Never before has the Pakistani housewife had it so good — in a couple of hours she can have her fortune read, her family’s medical issues (if any) addressed, meal of the day planned and manage whatever else happens to be on the agenda. It is the perfect beginning to a day through a tirade of morning shows being flashed left, right and centre by satellite TV channels day in and day out.
Yet, in this potpourri of programmes, there is only one that exclusively and practically focuses on what matters most to women — beauty. And so it is that Sola Singhar, the hour-long morning show aired from Indus Plus six days a week continues to get high ratings, as its hostess Amber Wajid discusses hairstyles, fashion, skin problems and remedies endlessly.
For what the show entails, things are apparently exciting enough with Amber as the hostess for the past two-and-a-half years. As a person who loves to dress up, she has a style of her own — face perfectly made up, sometimes flamboyantly dressed, other times traditionally, her ease and composure always evident.
As she speaks, her matter-of-fact approach to life reveals more about her character. “I hate it when people don’t know what they are talking about. Rather than being honest and to the point, many pretend they are well-informed and always talk pretentiously, creating false impressions. I always believe in what others say and take things at face value,” she says.
Like many others before her, Amber says her foray into showbiz was also by chance. After spending her childhood in Dubai, she toyed with the idea of becoming a doctor, eventually settling down in Karachi to raise two daughters with a doctor-turned-businessman. It was when she took her daughter to an audition for a commercial that she received an offer to model.
Her air of confidence and self-assurance was her ticket to more projects and future successes. Not having any connections in an environment where “99 per cent people use their contacts to get to directors”, she took whatever opportunities came her way. “I lack the pretensions which could have landed me the lead role. What are nakhras? I don’t even know how to throw a tantrum,” she says emphatically.
Starting from Ghazanfar Ali’s Jaal to doing serials and sitcoms, and then playing the role of a Turkish mother has cast her in a mould that is hard to break. Presently, she is working in a co-production, Dharkan, aired from ARY Digital, with Indian stars, playing the glamorous mother of three grown-up children. The story revolves around her character who is now a grandmother.
As recordings take up a lot of her time, Amber says she arranges it so that she works 10 days at a stretch, with the rest of the month reserved for her family. A dedicated mother, who claims having to battle guilt every time she leaves her young daughter behind at home, Amber has successfully managed to juggle her love for showbiz with her home life. Her typical day starts as early as 6.30am. After dropping her daughter off to school, she is at the studios to do Sola Singhar. Adjusting to her new life was difficult, but things have worked out fine over time, and her family has learnt to live with her schedule. “Even if we are not having meals together, we still manage to spend time with each other,” she says.
Stepping outside to work is a big step for any woman, and she praises all working women because she believes that “female empowerment is only possible when women contribute towards the family income”. She strongly feels that women need to have some activity in their lives as housework is not a very exciting hobby.
She also says that she enjoys hosting live shows and her programmes are pretty much spontaneous because “it all comes from the heart”. She adds that during the show, she forgets that she is facing the camera and feels that she is chatting with her family: “There is so much to do like read emails, take live calls, talk about diet plans, etc.” To date, both veteran and amateur beauticians and renowned health experts have appeared in her show, as well as dermatologists such as Dr Afzal Lodhi and Dr Khurram Mushir. These names have added to the show’s credibility and led to increased viewership, making it one of the most successful daily shows for women on the TV circuit dealing directly with the issue of beauty.
Amber elaborates upon her manner of conducting Sola Singhar (renamed Surat Aur Seerat during Ramazan): “I probe, I question because it is my belief that the viewers must not be misinformed. Having a lot of experience and after having experimented so much on myself, my guests on the show don’t know what I will ask them. Consequently, they come prepared, having read up on researches on herbs and other techniques before they offer advice on beauty and health care. We keep each show unique by discussing something entirely different.
“For instance, we’ll show hairstyles for different people or suggest what kind of make-up looks good with an outfit. Then appropriate fashion for teenage girls is also suggested. My all-time favourite is party and bridal make-up in which we style the models according to the latest looks, trends and outfits. Recently, we aired a segment on regional brides on Independence Day.” The aim is to make women aware of the ‘in’ colours and hairstyles and about what suits them the most.”
Sola Singhar is a true reflection of Amber with her control over intellectual content. In a way, the programme caters to every woman’s inborn urge to dress up and look fabulous — hence the appeal the show holds for women.
Amber also says that her involvement in sports while still in school has matured into a desire for a healthy, active lifestyle and she has taken up aerobics with a vengeance. She is very diet-conscious and strongly advocates daily exercise for all body types regularly in her programme. Once on her show, a doctor recommended drinking lots of water for cleansing the body. Now, Amber makes her viewers drink a glass halfway through the show every day.
Beauty, for her, “is skin that is smooth and glowing”. She says that wheatish skin colour is far more attractive to her than fair, and that “a good diet from childhood, exercise and a cheerful, positive attitude towards life gives women the inner glow which makes them truly beautiful”. In her daily chit chat, she encourages women to think positively and claims “many have found the inspiration and motivation to improve their lives just by regularly tuning in to her show. A lady had been diagnosed with cancer and had lost all hope. But listening to the show, she found a reason to live. Today, that lady has lost weight and improved her looks while the cancer is in remission.”
So Amber, who had once dreamt of becoming a doctor to help those in pain and suffering, has found a new way to help them — simply by talking and empathising. “There is a dire need for counselling in our country. The thing is, somebody’s words click and make an impression and other’s don’t. Everybody has problems and one must have the strength and will power to face them. Also, women want to improve themselves but don’t know how to. They want to talk to their husbands who don’t have time for such ‘female nonsense’ and there is nobody else who will listen to them. There are many things that we take for granted in our lives without realising that some people don’t have these blessings.”
At the same time, Amber feels that women are responsible for many of the problems that they have created for themselves. “They should be aware of their husbands’ needs as well. There are many things one cannot say no to. Nobody taught us these things, but we know. Once women have had children, they let themselves go and lose interest in themselves.” She says this is not necessary. She has also observed that the general tendency is to not to think independently and make decisions on the experiences and suggestions of others, however illogical they may be.
What would she be doing if not hosting live shows? Amber’s love for glamour and fashion is evident in her voice when she says she plans to set up a beauty salon and a boutique with accessories brought in from abroad. “I love travelling and having a good time. Change and variety excite me because I love being on the move.”
She believes that having faith in others coupled with good intentions and a clear character never lets one down. “One should always try to help others. You never know who is out there praying for you. Almost everyone lives for themselves, but you are a better person if you help someone, even just a little bit,” says the indomitable Amber Wajid.