Looking back at the tremendous progress Pakistani show-business has made over the past few decades, one can clearly visualize it as being defined into two periods of time: That before Mahira Khan, and that after Mahira Khan. Beginning with her foray into Pakistani filmdom exactly 10 years ago in June of 2011, the star has gone from strength to strength to become the present-day lynchpin of the entertainment industry.
Her stellar trajectory parallels that of the industry she has her roots in, and towards which she has contributed substantially in defining the professional standards and decorum, as well as the quality of work expected from artistes. Beginning with her career as a video jockey for MTV, Mahira’s talents were noticed by Shoaib Mansoor, who eventually slotted her for a major role in the 2011 social drama Bol. She was paired opposite pop-sensation Atif Aslam and made her mark essaying the character of Ayesha, a middle-class girl juggling her education with her singing talents in a conservative, patriarchal family.
Bol was a blockbuster hit, and Mahira Khan was signed up next by leading producer Momina Duraid for HUM TV’s Humsafar. Much has been said about the phenomenal success of the television play which catapulted Khan all the way to superstardom, all within a span of a few weeks. Her turn as Khirad, the somewhat ingenuous heroine of the play who suffers at the hands of her conniving mother-in-law, would go down as a career defining moment for the star. So natural was her performance in the Sarmad Khoosat directed play that audiences had difficulty separating the character from the star, and some would even go so far to say that Mahira became Khirad and vice versa, in the eyes of the Pakistani audience at least. The drama serial earned her a Lux Style Award for Satellite TV Best Actress and a Hum Award for Best Onscreen Couple.
Another notable high point for the star was the role of Shano in Khalil-ur-Rehman’s semi-autobiographical play Sadqay Tumhare. Paired opposite Adnan Malik, Mahira did well in the emotionally charged show, going on to win a Lux Style Award for Best TV Actress as well as two Hum Awards for the year 2014.
Pakistani cinema made a strong resurgence in 2015, and the star was part of two important blockbusters that year that further elevated her fame. In M&D Productions’ Bin Roye she was paired opposite star Humayun Saeed in a role with gray shades. She effortlessly depicted the many conflicts in her character Saba Shafiq and went on to win both critical as well as audience acclaim for her role. The television adaptation of the film won the actress many plaudits as well. Later, in a supporting role in the art-house hit Manto, she made her presence felt in an ensemble cast comprising the best talents of the country.
No discussion about Mahira Khan’s career would be complete without Ho Mann Jahaan. The star appeared opposite two cinema debutantes Sheheryar Munawar and Adeel Hussain in the Asim Raza directed venture, and won the audience’s heart with her performance as the talented and lovestruck Manizeh. All this while, the star’s tremendous pull was making an impact across the border, and Mahira was selected to star opposite Bollywood biggie Shahrukh Khan in the 2017 action thriller Raees. While the film’s release was impacted by political tensions between India and Pakistan, it went on to become a runaway hit and Mahira’s performance was much praised as she came into her own opposite industry stalwarts Shahrukh Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Shoaib Mansoor signed Mahira Khan for his next film after Bol, Verna. Khan essayed the role of a rape victim in the dark thriller, a performance for which she won much critical appreciation. The film might not have been Shoaib Mansoor’s best work to date, however, there were no two opinions about the pathos and gravitas that Khan brought to her character – a role unlike any other that she had essayed.
In 2018’s 7 Din Mohabbat In, the star showed a somewhat different side of her playing the quirky and somewhat eccentric Neeli. However, it was Superstar that saw Mahira capitalize on her substantial thespian capabilities. She excelled in the coming of age romantic drama that sees an actress rise in the movie industry. The role tested Khan’s acting skills as well as her dancing abilities, and she passed with flying colors. The movie was a commercial hit her dance performance in the song Noori turned out to be a memorable one. The movie was proof of Khan’s significant star-power and acting prowess. Her cameo role in Parey Hut Love released right along Superstar turned out to be the icing on the cake, as Khan won much critical acclaim playing the megastar Zeena.
Mahira Khan has quite a spectacular lineup of films for the future. She will be seen next opposite Fawad Khan in two films — The Legend of Maula Jatt and Neelofer, and opposite Fahad Mustafa in Nabeel Qureishi’s Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad. The pre-release buzz for these films is quite high, and it seems that only sky is the limit for the star. We look forward to watching her shine brightly on the screen, once again!