Uzma Gilani may fondly reminisce if she sees this Flashback. Those were happier times when she was in better health and on a good terms with her ‘close friends’ and business partner at Blazon Advertising company, Asif Raza Mir.
But like the other two supremely talented actresses who made up the triumvirate, Roohi Bano and Khalida Riyassat, Uzma’s life took an unfortunate turn for the worse when she learnt she was suffering from cancer.
One often wonders then if there is any correlation between talent and intensity in acting and the dreaded disease. Perhaps it has something to do with thinking and feeling too much as one also witnesses this trend in the life of brilliant actress and cancer survivor Yasmeen Ismail.
Despite all the obstacles life has presented before her Uzma has nevertheless maintained her position as one of Pakistan’s leading TV actress, despite also leaving the industry for a sojoum in the glitz world of advertising for a successful decade. One trait that one always associates.
with Uzma is strength. That is perhaps why many of the roles that Uzma has chosen are of strong and autocratic matriarchs, or women who have demonstrated great personal courage and verve.
One of these was the groundbreaking role of an Afghani refugee woman in 1981’s Panah which earned her a Pride of Performance Award.
Although a thoroughly modern woman, able to work productively in the fast paced world of advertising, as well as being an intellectual involved in literary pursuits such as a Sylvia Plath Roundtable Conference and working on her own novels,
Uzma’s forte seems to be an ability to completely become absorbed in rural and traditional roles replete with dialects, darkened make-up and ethnic costumes.
This quality is reminiscent of Merry! Streep’s transformative abilities and found their logical expression in one of Pakistani’s drama’s most successful dramas, Amjad Islam Amjad’s Waaris, a sprawling series about a Wadera dynasty.
Other similar plays include vital roles in Samandar and Dehleez. As well as plays with a deeply ethnic aura, Uzma’s choices have almost always veered towards plays with socially relevant themes. One of these plays was Ajoka’ Ghairat with Jamal Shah, Shariqa Fatima, Madiha Gauhar, Noman Shah,
Mohsin Ali and Arshad Abbasi. The theme of this absorbing play was honor and how men misuse the concept of dignity for their own nefarious means, depriving women in both rural and urban areas of their rights. It was a play that highlighted Uzma’s own strong feminist ideals.
Although she parted ways with Asif Raza Mir, in a very Mrs. Robinson (of The Graduate) kind of way. Uzma still continues to work in advertising, interspersing this with tele-films and plays foe satellite channels.
One of these tele- films was the moderately successful Resham To Jalli Hai. But Uzma’s much anticipated major comeback was in Syed Faisal Bukhari’s lukewarm 13 episode serial, Bewaaris co-staring another comeback kid, former movie star Shahid; prima Donna Sadia Imam;
Sawera Nadeem; and Arbaz Khan. This time around Uzma played a despotic matriarch from a nawabi family where the importance of a male heir is imperative.
Uzma’s role as Rani Maa was convincingly hateful as she attempted to jettison her childless son played quite incongruously by a similarly aged Shahid into second marriage that might bear his family a male heir. The play was panned by the critics as disappointing, unlike Bukhari’s earlier success Anmol and Zanjeer.
A mentor to actress like Sania Saeed, Uzma is also a role model for many, many Pakistani women, both for her strength and ability to face Life right in the face.