Pakistani artist Zhalay Sarhadi may have had a calm 2014, she was barely seen on screen, however she’s confident this current year is going to be different. Presently, she’s caught up with advancing her first arrival of 2015, “JALAIBEE,” which hits theaters on the 20th of March. Tall and sultry Zhalay, known for her versatility, has taken on the role of “Bunno,” and will also be taking your breath away. In this interview, Zhalay converses with us about being a “saleable performing artist,” doing a wide range of dramas, television shows, fashion shows and movies.
In a very short span of time, Zhalay has successfully registered herself in the Pakistan Media Industry as an all-around artist. She has programs like “Shadi Online” and drama serials like “AKS”, “DIGEST WRITER” and several more under her belt. Zhalay is appreciated and adored globally for her sultry and sexy beauty. With an above the average height for a desi girl and a toned body, she has been rocking the Pakistani Media Industry for almost a decade now. Zhalay is often associated with the Bollywood diva Priyanka Chopra, as they both share quite a few facial features. Zhalay has it in her blood, as she’s the daughter of Bilal Sarhadi and niece of the remarkable TV performing artist Khayyam Sarhadi, so some day it was expected she’d be on screen. When she made her television debut, she was seen setting fire on the ramp as a model and was quickly featured in national and international magazines like “LIBAAS.”
Zhalay today is a well settled reputable artist, so let’s see what she has in store as we speak to her.
(Mirza): You have a beautiful name which is unheard of and unusual in Pakistan. Who kept your name? What does it mean?
(Zhalay): My name is a Persian word and it means prosperity. It was my dad’s idea to name me Zhalay [smiles].
(M): How did you enter the showbiz industry of Pakistan? Does it run in the blood or have you personally had a passion for being in the media?
(Z): I was always into extracurricular activities from school onwards. Also, being part of a showbiz related family helped me get into the industry.
(M): You have successfully been a VJ, a model and also an actress. Which one was your personal favorite occupation? Which phase of your career did you enjoy the most?
(Z): Of all the different genre’s, my favorite is acting. It is the mother of all performing arts. Second to it comes singing which I have dabbled with the least bit but I love it no less. The present is the time I am loving the most in my career.
(M): What actually was your dream: to be a VJ, TV host, model or actress?
(Z): The sky is the limit for anything you want or desire. One just needs to focus on work hard.
(M): What’s the secret behind your versatility? Was it difficult to be a model after being a VJ and then from a model being an actress?
(Z): I started acting before I started hosting and modeling came last. I have loved all the little transitions and enjoy working altogether as a performing artist.
(M): How were you approached for the movie “Jalaibee?”
(Z): The casting director Ehtesham Ansari had worked with me previously on a television commercial. He thought I would fit best in the character he was looking for. Hence, I was picked up for the role.
(M): What has your experience been working with the “Jalaibee” team and being a part of Yasir Jaswal’s movie?
(Z): The team was fantabulous. We had a couple of setbacks in the production but overall it was inspiring. Yasir is a visionary, he knew exactly what he wanted which made it easier for us (the cast) to work with him. He was spot on. Everyone in the team is extremely talented and skillful.
(M): You have taken a bold step by agreeing on doing an “item number” for the movie “Jaliabee.” How was the dance experience? Do you plan to accept any offers from India after “Jalaibee?”
(Z): Let me clear the misconception of many. Firstly, it is not an item number, it is a dance number. Secondly, yes I am totally open to any film offers which tickle my fancy. They could be from Pakistan or India. I will work wherever there are good scripts and stories.
(M): Luckily, you gained success pretty fast compared to many other celebrities. Have you faced any ups and downs in your career?
(Z): I actually got recognition from the start. But success came to me and is still in the process, gradually. Yes there are ups and downs in any given field. My setback came when I took a break after marriage. After that I had to start from scratch.
(M): What apart from modeling does Zhalay do in her spare time? Any particular hobbies? Passions?
(Z): I read, cook and dance. These are my free time activities which I enjoy the most.
(M): Your favorite singer? Song?
(Z): My favorite singers are Kishore, Asha, Shreya, Sonu Nigham, Arijit Singh, Adam Levine, Jordan Sparks, Whitney Houston and the list goes on. Favorite songs are again more than just one, so I can’t name one particular song. I totally adore Sajjad Ali and his “Tum Naaraz Ho” is my all-time favorite.
(M): What’s your favorite movie from Bollywood, Lollywood & Hollywood?
