My Fair Lady Mahnoor Baloch is like this beautiful fragile desert flower who could play a mysterious Arab princess, delicate enough to bruise by the stem of a flower. The every next instant, she is a fire-breathing feminist who hates the idea of a woman being perceived as a brainless twit, fit for nothing more than sniveling on screen. Mahnoor has a visage that you can imagine starring out of reflective water when Oriental goddesses look into them. Chiseled cheekbones that can cut ice, large doe-eyes and a natural glow add to a face that could launch thousand ships. In an identical Joan-of-Arcish manner, she is pretty firm about her dos and don'ts. Check out the many facets of Mahnoor Baloch.
“Beauty with Intelligence is a rare combination…” this is what Bernard Shaw analyzed about women but Mahnoor Balouch certainly proves it wrong. A woman who has just not made the audience woo for her light straight air, smooth skin and big fluttering eyes but made them turn with her prudent directorial ventures.
At Karachi Gymkhana, Mahnoor attired in black denim jeans and hugging t-shirt of the same color, she reminded of a princess locked up in a tower waiting for her Prince charming to come and rescue her although she found the guy of her dreams way back around two decades ago at sixteen by an handsome young man of the corporate world.
Still, married happily with a beautiful daughter Mahnoor glows as she talks about her family. She doesn't although feel comfortable enough to reveal much about her family life as she says, “If whatever I do is brought out in public, that is certainly fine with me but digging out my personal life is just not the right way to do it.” Mahnoor believes that her personal life has just been dug too much from the time that she got married in her teens to her daughter's upbringing she feels that everyone knows far much than they should know. It is one of the basic reasons that she does not give out much of the interviews nowadays, “They all are just the same!”
Very few people know that Mahnoor actually started off her career with modeling and yes she is back to the roots with a Bang. But before we discuss this, where was she, away from glitz and glam?
“I went to the film School of Toronto.” So is she moving towards film world or it's just or it's just the fitness of her acting and directing skills. Certainly, she aggress that there is a huge film market worldwide but she adamantly believes there is no film industry of Pakistan. “Film industry in Pakistan was gone in its seventies only! And I do not want badmouth or degrade our filmy setup but I firmly believe they don't want to move forward at all!” Mahnoor is bitter about the silver screen because she says if it really progressed or “moved on” precisely what she calls it as she would have been the first person there.
Mahnoor has been accused of being just a pretty face in all her performances than being a substantial actress. She retorts back rather irritated, “I don't understand what they want out of me? When I did Marvi wasn't Marvi anyways. I was her friend from a posh locality and performed according to that.” She further elucidates that Chandni Raatein was a very challenging and different performance wise since she was the second wife of a man who marries again for a child. With a beguiling smile she states that the directors never consider her for low-society girl roles as they come up with a lame excuse that she does not have the looks for it. Hence, all the meaty roles are bagged by Sania Saeed, Nadia Jamil and other actresses. Besides she thinks that it is the basic flaw in our serials nowadays. “The only typical clad playing all the typical roles.” Is what she is definitely bitter about.
Apart from being a splendid actress Mahnoor has also directed serials under her own production banner. “Sometimes you feel conceited and you want to express yourself. This is when I started up my own production house.” Just four years back she started up with her own production company entered the field through a production called “Lamhay” which was a huge success in the masses. Though the “smarter audience” as she terms them laughingly could not accept her in Shehzad Roy's mother's role. Since then she has never looked back. She came up with “Path Jhar ki Chaaon” in 2000, a sensitive tale woven around a mother daughter relationship which once again earned her a tremendous response from her audience.
She has always been blamed for being a moody actress who works under her own set of principles. And she firmly believes she has and she would definitely keep it up in future too as she states that it is the only way one comes with good wholesome projects. On the other hand she stubbornly disagrees with the fact of being called moody. She claims she has never been moody. However, she doesn't want to do all the ‘stuff' that comes her way as she wants to be remembered for a long time.
