these moments, things do seem bleak, I do admit. I can still handle it but I fear for those who cannot and end up with a multitude of mental health problems including low self-esteem and in worse cases, end up taking their own lives. This is why I repeat my mantra about ‘kindness’ for we do not know what battles another may be fighting, so ‘be kind.’
SD: First Pakistani actress to walk Cannes. How did it feel to represent Pakistan on such a mega platform?
Armeena: It was an amazing feeling. In 2013, I did not know that I would end up being the first one but more than firsts, the important thing was to get Pakistan’s name out there and I did that by starring in a British film, but being Pakistani brought that representation with me. At the time, I was very disappointed that Pakistan did not have any representative ‘kiosks’ with film entries, when so many countries did. In fact, I was shocked because I assumed that we would. I still feel as if we do not have any real presence at these international festivals because we do not have any film entries from Pakistan itself. Hope this will change in the future as our industry grows and professionalizes itself.
SD: Your advice for those wishing to enter the media:
Armeena: I will try to keep this concise as there is much to cover. Pursue proper training, it is not an easy industry and is getting increasingly difficult. If you enter this industry, do so through a proper agency and trusted avenues. Do your research and get yourself proper acting mentors if possible. Be sincere with your projects and commitments and do not try to find short cuts.
SD: Your plans for 2021?
Armeena: 2020 has taught me not to make any
long-term plans as life can switch on its head in an instant. For now, we are just coming out of lockdown in the U.K after nearly a year. I am going to take things slow, get back into the gym, reconnect with old friends, maybe travel (if circumstances allow for it) and bring some semblance of normality back into my life. I might even take up writing, who knows what I will do.
In a Glance:
Favourite Holiday Destination?
Somewhere by the sea.
Traditional wear or western apparel:
One thing people don’t know about you?
Some things should stay that way.
Biggest Regret in life?
Too early for this, ask me again in a few years.
One thing you can’t live without?
My freedom to choose.
People who take themselves too seriously.
Morning person or night owl?
Three things we’ll find in your bag?
Lip balm, hairbrush and a water bottle.
One person you look up to?
I have a few mentors in life.
If you weren’t an actress, you would’ve been…