Joined: 10 November 2004
Let's face it: modelling brings in a lot of money in a really short time. I'm only doing it for the money and exposure. I haven't taken it seriously and I don't love it'
At a time when most newcomers to the fashion industry are struggling under intense competition, one entrant says she couldn't give a damn about this business. What's more, she is steadily making her way up the ladder despite her attitude. She is Zhalay Sarhadi.
With a spark in her eyes, Zhalay talks about her metamorphosis. "It's hilarious. If you had seen me six years ago, you wouldn't have recognized me. I was overweight, nerdy, depressed and living in Lahore, a place I hated. All I did there was stuff myself with food all day long."
So what led to her remarkable transformation? "Unbelievably, I got a modeling assignment, and even though I didn't take it up, it got me thinking. When I came to Karachi, I started working on myself and in three months I had toned myself down."
Zhalay, today, exudes something much more than glamour. Does it mean she has had a makeover? She brushes away the notion. "Not at all. I just carry myself in a certain way and I've gotten conscious of my appearance even more. It's not a facade; I have moulded this change to my personality and I'm very comfortable with it."
Her new look has not gone by unnoticed, as she now appears in all the top fashion magazine. "Let's face it: modelling brings in a lot of money in a really short time. I'm only doing it for the money and exposure. I haven't taken it seriously at all and I don't love it." As to how she has managed to make her place in this field with such a brazen attitude, she says: "I got into modelling when ZQ, who is a very good friend of mine, introduced me to a couple of people.
She is looking for a break with major designers and photographers. "I don't want to associate myself with one group," she hints at Lahore's on-off politics. And despite her relationship with the fashion industry, she loves the ramp: "It's quick and it's fun. All you need to do is show an attitude.
Despite working extensively with stylists in Karachi, Lahore remains Zhalay's preference. "Lahore is the hub of it all and if I get a good offer, I will definitely consider it."
As far as the media is concerned, she has her ambitions crystal clear: "I definitely want to make a profession out of acting. It is my passion, besides singing. I have done many drama serials and two of them are still on air." She sees herself as a "paid internee learning the do's and don'ts of the field." She is presently working for four soaps with more in the pipeline.
Her association with the media is certainly no coincidence. The late Zia Sarhadi was her grandfather and Khayyam Sarhadi, her uncle. However, despite being that pedigree, she says she has no obligations or pressures. "We are not very close to the part of my family who are associated with the media and my parents have always been very supportive of whatever I do. They want me to be successful in the career of my choice."
She sketches out her point of view: "Around the world, acting is taught academically, and things that are taught later become careers. People here need to start taking acting professionally. In Pakistan, people don't take you seriously when you tell them you're an actor. It shouldn't be like that", she says.
Despite an early foray into the media, Zhalay claims she has faced no major problems. "I have been very lucky that I got in at the right time. There is a lot of competition and loads of professionalism. For me, there is no young age dilemma because it's always been a job for me. I have four years of experience and I'm not at all camera shy."
In her past appearances on the small screen, she has hosted shows including ARY SAF Quiz and Shaadi Online, besides Gaaye Gi Dunya Geet Mere which stopped going on air due to production problems. It seems her past image has been quite a problem for her and Zhalay responds in the affirmative. "By chance, all the hosting shows that I've done have been high profile. It seems I have been stamped as a host. I want to get rid of this 'talk show hostess' image and start being recognized as an actress."
Her abrupt exit from the much-acclaimed Shaadi Online has been subject to a great deal of controversy and she talks of her experience: "Shaadi Online was very interesting because I met a lot of people. But later on, it turned commercial and then it shifted to Lahore. I had no intentions of going there because I had my thesis going on, so I was planning to leave it anyway. Then one day, they called me up to tell me I was not a part of it anymore."
She terms her Dubai experience one-of-a-kind. "Working with Anu was a little difficult, but then again, being Zia Sarhadi's grand-daughter and made a big difference as he is a big name in India", she says. Her personal interest in music and films has also helped her a great deal. "Anu was happy with me and I developed a good relationship with him, despite subtle tantrums."
What exactly does she plan to do with her future? "I will carry on with acting and I hope I get telefilms. I have already worked with all my favourite people including Marina Khan, Sahira Kazmi, Rubina Ashraf and Sania Saeed." Among her projects with these veterans, she names Dhool, Kaisay Kahoon, Kaanch and Jo Baat Ghar Mein Hai. She is particularly excited about one of the serials in the pipeline, Noor Mehal, where her character follows the lines of Madhuri's in Devdas.
But as far as films are concerned, she would rather do art films with serious-minded directors than commercial films where the girl is a s-e-x symbol. "Eventually, I want to go into direction and production," Zhalay says, adding that while she has been getting offers for films in India, she has refused them so far. "I want to establish myself firmly in Pakistan and only then think about working in India. When our stars go there, they are ridiculed because they are not well groomed and trained as actors. I don't want to work for any mediocre projects. I want to be taken seriously, and for that, I want to polish myself as an actor first."
And as for a career in singing, she says: "Presently, I have too many commitments with other projects so singing has taken a back seat. When some day I do take it up, I'll get proper training. I like our local semi-classical music a great deal and would like to work in that area."
Television viewers have been seeing a great deal of Zhalay on ARY, Geo, PTV, Aaj and Hum TV, and when asked to comment on it, she is childishly happy about it. "It's hilarious. I'm simply everywhere," she says with a mischevious grin.
Joined: 21 June 2005
Joined: 03 July 2005
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