Half an Hour With Ali Saleem,The Multi-Faceted Performer
It was a great experience. It’s only after playing the role of Shola Jaan in Mor Mahal that made me realise that khwaja siras and eunuch were very much a part of the power politics and culture of the times portrayed in the serial. Khwaja siras may have gained recognition for their gender by the Supreme Court of Pakistan very recently, but they have existed for hundreds of years and they were much more emancipated and respected in the pre-independence era. I also found out that there was a state in India that was ruled by the khwaja siras – they were very effective rulers by the way, very powerful. After playing Shola Jaan in Mor Mahal, I can now claim that I am one of those few actors who has played all the genders on screen – I’ve played a man, a woman and now a eunuch. It was a massive project – over a hundred crew members. For the first time, I was part of a project where we were given a workshop before recording. We were trained in various departments – we learnt dancing, singing, sword fighting, horse riding etc.
After ruling the screens as Begum Nawazish Ali, you’ve kissed goodbye to your alter-ego and have returned as yourself. How does it feel and how has the transformation been?
I’ve been Begum Nawazish Ali for many years and it was great to be back on screen as myself. Begum was great till it lasted, but obviously it’s not easy being another person, especially at a level that your alter ego takes over and everybody starts treating you
as Begum. Towards the end of it, I just needed to take a break and get Begum out of my life. The character was so strong that I needed to take some rest and flush her out of my system.
How are the people responding to it?
It’s been great – very encouraging and positive. I’ve been getting a lot of compliments since the show has started airing. I’m very happy about doing the show as myself – bringing a different persona to the screen. Ahmad Bham is doing my wardrobe. Sajid is doing my hair – I have great people working on my persona. I hope people like the show – it’s the only one of its kind that we have in Pakistan right now.
What is it that makes your show different?
It’s lots of fun, like no other in Pakistan. It’s definitely the kind of show that makes people feel good about themselves. It shows people positive content and will help rebuild their faith in Pakistan.
Most interesting response you have received while playing Begum Nawazish Ali?
Begum Nawazish was for the young people – a lot of people used to come up to me and say that it takes guts to do what you’re doing and to be so out there. Young people found it inspiring in terms of the courage aspect. You’ll be inviting a lot of people from the entertainment industry to your show.
What will be different about the experience of being on the Late Late Night Show?
Yes, I am. In the future seasons, I want to diversify the guest list. Throughout the seasons, the basic crux of the show will remain intact. It will be entertaining and fun – there are lots of shows out there, but mine is unique because it’s entertaining, but still intelligent. I aim to help people find happiness and provide food for thought.