SHEHERZADE NOOR PEERZADA CHANNELS HER INNER 60S DIVA AND TAKES US BACK TO THE GOLDEN DAYS
We had the pleasure of meeting Sheherzade in her hometown Lahore where she beautifully channelled her inner 60s diva in an exclusive shoot while simultaneously speaking with us about her journey in the industry, her Peerzada linage and more. Sit back, relax and read on…
Hi Sheherzade! We’re so happy to have you here. Tell us a bit about yourself and who you were before you tapped into the entertainment industry.
I’m so happy to be doing a feature with you all as well! Thanks for having me. I would say that I’m someone who is committed to self-growth, as well as someone who wants to bring people together through my creative work. I feel like every person, no matter what walk of life they are from, wants to feel seen and heard. I want my creative work to allow people to feel just thatbecause we are all a part of a collective whole. Every one matters. Before I tapped into the entertainment industry, I was tapping in the entertainment industry (laughs). There’s no before and after for me. I’ve always been an actress, for as long as I can remember. Started acting for a teleplay my father was making, for kids, when I was about three-years-old and the rest is history.
‘I‘ve always been an actress, for as long as I can remember. Started acting for a teleplay my father was making, for kids, when I was about three-yearsold and the rest is history’
You come from a well-known family full of artists. Your father was a puppeteer and your family owns Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. Is this what inclined you towards joining the industry and continuing the legacy or did you have other plans?
The way in which my late father and my mother brought me up made me feel like being an artist was the only way to be. Growing up, my brother and I were constantly surrounded with puppets, paintings and Peerzadas. Three ingredients that make sure that you’re an artist, through and through. Couple this with the grit and resolve of two parents who always pursued their craft despite the odds, and you get all that you need to help you find your creative expression.
The sounds of Gaddafi Stadium moving and grooving to Stereo Nation and Gypsy Kings would lull my brother and I to sleep. I jokingly always tell people that I knew I wanted to be an actress, before I was born. But it’s honestly the truth. I always enjoyed acting and performing – be it for my cousins at a Sunday lunch at my ‘Daadi’s’, or on stage in front of people I had never met. I would say that being an artist was always in my blood and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tell us a bit about ‘Baji Bombastic’. How did you come up with name, concept and did you except her to be such a hit?
‘Baji’ came into the picture when I was about eight-years-old. A long Sunday lunch at my ‘Daadi’s’, coupled with the strong desire to entertain my older cousins, resulted in ‘Baji’. She became a mainstay when it came to family events, and when I spent time with my close friends. They all used to summon ‘Baji’ and all of us used to have a ball. I started performing stand-up comedy shows with ‘Baji’ in 2017. Fast forward to 2019 – my final year at LUMS, I had no social media whatsoever back then, and my brother gave me a long speech, telling me that I must put my ‘Baji’ videos online. He told me my videos would go viral. I trusted him, and here we are. I never thought that the character would resonate with so many people. I am so happy, lucky and grateful to have received the response that I did. As for the name – I’m a big fan of alliterations when it comes to naming things, and so, I came up with ‘Baji Bombastic’. ‘Baji’ – because everyone has a ‘Baji’; Bombastic - because she says whatever she feels like.
‘Growing up, my brother and I were constantly surrounded with puppets, paintings and Peerzadas. Three ingredients that make sure that you’re an artist, through and through’
We are currently seeing you on TV in ‘Aitebaar’. What made you choose the script? Can you relate to your character in anyway?
The way in which my character, ‘Hina’, was written, and the way in which her character helped advance the plot, really resonated with me. She’s an intelligent young woman, who has dreams of being a news anchor, and she is fiercely protected of the people she loves. I loved the fact that Hina was fearless when it came to standing up for herself and her loved ones. The script also sheds light on the world of social media and how it can be used as a tool to bring about change. The script has a lot of elements of what we see and experience in our daily lives, which is what made me choose it.
‘Hina’ may be headstrong and fearless, but she has a soft heart. She tries to maintain a balance between the two, while staying true to herself. I feel like these attributes of my character really helped me feel connected to her in a way that went beyond the script.
Pros and cons of working in the Pakistani entertainment industry?
Despite the odds, it’s easier to move forward in the Pakistani entertainment industry because the pool is much smaller than it is in the West. At least that’s what I think.
On the other hand, a dearth of good script writers , a n d unprofessionalism is pervasive throughout the industry. Delayed payments are one such thing that have unfortunately withstood the test of time. We need to create a union as a community, so that our rights are better protected and preserved.
‘Delayed payments are one such thing that have unfortunately withstood the test of time. We need to create a union as a community, so that our rights are better protected and preserved’
Sadly, we live in a world where so much negativity, violence and hate are spewed on the regular. How do you deal negativity/ online hate?
Online negativity affected me in the beginning, because I wasn’t used to being commented on by people I had never met. Luckily, I had a support system of my family and close friends who made it much easier for me to navigate. I realized that as long as I had a close-knit circle of people who supported me, and let me know when I was in the wrong, I’d be just fine. I think it’s really important to keep your loved ones close, and engage in honest feedback from your loved ones, when you’re having doubts about anything in your life.
What are your aspirations for the silver screen? If you get an offer, what kind of role would you like to do for cinema?
