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An interview with Uroosa Siddiqui, a versatile television and film actress from Pakistan.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Uroosa Siddiqui has been reshaping the world of television and film in the country through her passion towards the world of performing arts. Though born in Pakistan, Uroosa spent most of her early years in Saudi Arabia. Her family settled in Karachi when she turned 13 years old.
The only sister to two boys, Uroosa is an example of how passion can break societal challenges and transform into a professional success and personal happiness.
Tell us how you ventured into the world of acting?
Uroosa Siddiqui: Like almost every little girl at young age, I used to dance and act in front of the mirror in a locked room while my parents took their afternoon nap. As I grew up, I realized my passion was for dance. However, it was my mother who wanted me to join the media industry. After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in commerce from DHA Degree College of Women, I went on to join the NAPA (National Academy of Performing Arts). That time, Zia Mohyeddin, the living legend of Pakistan, was the Chairman of the Academy. A famous actor, producer and director who had over the years appeared in a lot of television programmes, Pakistani cinema and even British Cinema, he had always inspired me. Another legend who was a key inspiration to venture into the world of cinema was Khushbakht Shujaat. While during my initial days I had little clue about their work and depth of knowledge about the field, I realized how they inspired me to pursue my passion. My first audition happened in front of the famous Talat Hussain and Zia Sahab, both finest people in the industry. My entry into the world was a planned decision.
Having found inspirations in my parents, especially my mother, I have had the right guidance through family and friends to survive in the world of acting.
How was the experience of being a part of the acting school (NAPA-National Academy of Performing Arts)? How was NAPA a stepping stone in your life?
Uroosa Siddiqui: Having passed my first audition, I ended up doing a three-year diploma programme in Theatre Arts at the Academy, majoring in the area of acting. That took me to commercial theatre for two years where I was part of plays by Shakespeare, Anton Chekov, Dario Fo, Samuel Becket, etc. These were the famous playwrights who were very popular during that time and I got an opportunity to portray a lot of their famous characters.
As I completed my Diploma, I joined the repertory company of NAPA. Thereafter, I was offered a second lead in a television series, Chand Parosa. It was after that serial that offers started flowing in.
If you look at how NAPA shaped up my career, all the television serials that I did later were appreciated a lot. There was this Baraat series, which is one of my most popular works, appreciated throughout the country. From Azar ki aayegi baraat, Dolly ki aayegi baraat, Takay ki aayegi baraat, to Annie ki aayegi baraat, my performance in comedy was being appreciated all over. Later, I did this another project Quddusi sahib ki biwi, which opened many doors in my career. My recent project has been serious acting, Nanhi and Kankar. It is because of my background and training in acting that I got the opportunity to perform all these brilliant roles.
What according to you are the challenges of working in the field of acting, especially as a woman?
Uroosa Siddiqui: I think challenges come in every sector one works in. Whether it is acting or working at a financial bank, cooking at home or running a business, every sector comes with its own set of struggles. Acting, specifically, had a lot of challenges in preparing and leaving your inhibitions aside. I used to get tips on how to loosen myself a bit, listening and then reacting etc. But one thing which was a major challenge to me was shattering the body image that has floated the world of acting, especially for women.
It is ironic that I wasn’t very keen on joining the industry at first due to it not being a place for big size girls. Being the first obese girl in my age group, I was able to make a big name despite my heavy weight. Producers like Hassan Zia and Nadeem Baig along with directors like Osama Ali Raza, Ahmed Kamran and Mazhar Moin, saw in me the flair for my work instead of my appearance. After I worked with such big personalities, I never looked back in life.
I have realized that an actor’s body is a very important instrument and therefore one has to be always neutral. I think my weight and body type still challenges me to perform certain roles and restricts me from widening my horizon.
Comedy has been a male domain mostly world-over. As a woman, how did you chose it as one of your main genre of work?
Uroosa Siddiqui: I started my career with serious acting. Though I did perform a number of serious roles, one can say that I enjoy comedy the most. Comedy is a much harder genre to work in, exhausting at both mental and physical level. Making someone cry is after all much easier than trying to make them laugh. In Pakistan, actors who perform in comic roles are known as “comedians” while that is not how it should be ideally. They remain under-rated and under-appreciated. Even the comic script writers struggle a lot with humor. Often called as a sada-e-jariya, bringing smiles on people’s face remains a difficult thing in today’s depressing society. As a woman, I faced similar challenges of not just acceptance but also appreciation and recognition.
How do you think TV serials impact the way society perceives women?
Uroosa Siddiqui: Television and films impact the general audience like nothing else does. Today, in the world of cable network, internet and social networking apps, there is a limit to the level parents can control the children and government can control the society on the appropriateness of content available for viewing. From “women are powerless” in old days to “women are most powerful”, the content keeps on changing and impacting the audience. However, what we forget is that logic is very important. Educate women and educate men, both. Content needs to be created in such a manner that the approach is for both the sexes, towards more equal world.
Message for our readers?
Uroosa Siddiqui: “Women Beyond Boundary, everything you need is inside you. Dig deep.”
A Development Communication & Social Work professional working in the field of gender, health and technology
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