The process of getting in touch with a celebrity for an interview can be a difficult task. The endless telephone calls one has to make in order to get an appointment and the run of the mill answers like, "ji woh ghar pe nahin hai", are standards that journalists have to put up with.
However, Marina isn't the typical celebrity. Upon meeting her, all the previous notions of being one of those celebrities with a chip on their shoulder were quickly dismissed. Throughout the interview, Khan came across as a very friendly and warm person.
Marina Khan was born in Peshawar on December 26, 1962. Khan was the product of an English mother and a Pakistani father who served in the Pakistan Air Force. True to her Capricorn star sign, Marina is a lively, humorous, romantic, committed and sensitive person, with a special love for cats and dogs.
Marina remembers her childhood fondly: "My father was in the Forces so we practically had to shift base every two years. Each time we moved, there was a new school and environment. The real friends that I made during my school days were when I got into class eight. I don't have what would you call 'childhood friends'.
The thing with so much shifting around is that one never develops any deep association for any institute. Otherwise, I enjoyed the process of packing, going to a new home, decorating my new room and all. It was fun but I am sure my parents got fed up with all the shifting.
My brother, Zarak, was not around the house as he was sent to a boarding school to ensure he had steady schooling. I guess I did feel lonely. Despite the fact that we fought a lot, it was wonderful when he used to come home."
"Marina's career in acting started with the long play, Rashid Minhas. Soon after came the hit serial, Tanhaiyan, which gave her instant recognition and the nickname, "Pink Panther". Since then, Khan has worked in a number of plays that include: Ehsas; Dhoop Kinaray; Nijaat; Farar; Tum se kahna tha; Khali haath and Tanha, a serial in India written by Haseena Mom and was recently aired again on Star Plus.
She has also been involved in theatre with Yasmin Ismail and Rahat Kazmi. Now Marina has ventured into Direction and debuted with, Tum hi to ho. Khan also runs the production company, 'FAT CAT' Production."
So how did Marina enter this field?
"My friend, Kehkashan Awan was working in the serial, Jungle, and I used to go with her to the studios just to see what it was all about. The assistant director to Shehzad Khalil (who produced and directed Rashid Minhas) had met me and I think at that point he was looking for a new face and asked me if I had ever acted or had thought about it.
I replied that I had acted once in a while in school and college. I also told him that Urdu was my weak point. He was quite fine with it and named five people who have problems speaking in Urdu! He managed to convince me. After that came Tanhaiyan, which was also Shehzad Khalil's production."
Marina has fond memories of those days. 'Tanhaiyan' was a classic, it just became one of those plays. Though we hardly had any competition way back then, it was a huge success. Shehzad Khalil was the main force behind Tanhaiyan; that is one reason why I chose to work in this play. He was an amazing director.
"The script writer, Haseena Moin, was very apprehensive - obviously, there was this nobody (me) from nowhere, but Shehzad sahib had full confidence in me and saw beyond my Urdu. To convince Haseena Apa, he gave me a scene from Ankahi and made me rehearse. Shehzad sahib had made up his mind that he wanted me in Tanhaiyan.
I went early to the studio and kept on rehearsing so when the moment came, there I was and there was Haseena Apa, sitting in one corner. I was so nervous!" And how did she manage to overcome her problem with Urdu? "I used to go two to three hours early for rehearsals and sit with the assistant director, Shaheen Ansari, and rewrite on the script itself, reading it along the way.
By the time the actors would come, I was quite prepared. I remember Qazi sahib once commented, 'Yeh ladki khoon thukwaya gi.' We had a lot of fun during Tanhaiyan and we were like one big happy family."
"Marina pauses and then recalls with a smile: "There was this scene where Shehnaz comes late and I am very upset with her and start shouting, 'Bilcul tumhay koi fikar nahin hai, hum toh samjahy kay tum kissi rickshi taxa kay nichay ah gayee.' Suddenly there was silence and then everybody started laughing and I was left wondering what I said. They asked me: Marina what is a rickshi-taxa?!"
