Frank Sinatra once quipped "A man doesn't know what happiness is until he's married. By then it's too late." Sinatra was divorced thrice before he finally met his fourth - and final - wife. Hence the caustic attitude towards marriage.
Perhaps that's why we find celebrity couples so fascinating. These are people with high-flying, jet setting lifestyles. They have groupies hanging on to their every word and can have their pick of beaus anytime they please, no strings attached. So, when the shiny happy people of the wonderful world of celebdom actually decide to settle down, they of course become subjects of constant scrutiny, conjecture and gossip. Celebrity couples may as well throw their privacy out the window - every tabloid, TV channel and the riff-raff in general consider it their personal right to delve into their private lives. If they're visiting the doctor, they must be having a baby; if they have friends from the opposite sex, they must be cheating on one another and if one of them falls down and gets a black eye, it can't be anything else but a sign of domestic abuse.
Then again, maybe what intrigues us most about showbiz couples is the sheer romance of two beautiful, glamorous people falling in love on a movie set or backstage at a fashion show. It's like love in the movies - only, for real.
Still, having a famous spouse can't be easy. When you're in show business, you work odd hours, get called in the middle of the night by love struck fans and are doggedly scrutinized by all and sundry. Glamorous Hollywood couples a la Brangelina and TomKat are followed by paparazzi day and night and even Bollywood couples like Saif and Kareena have to live with being constantly in the public eye. Though the paparazzi mafia isn't quite as obsessed in Pakistan, balancing marital life alongside a showbiz career is a feat accompli that not many celebrity couples have been able to master even here. This Valentine's Day, Instep talks to five Pakistani celebrity couples who are blissfully married. Here's the modus operandi to marriage, celebrity style…
'Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number' - Emu and Nabila
'Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number', sang Aaliyah in her 1994 hit single and Emu and Nabila agree. The dreadlocked Fuzon keyboardist is younger than his wife, Pakistan's stylist extraodinaire Nabila. The age difference doesn't bother them in the least, though it is a point of public speculation.
"It's annoying the way people wonder at our ages," fumes Emu. "Our families are fine with it and so are we. It isn't really anybody else's business."
The two met five years ago at an awards show where Emu fell headfirst into love and pursued Nabila thereafter. She, on her part, was fascinated by him and wanted to style his look - hence the unique, dreadlocked mane. She asked him to shoot for her and eventually, the pair decided they were meant to be.
The generally matter-of-fact Nabila is rather eloquent while discussing her relationship. "I just knew that we were soulmates. We celebrate the day we committed to each other five years ago. I don't give much importance to ceremonies like marriage. Two years ago, we just got up at 11 a.m. and decided to get married. We went to a registrar's office and signed a piece of paper. But five years ago, the day he gave me a ring and we decided to be together, that's the day that I celebrate."
So, how do two enterprising individuals with demanding careers tackle marriage? "Good food, travel and lots of fights," is Emu's solution. "We take Saturdays off for each other, eat out a lot, explore… we just have lots of fun together."
"I think to make a marriage work, you need to be secure within yourself," opines Nabila. "Only then can you pledge to be sincere to another person. He has teenage girls offering their palms for autographs but that doesn't bother me in the least because I have confidence in our relationship. Then again, even I have to rub oil on models' bodies and he's okay with that," she laughs.
Steady Stalwarts - Usman and Samina Peerzada
Usman and Samina Peerzada are different in many ways. He is a well-grounded Lahori, she a free-spirited Karachiite. His work keeps him in his home city most of the time, she sometimes spends months on end working in far-off locations. Many marriages wouldn't be able to withstand a spouse moving permanently to another city for work - which is exactly what Samina did some time back. Yet, for 35 years, Usman and Samina Peerzada have been happily married.
"You could call our marriage unconventional," says Sameena. "That's because we both are unconventional people. We like to live life according to our own rules rather than conform to society's stereotypes."
In 1973, the two met in Rawalpindi where Usman was shooting for a serial and Samina dropped in on the set to meet a cousin who was also working in the same play. "There was this chemistry between us from the very first time we met," recalls Samina. "The second time we met, I proposed to him and he said yes."
Usman and Samina's long-distance romance was aided by telephone conversations and love letters. Two years later, they eloped and got married. "She was the one who suggested eloping also," chuckles Usman. "Her mother was skeptical about my profession. She wanted me to join the Merchant Navy since she considered it a more secure profession. She was afraid that if Samina married an actor, she would join the profession also - which is exactly what happened! We got tired of the parental pressure and tied the knot, returning to our respective homes after the ceremony. Then, a few weeks later, on Valentine's Day itself, we had a proper wedding with our family and friends."
35 years down the line, Usman has managed to win over Samina's mother and the couple has two daughters. "When we got married I was in my late teens and he was 21," Samina says. "We didn't have children for 12 years after that. Even after our daughters were born, Usman helped me pursue my career. He would manage the house and take care of the kids if I was away on a shoot. He understands my need to experiment and travel and doesn't believe in tying me down. We both give each other the space we need and I think that's what makes our marriage work."
Overloaded with marital bliss
- Mehmood and Meesha
Overload guitarist Mehmood and Overload vocalist/model Meesha's marriage is almost too good to be true. Despite belonging to the same profession, there's no professional rivalry and absolutely no jealousy. The way these two go on about each other, they could form a mutual admiration society. Ask Mehmood what he likes best about his wife and he gets sweetly baffled. "There are just so many things!" his voice drifts off. Ask Meesha the same question and she chortles, "His pretty face, of course!" Even the way these two met is the stuff of classic college romance with a happy ending.
