Pakistan has seen many talented actresses who have carved a niche for themselves with their utter beauty and talent and Zeba Bakhtiar is undoubtedly one such actress. With Barbie doll looks, Zeba managed to grab the lead role in Henna in 1991, one of the best Bollywood films of the time, and gained a lot of fame for her performance. She is a fine actor, director and a producer and her quality work speaks volumes about her talent. Mag4you.com sat down with the actress to chat about her life and career. Excerpts:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Quetta, where I received my initial education at St. Joseph Convent School. My father hailed from Quetta, he was a barrister and a politician whereas my mother is European. I am the youngest among my siblings. Both my brothers are doctors, while my sister is a corporate lawyer.
You had opted to become a lawyer too, but you quit pursuing it. What had happened?
I opted for a law degree twice but I never got a chance to complete my course. When I first got enrolled in a law college I got the offer for my first play and I had to quit my course. After the play I again went to a law college but then I had to leave for India for Henna.
Do you ever consider completing your education and becoming a lawyer?
I thought of completing my degree several times, but then I thought that if I became a lawyer it would be the end of my showbiz career. Legal profession, in our country, has been politicised. I find criminal law very interesting, as my father was also a criminal lawyer, and if I opted to become a lawyer, I would definitely specialise in criminal law.
How did your family respond to your decision to become an actress?
Well, in a family like mine (full of doctors and lawyers), my idea of joining the showbiz was taken as very bizarre. That is one of the very reasons why fame never got to my nerves. My family never took my profession seriously until I started producing and directing dramas.
Do looks play a major role in an actor's success?
It makes your entry quite easy but to stay around you have to be talented because there have been lots of good looking people who have come into the industry and fizzled out. If one looks at the top actors in the world, it's usually their talent that helps them succeed.
Can you tell us about the early days of your career and how you felt during those times?
My first television play was Anarkali. It was a long play which I did out of sheer curiosity. It was a very interesting and exciting experience. I found the play easy because I was quite involved with the script. I started off with television and moved on to film, which is a completely different medium. I am very grateful to the directors I worked with because the training they gave me has helped me a lot.
Film or television, which medium do you like the most?
It has to be film. Film has much more impact; it catches all your senses. Film gives you a lot of creative freedom.
You went to Bollywood in the very beginning of your career. Can you tell us a little about how that happened?
I did my first play thinking that would be my first and last. Right after the play I was offered two Britishtelevision projects and for that I left for London. The day the projects ended I got a call from Randhir Kapoor who asked me to come to India as he had a very good offer for me. I think God intended it because it was as if I always wanted to be an actress.
Would you consider going back to Bollywood?
It depends. These days Bollywood directors usually sensationalise their films with content that has no purpose. When I was there I rejected a lot of offers because I was not comfortable with the script. I was in India a couple of years ago for a commercial and Rishi Kapoor, a very dear friend, was doing a film and asked me to be in it, but due to some problems it could not happen. So if it is someone I know, and the role is something I am interested in, then I would be interested. If I get an offer with an interesting script, be it from Chinese, Iranian or Russian film producers, I would do it.
These days Bollywood directors usually sensationalise their films with content that has no purpose. When I was there I rejected a lot of offers because I was not comfortable with the script. I was in India a couple of years ago for a commercial and Rishi Kapoor, a very dear friend, was doing a film and asked me to be in it, but due to some problems it could not happen. So if it is someone I know, and the role is something I am interested in, then I would be interested. If I get an offer with an interesting script, be it from Chinese, Iranian or Russian film producers, I would do it
Is film a dying medium in Pakistan?
Sadly we don't have many films, but that doesn't mean that film is dead, because it is too strong a medium to just fizzle out. I don't think people would let it fizzle out. Our administration has to understand how important films are in improving our global image. I think we should look more towards Iran for a benchmark rather than Bollywood. Iran has far more limitations than us and their cinema is thriving.
Do you think nowadays it is easier to produce films because technology has become cheaper?
It's a great thing that technology has become cheaper and is giving people a chance to make films. But the problem is not making a film, but releasing it. Anyone can make a film but releasing it is the difficult part, film-makers are artistic and passionate about what they do but when it comes to the business of it, it is a whole different ball game. Now with the opening of new cinemas, things seem to be improving.
If you had to choose between acting or film direction, what would you prefer?
I find directing much more fun because of the creative freedom. When you are acting, you are the director's puppet, the writer's puppet, you are playing a character, but when you are directing, your imagination is unbridled.
How was the experience of writing, directing and producing Babu?
It was very educational and very nerve-racking. It was my first and last attempt at making a film on my own. I should have learned more about our film industry before taking the plunge, which was a mistake on my part.
You haven't been in a film for quite sometime. When can we expect to see you back on the big screen?
I haven't done a film because there wasn't anything worth doing. If a film comes my way that I really want to do then I would do it.