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(Published Sunday, 24 Jan, 2010) 

Meera talks in a language better known as scandal. Almost everything she says turns into controversy and it’s one of those controversies that she’s been embroiled in recently that has her emphasising the word Miss. In plain words, she insists she was never married to the man called Ateequr Rahman and the allegations that he slapped upon her were false and baseless. It’s still Miss as far as Meera is concerned though she is quick to exclaim that marriage is not the most important thing in her life and she had rather put this entire fiasco behind her.

“I just spent two months vacationing in Canada, trying to cleanse my system of all this filth,” she says. “Can you please not mention that man in the same sentence as me?”

Meera quickly adds that she is only 27 and she has several ‘good’ proposals in the waiting. She scrolls through her cell phone, showing different pictures as proof. The images show her having a whale of a time at a New Year party in Canada.

Meera’s life is usually as public as it gets but she cuts a lonely figure today as she spends a day in Karachi. She is working on a TV serial – Husn Ara Kaun Thi? – while she waits for her passports which have been confiscated for fraud. “It’s rubbish,” she denies that she has been illegally carrying two different passports. “The only mistake I made was that I didn’t attach my old passport to the new one. Airport officials (in Karachi) were a bit too enthusiastic to hold me up and they had the media ready to pounce even before I landed.”

“Tell me,” she adds with a bit of disgust, “If I had illegal documents then how did I enter America and Canada, where I’ve been these last few months? Surely their systems are fool-proof.”

Meera has an answer for everything and one by one she dispels all the stories that have been doing the rounds. “Ateeq was working with me and I generously helped him get ahead in his career. But he and a producer got greedy and devised a way to rob me. I have to admit that one of my family members – an uncle who has been envious of my wealth and fame – got involved and helped them conspire against me. They touched up all the wedding pictures you saw. I am Meera. Tell me, would I sit in a cheap sari and fake necklace on my own nikah? The world will know when Meera gets married!”

I am Meera. Tell me, would I sit in a cheap sari and fake necklace on my own nikah? The world will know when Meera gets married!

What about video footage of her honeymoon?

“Look, I’m no Pakeeza,” Meera replies. “What is my name? Is it Fatima? No, it’s Meera and this is who I am. This is my life. But a video showing me on a beach with a man does not prove I am his wife. It doesn’t prove anything! There are a hundred more pictures and videos of me with other men. I have married so many of them in films. Does this mean I am really married to all of them?”

I ask her about her television interview that had the country scandalised by her brazen behaviour when she seductively tried convincing a reporter to take her side in the story. She was led to believe that the TV cameras, shooting for a local news channel, had been turned off which is when she turned on the act.

“Do you think it was right, what they did to me?” Meera makes a habit of talking in questions. “It was wrong. It was unprofessional. I was told that it was all off the record. And I was friendly with the reporter, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that I was lied to and that the channel used me to get higher ratings… which they got,” she hastily adds. “They always get ratings with me, which is why they have signed me on to host a show now.”

Is it the same show that features on Youtube, with Meera struggling with her English? “No,” she replies. “I never wanted to host a show in English because I’m not comfortable with the language. My English is weak. I kept telling them that and they kept insisting that I try. That recording was a pilot rehearsal and the show was scrapped after it. But I don’t know why it was publicised on Youtube. Again, someone trying to take advantage of me. Mera record lagaane ke liye shoot kiya tha.”

Meera did become the brunt of the joke – once again – but sitting in for this interview that day, she inspired sympathy rather than ridicule. And that is exactly what makes Meera such a curious creature. She is someone who has acted in hundreds of films but she has made a career out of being who she appears to be off-screen. Her colleague and film actor Shaan has often pointed out that Meera is more intelligent than she seems, she just leads people into believing that she is silly. And that does make her a brilliant actress because she does a pretty convincing job. It must be added that it would be naïve to take anything she says at face value.

That said, it is also contended that maybe a warped system has forced a talented and beautiful actress to stoop to these methods for fame. Scandals follow celebrities world over, but rarely do scandals become bigger news than the films released. They make for tabloid fodder, gossip columns, information that usually serves as publicity for a film. Meera unfortunately is the bi-product of an industry that never really took off beyond scandals of B-grade actresses.

There was never a Silsila made in Pakistan, a film that would immortalise the Rekha-Amitabh Bachchan affair in fantastic story-telling. The Meeras of Pakistan are fated to be wrapped up messily amidst the Gujjar and Jutts of Punjabi films. There has been no one to train, guide or groom the dancing girls of Lollywood.

And for all her idiosyncracies, it’s difficult not to like Meera. One smiles as she tells you she’s 27, which would make her 11 when her first film was released. One genuinely sympathises with her when she tells you that 12 armed men barged into her house in a take-over. She faces trial for occupying a house that she insists is hers to keep.

People who have worked with her call her infuriating, someone with a genetic disorder for self-destruction.

“Meera is the female equivalent of cricketer Shoaib Akhtar,” says stylist Nabila who attempted to give Meera a personality makeover after having successfully reinvented Babra Sharif and Reema. “Meera is incorrigible,” she seals it off.

“I want to leave this place (Pakistan) now,” Meera says conclusively, with a dramatic flair. “I am beautiful and I have a fabulous figure. I may not have Reema’s experience but I am learning. I am an actress and will always act, but I cannot work in this atmosphere anymore. People target me, they deliberately make me self-conscious and pick on my shortcomings. I am seen in the shadow of my surroundings. But I have returned a changed person now. I vow to no longer be the trusting, helpful person I have always been. You will see a new Meera emerge from this mess.”

People who know her may regard her as incorrigible but Meera has promised to change. And while she does (or doesn’t), she remains someone who is talented and harmless, someone who has come a long way and has achieved a lot along the way. If most of it has been scandalous rather than appreciated, then such is the luck of being part of a flawed system. Meera is a modern day Umrao Jaan, cursed by the fate of where she started and what she has covered.

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