Unlike other models of the time who left modeling with a bad flavor in their mouth, she has returned to the ramp. ‘When I came back to Pakistan after a year and a half it was certainly a changed scenario. Firstly, there are so many private channels which is good and even the ramp modeling has changed. ‘So, what were the things that made her run away from the catwalk altogether and return. ‘Basically when I did this catwalk show it was purely nothing but showing of flesh. I mean what you expect from a show which had nothing but mere two cloths covering your body. It wasn't just me but every single model felt uncomfortable with how the show was shaping up. After my arrival here, my ramp show at expo was marvelous. It had good clothes. All the trendy wear with decency and elegance. ‘She says that she is definitely back and plans to flourish in it too.
After her first directorial venture, she was considered a carp actress and director in whole. Mahnoor smiles sarcastically at this question and answer patiently, ‘I know many people who liked it in fact I would say the masses loved it but there must be people who disliked it. It depends on your likes and dislikes and you cannot mould people according to your will.' What does she have to say over the fact that her last production ‘Pathjhar, ki chaoon' had the same story as another serial called ‘Anie.' ‘You know what it wasn't the case. It was so different. I saw ‘Annie' and I suppose the first episode only boasts the same story line apart from that there was not a single similarity. Annie's kids were very young whereas in ‘Pathjhar ki chaaon' I myself played the eldest daughter who takes revenge from her mother by seducing her step daddy. To the blame that ‘Pathjhar ki chaaon' had a similar storyline as that of an Indian movie she expresses, ‘Concepts are worked upon again and again! I took the basic concept from a novel maybe the writer of that film too had his concept from the same novel. Anyways I never got to see any such film.
Mahnoor is actually putting her heart and soul yet for another of her production which is in pipeline and is called ‘shiddat.' ‘I just sold the copyrights to new private channel Hum TV.' She seems very enthusiastic about her latest venture as it is her first project after her film course and she has strived to put in all that she had learnt there. Nevertheless she is still not ready to reveal the story even in the tit bits because she says that it destroys the whole flavor of the serial in totality. It was huge rumor, not so long ago that a well reputed private TV channel refused to take up her serial for their prime time. ‘Seriously I don't get what it takes to be on these private channels. They have put up such people in charge who don't even know their job. Now this specific person tells me that my project is a copy of some Indian soap or movie which in fact was very wrong.' She pointed out that earlier the same in charge had refused to take up another serial which turned out to be a success among the masses. She counts it as a big fault of the TV channel and considers the in charge a fall for the station.
Mention movies and Mahnoor gets a little nostalgic. She says she feels a strong urge to change the film industry bring in raw talent to shape them up for the betterment for not only the filmi scene but also for the progress of the country. ‘I've loved working with the raw young talent. They are always very hardworking and put in all the dint and effort they can to make their projects look perfect.' Would Mahnoor prefer to work with newcomers is DIVA's next query. ‘Definitely,' she replies assuring, ‘There is no way I won't. I am even looking forward in promoting newcomers at the ramp because they seem so diligent.'
With all that she is today who does she give all the credit to? ‘I feel there is no such institution in our country to help us learn the basics of acting and groom our performances. If you are smart enough you will have to learn from your surroundings only. Hard work pays of in the end surely.'
For the past few months as India-Pakistan progresses politically our actors have turned on the acting diplomacy. Pakistani actors are trying their luck in Bollywood whereas Indian actors are moving towards our small screen. This gives rise to, would Mahnoor one of those in the bandwagon and Mahnoor denies it with a spontaneous No! She feels that there is so much to utilize in our country that we don't even have time to think about others. ‘I got offers from Bollywood when Zeba did Henna but I refused because I would not feel comfortable with a lot of things that they portray in their movie' she says.
As the evening progressed one felt that this vibrant women as a lot of substance to offer inspite of all that she has done. What channels does she found worth watching nowadays? ‘It is a humongous change. I t was only PTV at one time. Now they have a lot of new channels. ARY is really good. HUM is doing superb. I think very single channel is adding colors to the small screen.
Mahnoor says that if we need to progress we should have an urge to do so. She thinks that our new generation lacks the competitive attitude and it is struck with glamour and has lost the touch to good performance. She is among the few people who are working hard to change the showbiz structure.
Taking leave of a lady of talents and going back, I couldn't suppress a smile as I saw HUM TV run a trailor of the serial shiddat crossing the lobby. She certainly has all the talents to lead on.