I would love to work with Sarmad Khoosat, Saim Sadiq, and Asim Abbasi. I see a lot of fantastic work being done, be it films or web series. It’s inspiring to see the landscape changing in Pakistan, vis-à-vis cinema. I would like to do a role that challenges me, and feels rewarding at the same time. Something that allows me to go within myself, to honour the arc of the character, whilst connecting with my co-actors and creating chemistry that allows the whole project to come together. I feel like it’s not just about the ‘type’ of role, but about how that role makes you feel deep inside. Hopefully it makes you feel like you’re working on something that is larger than yourself, and allows your audience to feel emotionally connected to you. I would like to do a role that allows me to feel, and allows my audience to feel, with me. In tandem.
What are your thoughts on P a k i s t a n ’ s e n t e r t a i n m e n t industry?
I’m proud of our industry and I’m proud of our artists. Pursuing the arts in this country is anything but easy, and I think that it’s commendable that people have struck out on their own, only because they are following the inner voice that tells them to create. It’s heartwarming to see Pakistan getting the recognition it deserves, with ‘Joyland’ at Cannes, to ‘Ms. Marvel’. This is only the beginning. ‘InshAllah’.
We’ve made some progress this year with ‘Ms. Mar vel’ and ‘Joyland’ – do you think this is the b e g i n n i n g o f r e a c h i n g international level or is it just a phase? Do you think this success will continue?
I definitely think that this is only the beginning. There’s so much talent in Pakistan – so many artists working at their craft because they believe in it. It’s only a matter of time till Pakistani artists become mainstays of the global arts and culture landscape. All my prayers are with the community artists of Pakistan. Sounds dramatic, but so be it. We’ve got so many stories to tell, and so many songs to sing. ‘Abhi tou party shuru hui hai! ’
We all know you as ‘Baji Bombastic’, an actor, a comedian, a content creator…but who is Sheherzade Noor Peerzada off camera?
I think my mom and my brother would love to answer this one (laughs). Well, I’m someone who loves hitting the gym, and going for pilates. I enjoy my time in the kitchen, and making breakfast. My friends say that I can be pretty intense. Hmm. Currently I’m someone who’s trying to figure out how to exist in a world that is on the brink of a reset – or maybe the reset is already in full swing. See? I’m not intense. At. All.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Assuming we have access to clean and safe water, and the rising temperatures haven’t made Lahore uninhabitable and Pakistan has stopped importing waste from the Global North – I see myself pretty happy in the next five years. Pretty happy, with my clean water, out of the sweltering heat. With clean and fresh air to breathe in. With affordable petrol in our cars. With the global recession long gone. Aside from achieving my personal and professional goals over the course of the next five years, I hope and pray that the global community manages to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, and that all of us find ourselves in a position that is friendlier to the planet.
You’ll be starring in an upcoming web series. Tell us more about this - who are your co-actors and what type of role will you be playing?
I’m super excited for the release of my web series! It has been produced by Pikchur TV, with Areeba Naveed as the director. My co-actors are Samiya Mumtaz, Nadia Aghan, and Shah Fahad, amongst many more t a l e n t e d a c t o r s . Wo r k i n g alongside Samiya ‘apa’ has been a dream come true. She is inspiring both on camera, and off camera. I had an incredible experience working with her – I learned so much.
‘Khoj’ will be premiering in early August this year, ‘InshAllah’. It’ll be available to stream on Pikchur TV’s app.
‘It’s heartwarming to see Pakistan getting the recognition it deserves, with ‘Joyland’ at Cannes, to ‘Ms. Marvel’. This is only the beginning’
In your recent drama ‘Aitebaar’ you played the role of ‘Hina’, a vocal journalist. Is your role in ‘Khoj’ similar? Did you face any challenges in comparison to playing ‘Hina’?
In ‘Khoj’ I play a police subinspector in Lahore. My character in ‘Khoj’, ‘Hira’, was quite different from that of ‘Hina’, because the two characters come from two completely different walks of life. Playing the role of a character in a crime thriller was also a completely different experience, because the nature of the genre governs the mood of the series. I really had to immerse myself into ‘Hina’s’ world - her day-to-day reality, aspirations, and blind spots as a character.
With being new in the industry, was it challenging to work alongside Samiya Mumtaz, a senior actor, in ‘Khoj’?
It was extremely exciting and inspiring working alongside Samiya ‘apa’. From the way she commands the scene, to the manner in which she interacts with everyone on set, there was so much for me to learn. She has a very calming presence, and it was an honour to work with her. I felt completely at ease with her, and that really helped me build the chemistry between our characters, and dive deep into what my character demanded of me as an actress. I didn’t feel like it was my first web series. All thanks to her, and the lovely team that we had behind the camera.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
One thing you would want
Pakistan to achieve?
I would want there to be less
disparity in Pakistan
Favourite travel destination?
Anywhere with a clean beach
Sheherzade Noor Peerzada in
Kind. Intense. A Seeker. (I’m
defying the rules of math and
counting the last two words
as one word)
When someone interrupts an
ongoing conversation and
doesn’t stop interrupting
What one thing do you do
after coming from a long day
on set to wind down?
I take a long, meditative
Biggest strength and
Patience - my biggest
strength, and my biggest
One actor you’d love to work
Al Pacino. When he was in his
I’ve been told that I make the
YouTube or Instagram?
Airplane Mode (laughs)
INTERVIEW & STYLING: SAFA ADNAN
HAIR & MAKEUP: TONI&GUY, LAHORE
PHOTOGRAPHY: TAHIR CHAUDHRY
LOCATION: PANCHI NAGAR, LAHORE