Aspiring Atiqa Odho

Aspiring Atiqa Odho

Star appeal is an abstract phenomenon; some entertainers are born with impeccable comic timing, others with twinkling toes, while few latch themselves on to a godfather and going down the make up and training route, strut the stage. And then there are the few who simply exude elements of style and give off vibes of a elevated persona; it is done with such effortless ease that the mass public cannot help but regard the artist with a degree of awe.

The yuppie world of advertising is distinctly different from the family sagas on television that in turn differ tremendously from the garish arc lights of Lollywood. To glide through these three mediums is a task few want to embrace whole heartedly, yet this woman dabbled with all three.

The onlookers and particles of the industry have varying opinions. Some call it a “begum act” others shudder at what they feel is “excessive high maintenance” yet this is one woman who knows her mind and thank heavens is not part of the clique whose tale commence on a note of a young damsel in distress being thrown on to the ramp and told to shed its cocoon.

Moving around in a whirl of meetings and shootings, the cliché of a harassed secretary and an enthusiastic mother do prevail but calling the shots is an ambitious mother of three who appealed to the public from the day she appeared onscreen to sell Lux soap in the late eighties. The lure of light eyes, a gora complexion and lots of confidence appealed to the masses and from then onwards the onstage saga began.

It is a mindset varying from the norm at the moment, as numerous Asian productions are making their presence known globally with films heading towards the Oscars and channels supplying the desi culture from Timbuktu to New Zealand.

Atiqa feels that “more than one element keeps our Pakistani programs from moving abroad, not just the financing which would be required for such a project, also the size of a select audience it would be catering to..”

In the early years one of the most common sights onscreen was her portrayal of a young mother trying to convince the pesky brat to consume a glass of Nido or tell all the onlookers to use a particular brand of cooking oil. Debuting as Anwer Maqsood’s Sitara she enacted the pretty and fragile character who invoked empathy and reactions that made the average Jane relate more to her than the firebrand Mehrunnisa thus ensuring that a star was born. “A lot of it depends on kismet, the way people receive your play or react to it.”

Going by her career chart you do believe her statement that all her roles have a strong element of diversity to them. Instead of forever playing the spoilt little princess or the Muslim social drama post Sitara aur Mehrunnisa she went on to do the role of a slum- living, perpetually pregnant woman in Nijaat which was part of the family planning propaganda. “There were lots of people who warned me against doing that play.

They all said that I would be slotted forever in the de-glamorized role, but I went ahead and it worked.” Explaining how “people think I take my work very lightly and it is part time hobby for me but little do they know that not only does it hold extreme importance in my life I also do take it extremely seriously.”

It is back to television these days, not just as the producer of a television serial that is going to be directed by her long time friend Marina Khan. Also on the cards is producing and hosting a talk show aimed at showcasing the creative genius of Pakistan.

“Basically I love people, and I feel that there are so many of them who have contributed to society not just by doing charity work or such noble acts but even by generating a controversy they add to the growing picture. I want to discuss with them the good, the bad and all the other issues ranging from the environment to what their interests were and why they have spent their lives nurturing them. Having shot a number of episodes I was very surprised to see that most of them are very patriotic despite the fact that some have gone through a pretty rough time here but amazingly their spirits do not sag.”

What sets her and a few select apart from the television behnjis and the film starlets is the different attitude. Loathing the constant moaning and whining that is carried out by the entertainment industry en masse, she says: “A lot of people bemoan the lack of professionalism and the work conditions here. But as I keep telling them this is the one place where you can stand out and carve a niche for yourself.”

To her it is more about fair play than a self-imposed moral brigade. “But the issue lies with the fact that right now we have shows on television where there are nautch girls performing and if it was a level playing field I would have no problems with it. The things we can’t do by holding hands and embracing, need to be done through emoting expressions. It is so much more difficult to show physical attraction here than anywhere else because here it is all in the eyes, and that makes it very challenging.”

With three Lollywood films to her credit, Jo Dar Gaya Woh Maar Gaya was the debut vehicle that had her singing duets with Nadeem as she ran around a piano. Followed by Mummy whose fate at the box office was rather barren and the last one being the biggest hit of the trio — Mujhe Chaand Chahiye. The role of Shan’s mother was not one that many actresses below the age of fifty would relish, but Atiqa chatted with the moon during a good part of the three hours and got accolades en masse for it. “None of my roles have been typical. The glamour is there, the songs are there and the dancing was there. But I am essentially there as a performer and that is exactly what led me to play Shaan’s mother in MCC. It was not a Barbie doll role and that is one thing I would hate to take on.”

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S. Rasool