The role of Saniya made Marina a household name and she is still identified with that character. "Nobody allowed me to come out of character. I was also very comfortable with it, but after a while I said I couldn't do the same thing again and again. If you have a good director you don't mind, as he/she will get the best out of you.
But if you leave it up to me, I'll do it the way I have always liked to do it with a good director. For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed Tum se kehna tha. Sahira guided me and would tell me not to be Saniya". Right after Tanhaiyan, Marina did a serious role in Ehsas, which was a total change. After that came Dhoop kinaray, a mix of the comic and the serious.
Her character in this serial was quite memorable as Marina romanced with Rahat Kazmi. Though she considers herself to be a romantic person by heart and believes in projecting romance and love as much as she can while directing, when it comes to doing romantic scenes, she finds herself unable to romance on screen.
"During the making of this serial, I literally sailed through. I was on cloud nine as I was madly in love on a personal front. My mind was somewhere else. I just didn't want to be in the studio and I didn't feel like doing the romantic scenes with Rahat. I would start laughing during the scenes. Rahat would get upset as he hated the fact that.
I was starring opposite him and he kept calling me 'kal ki bachci' who couldn't even speak Urdu correctly. Sahira literally yelled at me, and at the same time coaxed her husband to do a romantic scene with me. She was definitely caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. But now when I watch that play, it seems so effortless - hats off to Sahira, she handled it all so well."
Earlier in the conversation, Marina mentioned that she was madly in love during the making of Dhoop kinaray. Considering her marriage was based on love, does Khan subscribe to the institution of marriage and where does her marriage to Jaleel Akhtar stand?
"Yes, I totally subscribe to the institution of marriage. It is a two-sided affair. There has be give-and-take from both sides. There should be humor and understanding, allowing the other person to grow by giving him/her space. Trust is the most important element in a marriage. Never try to change your partner as you are marrying the person you met and saw.
If you do that, then your spouse will try too hard to change and he/she will not be the same person. Certain things do bind us together while other things change automatically."
"I am married to the most wonderful human being. I have been very lucky. My life has not changed one bit. He is in the same field as I am, which is an added advantage. We don't have kids so we are together all the time. I haven't given up anything in my life. My love for animals continues, I don't think I would have married a man who did not like animals."
Most of Marina Khan's acting career was with PTV. Why, then, did she go on the infamous strike against the organization?
"It all started when a news item appeared in the papers saying that artists would be getting a lesser salary than what they were originally given. The article felt like a slap in the face. I consider myself new, but people like Talat Hussain, Badar Khalil, Qazi Wajid are the ones who have given everything to Pakistan Television. Without any regard and respect for them, PTV gave a little snippet in the paper about such an important issue.
So we got together and said, 'fine, if that's what you think of us then we are not going to work for you". People like Behrouz and Shabir Jan walked out of serials already on air. Initially, we had a whole bunch of people supporting us but of course as we are Pakistanis, we obviously don't stick together and many opted out'.
On the whole, it was a lovely feeling to be under one roof, fighting for one cause. I feel sorry for the ones who were not with us - I call them 'two-faced' and 'lotas'. I think that they should have stuck with us because in the end we would have won. As for PTV, the fact is that we have brought it respect and worked for nothing.
Suddenly, the authorities turned around and implied that they are the ones who made us. Okay, even if they did make us as stars, there must have been something in us that they decided to use. You earn respect, you cannot forcibly ask for it and at that point PTV did not need the respect it was getting because it was just kicking us in the face.
With reference to PTV, Marina holds Shehzad Khalil in high esteem. She remembers him as a humble and wonderful person. "He was one person who respected every person in the studio. He was never a 'me, myself' person. When we were on the sets, he used to see to it that everything was completed on time. If we did not learn our lines and things got delayed because of us or anyone else, he used to give us hell".
"Shehzad sahib never once claimed that he was the one to introduce me to show business. Haseena Apa once took credit for it but as much as I love her, I have to say she did not. It was Shehzad sahib, he literally fought for me for Tanhaiyan."
For Marina, her fellow actors were fun to be with. She talks fondly of all the actors she has worked with. "It was a lot of fun working with Shehnaz. We are still in touch and whenever I see her on television, I stop and watch the whole programme just because of her. She is an amazing person and yes, she was a fool to stop acting.