(Z): Masoom, Ghunghat, Shawshank Redemption and Judge.
(M): In the future, what kind of roles will you be willing to accept if you get any offers?
(Z): Human beings are an enigma. I am an anthropologist at heart and love portraying all kinds of characters. I love acting out freely and larger than life characters such as action heroes and romantics.
(M): Do you mind giving your fans a hint with what the movie is about? The genre? Comedy or a family movie? Or an action thriller?
(Z): The genre is quite out in the open now. It’s a crime caper film which has some language not appropriate for younger audiences, the rest is an action filled entertainer.
(M): Were you nervous on your first ever photoshoot, ramp walk, movie? How was the feeling?
(Z): (Laughs) I am nervous every time I start a project. It’s always like the first time for me. That helps me focus on my project and work with dedication.
(M): What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous on their initial photoshoots, walking their first ramp or during acting?
(Z): I would say that you have to be relaxed and give it your very best. Confidence is the first step to success. Then comes hard work and dedication.
(M): Do you think Pakistan is now producing world class actors and talent? Are we giving the exposure our young talent deserves?
(Z): We are definitely in the league with the best actors of the world. We just need a bigger platform to show our worth and talent.
(M): Can you comment on the functioning of Pakistani Media Industry as a whole? Do you think our drama industry is capable enough to give a tough time to international or foreign content?
(Z): The industry obviously has its pros and cons. There is a tremendous amount of room for improvement. If we learn to work as a team we can be solid actors, cricketers, bankers, politicians and a nation in general. Unity is the key.
(M): Is acting difficult? Can it be learnt or is it a natural God gifted piece of art?
(Z): Acting cannot be mechanical. It has to come from within. Raw talent can always be polished but we cannot instill something which isn’t there innately.
(M): Was your journey to the fashion world a tough one? Did you face any hurdles reaching the point where you are today?
(Z): I am not a part of the fashion world. I’m associated with it as an actor but not a regular model.
(M): How important is health to you?
(Z): Health means everything to me. If you are not healthy you cannot do anything, so it’s of prime importance.
(M): What kind of a diet is necessary for a media person like you? What is the secret behind your sleek fitness?
(Z): Eating healthy and regular exercise is the key. For actors, we try eating different food items but again, it should be healthy and hygienic. I drink a lot of water, have a low carb diet and work out almost every day.
(M): To be a super model or actress, what kind of an attitude is required?
(Z): One has to be a good person prior to being a professional. Respect given is respect earned that’s my motto.
(M): Are you a socialite or more reserved?
(Z): I work a lot so rarely get a chance to move around in society. Though I have a lot of friends and MashaAllah, I’m never alone.
(M): How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
(Z): Friendly, honest and determined.
(M): Can you describe your decade old media journey in a single word.
(M): What makes you angry?
(Z): Dishonesty and stupidity.
(M): What 3 people have influenced your life the most?
(Z): My dad, my mom and myself.
(M): What would people be surprised to know about you? Do you have some hidden talent that no one knows of?
(Z): I write poetry. (Smiles)
(M): Who would you trade (switch) places with for 24 hours? And what would you do in those 24 hours?
(Z): I would trade places with a school going child. I would be innocent, and tension and stress free for that’s what I truly miss.
(M): You are now a famous model and an actress, what is next in your plan? Still in media or something else?
(Z): So far, I’m trying to get better at my job. This is the plan. (Smiles)
(M): Your favorite holiday location?
(Z): Anywhere with my family. Preferably any land destination.
(M): Can you share one memory from the industry that you can never forget, may it be good or bad.
(Z): Every memory is worth cherishing.
(M): You have the honor of being nominated and also receiving many awards. Which one award is the most prestigious and most valuable to you? Why?
(Z): All awards are precious to me, they mean a lot to me. My basic reward is the love and support I get from people, our very own people.
(M): How do you feel being a recognized model and actress now?
(Z): It’s heartwarming to get so much appreciation and love. I feel humbled and honored.
(M): Is there a way for your fans to connect with you?
(Z): Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the right places to connect with me. I personally answer every one who calls out. The world has now advanced towards social media. I’m always available there. If busy, I reply as soon as I get free.
(M): Do you have any message for your fans? Please tell us about any upcoming projects you are working on?
(Z): For now, my foremost project is my film “Jalaibee” due for release InshaAllah on the 20th of March. Thank you all who support me and pray for me. Your support and love means a lot to me.
Thanks to HTV & Mirza Omer for honoring me with this interview.