Meesha and Mehmood became friends in NCA but at the time, they were both involved with other people. Mehmood graduated two years before her but they continued to spend time together. Eventually, they saw the light and decided to get married. "He proposed to me while he thought I was sleeping," remembers Meesha. "We were watching a movie together and I closed my eyes for a while and when he thought I was sleeping, he said 'I want to marry you'. I just kept pretending to be asleep, savouring the moment."
If the story isn't all roses and violins yet, both Meesha and Mehmood's families were euphoric that they were getting married. No parents objecting that their son wants to tie the knot with a model, no problems with the groom-to-be being a musician. Instead, the family threw them a phenomenal, fabulous extravaganza of a wedding. "I think my own wedding was the best wedding I have ever attended," says Mehmood. "Our entire families were on the dance floor with us and everybody was just enjoying themselves."
For this young couple, the past one and a half year since their wedding has been great. This is no stereotypical couple where the wife can't pursue a modeling career. In fact, Mehmood feels that his wife is more successful than he is professionally - and is proud of it! "Meesha's a model, a vocalist, a spokesperson for one brand and brand ambassador to another - and she's good at all these things! I am very proud of her."
Similarly, Meesha is no temperamental wife who can't digest her husband's lovelorn teenage fans. "I think I may have felt insecure if I had been in some other profession," she mulls. "But since I am in the same field, on the same stage with him, with my own group of male fans, I really can't blame him."
Mehmood and Meesha make marriage sound like fun. They are, above all, good friends who hang out together but also know when to give each other space. "Marriage doesn't have to tie you down or stifle you in any way," says Mehmood. "If you understand each other well, it can be the best thing to ever happen to you. I am a great advocate of marriage."
- Mohib Mirza and Aamina Sheikh
Actor Mohib Mirza and model/actress Aamina Sheikh had just a month to plan their wedding. Aamina's father couldn't fathom his daughter marrying an actor but on the couple's insistence, gave them a month - before he could change his mind. "I still have around 500 wedding cards lying around with guests' names on them that I never got around to distributing," Mohib says ruefully. "To this day, people come to me and complain that I didn't invite them to my wedding. I just show them the invitation card with their name on it and tell them that I just didn't have the time!"
Mohib and Aamina met while they were working on a show that Mohib was hosting and Aamina was directing. They got to know each other better through mutual friends. Mohib proposed to Aamina one day while he was dropping her home. "I took my time in accepting his proposal but, in my heart, it was an immediate 'yes'!" confesses Aamina.
It was harder convincing Aamina's parents. "Aamina's family is not involved in the media at all and they had their reservations towards her marrying so soon and that too, to an actor. I met Aamina's father five times before he gave us his approval," recalls Mohib. "Each meeting took place in his office and involved extensive grilling. I felt like I was applying for a job!"
Despite Aamina's father's concerns, marriage has worked out well for the couple. They have now been married for five years. When they got married, Aamina was delving into direction and occasional acting projects. Over time, she has grown both as a model and an actress. "Mohib and his family encourage me to pursue my career," says Aamina. "People are surprised that there is absolutely no hassle at home regarding my work."
Mohib, on his part, feels that as long as he knows who his wife is working with, she can do whatever she pleases. "I just make sure that she's working with good people. And, if I feel that she needs to watch out for certain people, I let her know."
For Aamina and Mohib, the secret to a successful marriage is communication. "I see couples in my profession who just don't take out the time to make their spouse comfortable with their work," explains Aamina. "This is not a job with regular work hours. Sometimes, you're out working the entire night. If you keep your spouse in the dark, especially if he or she is not from the same profession, there are bound to be misunderstandings. Mohib and I talk things through and have no hang-ups about pressuring each other. That's what makes our marriage work."
Nine years and counting
- Azfar Ali and Salma Azfar
"I called her to hit on her and ended up proposing," remembers actor/director/VJ Azfar Ali. "One phone call got me stuck for life." He may make wisecracks but Azfar and his wife Salma have been blissfully married for nine years.
The couple met while working together, became friends and in the aftermath of a conversation that lasted seven hours through the night, got engaged. Marriage happened soon thereafter and as fate would have it, they were working even during the course of the wedding. A sitcom the two were working on got delayed and the dates for the shooting unfortunately clashed with the marriage dates. "I was working all day long on the day of our mehndi and then rushed back home and got dressed to attend the function," says Azfar. "The only day Salma didn't let me work was on our wedding day. I was back on the sets on the day of my valima."
A few months after their wedding, Azfar and Salma acted together in the comic sitcom Sub Set Hai. Despite the play's success, Salma gradually ceased working post-marriage. "When our daughter was born, I left work for a while," says Salma. "Even now I do a bit of production work occassionally but I am not interested in making a complete comeback. When I decided to leave work, Azfar told me I was crazy to leave something I'd been doing for so long. But I wanted to give my family time."
"That's the best thing about Salma," opines Azfar. "She dedicates herself wholeheartedly to her family. She has taught me that relationships need to be worked upon. It's not easy to sustain a relationship, especially in the earlier days. It's difficult to compromise, to not fight, to leave your old routine - but I have learnt from her that things can work out if you put in the necessary effort."
For Salma, the best thing about her husband is his soft-hearted nature. "The secret to our marriage is probably that I am still madly in love with him!" she laughs.