Mehwish Hayat has been as fierce as ever since receiving the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, and one would think she would now start branching out to international platforms. But that isn’t the case for Hayat, who has firmly set her roots in Pakistan and has chosen to continue working here. In an interview with BBC Asian Network, she opened up about this conscious decision, and revealed all the roles she has rejected from Bollywood.
“It was a conscious decision that I wanted to stay here in my country and work for my Pakistani cinema,” she said, adding how she was offered Huma Qureshi’s role in Dedh Ishqiya and Aishwariya Rai Bachchan’s role in Fanney Khan.
“You cast us in a film and then not let us promote it or even attend the premiere. We aren’t given the respect we deserve in India. I rejected Dairh Ishqiya because I didn’t like one intimate scene with Arshad Warsi and they wouldn’t change or remove it. But I think everything happens for a reason, so I don’t regret anything,” she added.
Coming back to the hate she received for receiving the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, which was indubitably unmatched, the actress once again opened up about how it affected her.
“Being a public figure, I am used to trolling and criticism and it’s okay, everyone has their own opinions. However, questioning my character and credibility was crossing the line,” she said.
“My contribution to Pakistani cinema and art were overlooked and it was assumed that I slept my way to the awards. That was crossing the line, I had to stand up and fight… No one can question my credibility and character, they don’t even know me,” she added.
However, it wasn’t all a loss, as she was on cloud nine while receiving the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz. “It feels great to be in the same name list of legends and heroes who have received it,” she said.
She also stressed upon how the mentality of Pakistanis has to change on a bigger scale, as the entertainment industry is gradually evolving.
“As artists we deserve respect and acknowledgement, and mindsets are changing but we still need to work on that mentality. We generate money. In 2017 our movies made around 2.5 billion rupees and in 2018 approximately 5 billion rupees, so it is a growing business we’re all contributing to bringing a softer image of Pakistan to the world. All we need is respect and acknowledgement,” she said.
But it is still disheartening to see people not moving past the idea of a woman wearing ‘western clothes’ and indulging in something fun. And Hayat feels it is wrong to label celebrities as immoral for performing item songs, or wearing revealing clothes.
“We belong to a very glamorous industry, it is all glitz and glamour and we have to show some skin, we have to wear western clothes, I have to dance in Billi, because I am an actress and that’s a character I am playing,” she said.
“Being a part of this industry does not mean we have forsaken our morals… We as artists are very emotional and sensitive people and we haven’t forsaken our morals,” she added.
Moving on, Hayat also opened up about her regrets with work, which included endorsing fairness creams in the past.
“I was young, didn’t realise what these things meant, and just saw the glamour and beauty. As I matured mentally, I realised I should not endorse things I don’t myself believe in. I am not fair. I am wheatish and I love my complexion,” she said.
“Body shaming is something I want to work on… We need to put an end to unrealistic beauty standards,” she added. And Hayat has already started working towards this goal, as she recently posted a selfie with visible acne, in support of Hania Amir.