Nimra Bucha, most recently known for her brilliant depiction of the convicted murderer and feminist vigilante Batool on the web series Churails, is a theater and film actress with years of experience, a diverse portfolio, and a charm unlike any other.
Part 1 – Questions by us
Q1. How do you choose your roles, especially being part of an industry that is well known for portraying women in a very specific meek light?
It’s more a matter of the roles choosing me. To be honest, I didn’t set out to be someone who shuns the mainstream. But if you’ve got a bit of an idea of who you are,( I’m not saying I do(😂), and you’ve worked in theatre and, well, read some good plays, you know when you’re working in the wrong space. So, years of trial and error later, you find your voice. And there are less dead ends because you’ve got a clearer road map and a sharper vision.
Q2. In your opinion how do you think roles for women are different in theatre as compared to film (in Pakistan). Do you prefer to participate in theatre or film/tv?
Historically, the best parts for women are in the theatre. Ibsen or Chekhov, Shakespeare or Williams, there are some hugely complex characters written for women, age no limit. These playwrights, and several others, fully explore and scrutinise the human condition, it’s joy and suffering.
Also, for better or for worse, commerce doesn’t drive theatre so there’s lots more freedom for both political and artistic expression. It’s hard to be dishonest when performing on stage because you have nothing to hide behind. Your whole body has to be present and in the moment. No retakes.
Thankfully, theatre audiences are smaller, kinder(!) so it’s a slightly more nurturing environment.
Yes, I prefer theatre, for an actor its instant gratification, but then sometimes you find very exciting writing in film and television and you work with directors like Mehreen Jabbar, Sarmad Khoosat and Asim Abbasi who are not just replicating scripts but creating and forging the unexpected. That’s another kind of magic.
Part 2 – Questions From The Audience
Q3. Do you think actors have the influence and power to change the narrative that dominates the industry in terms of the way women are presented, or is this something that writers, producers and directors can do?
The actor is not a puppet. As an actor, you are responsible for bringing a character to life and you must take this responsibility seriously. From the time that you are approached with a script, ask questions. What does this character do for instance? What is their work? This is something that is completely sidelined on television. Why does this actor make some decisions and not others? Observe. Make it real. Seek out scripts, filmmakers, who may not have huge amounts of money but lots of fresh ideas and who are telling stories in new ways. Work in student films. Put up a one-person performance. Read. Take risks. Established actors, especially, must take more risks in the work they choose. Use whatever power you have to change the script, literally and otherwise. Get out of your comfort zone and get others out of theirs. It’s ok to be a difficult actor but not an indifferent one
Q4. Do you see the landscape for representation of women in mainstream media changing soon? What can help speed up the process?
What’s happening on our screens is not representative of the natural evolution of our society. I think it’s more of an artificially constructed narrative imposed for the sake of facilitating commerce. Even in that respect it seems to be misinformed. It has been proven time and again that what audiences want can’t be predicted and a story needs to come out from something other than an opinion poll. What is needed is an intervention and some courage and some people saying, screw ratings, we’re going to talk about real people and write them into fantastic scripts that break all the rules.
Q5. The world of acting in Pakistan is very hard for a woman. Most young actresses have to go through a specific set of emotionally distraught roles to even be recognized. As an actor who does not want to do those and in fact wants to take part in less commercialized theatre/tv, where should she start?
Start in the theatre. Find like-minded individuals. Put up a play with them. Make a small movie. Get fit and strong. Have fun. Don’t get stuck. If you like two things about a big project, do it. Don’t think too much about the time you will be on screen for (Hard not to, I know!) Make something out of your presence in that time. Don’t let others tell you what your strengths are, because your strengths will keep changing, evolving if you challenge yourself. Be proactive. Keep working. Keep looking.
Q6. Lastly, what is one piece of advice you have for young, feminist actors/directors/writers?
Where are you? Miss you! Come back. Hahaha. Respect. Know yourself till others know your work. They will.