Sania and Huma Nawab, my co-actors in Farar, were a pleasure to work with. I remember there was this scene with Huma and Sania where I was supposed to cry but I just couldn't stop laughing. Sania used to get very angry and the more she got upset, the more we would laugh! Sania is very serious when she is acting.
She is a very professional actress. Recently, I did a play with Humayun Saeed. He is a good actor and has done a brilliant job. I am very happy with his work. He understands the subtlety of acting. He'll give you his all."
Marina went to India to work for Haseena Moin's serial, Tanha, for a three-day-shooting schedule in Raigarh village, outside Mumbai. "Working there was a wonderful experience. Indians are very professional in their work and have a lot of respect for artists. We were working with a team of seventy-five people but everyone was doing their job. Nothing was delayed."
How would she compare ours to their television industry?
"Look at how small the world has become… and yet we want to stick to our little corner. India is doing a lot for its entertainment industry. Recently, I was in New York and attended the first Bollywood music awards. Atiqa was invited and I was visiting. Later, a television program was aired on an Indian-based channel with Atiqa, the Indian singer, Suneeta Rao and I. Live telephone calls were coming in so that people could talk to us.
Most of the calls were for Atiqa and I. I was shocked as I thought nobody would know who we were. Most of the people who called up were Pakistani and were so happy and proud to see us. I was so overwhelmed with the welcome feelings and thoughts. We should take shows abroad and give our artists the exposure they deserve".
"It took me fourteen years to get into Direction. The first time, I directed just to see if I could do it or not. I enjoyed it, so I stuck to it. My directorial play, Tum hi to ho was not a good experience as there were too many tensions. I think I mismanaged a few things and Humayun definitely mismanaged some, too. I was working with Shabir Jan for the first time and we had our differences.
He is a brilliant actor; I would love to work with him again but on my terms, not on anyone else's. Then there was this new girl with whom I had a bit of a problem. I had Vinnie and Atiqa in this play but they never objected to their roles. But this new girl behaved very badly and I don't want to work with her again."
So will 'Marina, the director' like to be 'Marina, the actress'?
"I hate being behind the camera and in front of the camera at the same time. I can't direct myself. I am a director's actor. I feel I need someone telling me what to do and how to do it. Initially, Humayun asked me to play the role of Vinnie but I was more interested in being behind the camera".
What is Marina, the director, working on these days?
"I am busy editing two plays. One is Satish Anand's, the other is Humayun Saeed's Tu lakh chalay re gori. I had a wonderful time doing Tu lakh chalay re gori. We had five days of recordings and it was a blast. Normally, one tends to get tense but I was going home and not feeling tired. The cast included Atiqa, Humayun, Ismat Zaidi and Sumayra - all lovely to work with.
I loved the script of the play - it's very cinematic. I had an excellent editor, Mussaver. I strongly believe that you should enjoy your work and create a relaxing atmosphere. I would hate to be a director who tells artists to act in a particular way. I'd rather let them be, and just guide them."
"I hope to do a sitcom and then, Kirchiayan, another play that was written two years ago. It's a lovely story. I want to keep it as a long play. Next year, inshallah, if someone gives me the money, I'll make a film. I am dying to make a good film. And in that, I am going to have a special dance number that I am going to do myself. Oh yes, I just have to do a Alfred Hitchcock dance. Why not?"
"Marina has recently migrated to Canada. Once settled, she'll see how things work out. She feels that the decision to go abroad is a good option, as one doesn't know what the future holds here. "It is such a political yo-yo here. One day there is no censorship and then one hears that the duppatta policy is in place.
I feel that it is not fair on the people who have put money and hard work in a feature only to suddenly hear that certain things cannot be shown because of a sudden change in [social] policy. If you have the means, capability, and are intelligent enough, there is no harm in having an option. Having an option does not mean that you are betraying your country because no one can take your country away from you."
We sure are going to miss Marina once she leaves Pakistan but hope to see her now and then. Here's wishing Marina Khan urf "Pink Panther" good luck in all her directorial endeavors!