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instep interview
Best of luck, Iman

"Before leaving
I want to clarify that I am not going to Bombay to make films;
I am going to Dehradun for alternative therapy on multiple sclerosis."
– Iman Ali talks to Instep before heading out to the hilly resort of India

By Aamna Haider Isani

Iman Ali is a brave woman, a woman who has learnt to swim against the current and fight all odds. In her first film, Khuda Kay Liye, she stepped into a role that did spell 'trouble'. She walked away with critical acclaim for her performance but also with a fatwa against her. Both have left her unperturbed.

Iman is also someone who takes up challenges. Rejecting social taboos, she agreed to dance in the Jazz Budget ad; it wouldn't be wrong to say she helped start a trend on television.

Perhaps it's the personal battle she has been fighting with multiple sclerosis that has toughened her up. It's an ailment that still not many people understand in Pakistan and she has taken it upon herself to spread awareness so that other women may benefit from her experiences. Instep wishes Iman the heartiest of best wishes as she prepares to travel to Dehradun (India) later this week, for alternative therapy of MS.
In this brief interview Iman talks about the road she has been traveling through films, fashion, television and also multiple sclerosis….

Instep: Khuda Kay Liye has been doing so well despite your early apprehensions that it wasn't a commercial film. Your role has been greatly appreciated and you must be basking in glory these days?
Iman Ali: There's no glory as such. I haven't seen anything change. People's behaviour towards me has not changed. The one most touching moment for me was when Babra Sharif called and told me how good I was - now that really mattered. She threw a party for me and all that appreciation coming from her was humbling. I'm such a big fan of hers; to be appreciated by her felt very nice.

Instep: Do you think the film does a greater service to reviving cinema in Pakistan or to changing mind sets?
IA: It's a little bit of both. What this movie has done is start a dialogue. At least people are talking about it and the issues it takes up. Reaction, any reaction, can only be positive. Plus, before this film people thought that only Punjabi films do well in Pakistan. This broke the stereo type. The perception has been proven wrong. Those films have flopped and Khuda Kay Liye is still running to packed theatres. No cinema is willing to take it down. Now hopefully other film makers will get the finances to take up equally stimulating projects. The people are ready for better cinema.

Instep: You've had nothing but good reviews from the film. Are film makers hounding you with offers now?
IA: Interestingly, I had offers even before the film was released. People who were interested had seen me act on television and they had seen me dance in the ad. So the offers were already there. What I'm extremely pleased about is that it has opened doors for Fawad. He has been 'discovered' in this film.
Instep: Are you working on a new project?

IA: I've been in dialogue with Amena Khan (from the former Amena-Ahsan video directors-duo) for some time now. I've always loved her work and she has been eager to make a feature film. I still don't know what she's making but I'm onboard the project. There have also been discussions with Asim Raza. They're all ready to step out but are looking for financiers. I have to say that I may have done serious cinema, but I'm up for all genres of film. I want to do the comedy and the dancing. If it's good, it'll be good.
Instep: You love to dance, don't you?

IA: I absolutely love it! You know that I was supposed to dance at the Lux Style Awards this year but couldn't because of my health. I'm hoping I will be able to next year. And I want to do it with Pappu Samrat. He's very good and I believe in giving our own people a chance. Talking about the LSAs I must also say that while we're all hunky dory about creating new stars, we mustn't let go of our legends. We should take our older generations of celebrities forward with us. Television is what influences our masses the most and the second LSA was so strong in that it brought people like Moeen Akhter, Samina Ahmad, Feryal Gauher and many others together. Films are still a flop medium in Pakistan and fashion is still relatively inconsequential. It's these people who can still bring more life and even class to a show.
Instep: Iman, you have always been very open about your health, despite the fact that it could have jeopardized your career. What has motivated you in being so vocal about it?

IA: I've been open because people in Pakistan don't know about MS. I've seen a lot of cases where women have not taken it seriously until they're in a wheel chair and their condition is out of control. It targets mostly women so people find it convenient to ignore. Awareness has to be created: it was recently discovered that multiple sclerosis is life threatening. I motivated Nadia Khan to do a show on it. I don't understand why anyone would hide it? Alopathic treatment is unaffordable to most people and I now want to spread awareness about the alternative methods available. I really want to make some difference and share my experience once I'm back from India where I'll be gone for around six to seven weeks. Before leaving I want to clarify that I am not going to Bombay to make films; I am going to Dehradun for alternative therapy on MS.