(The article was first published in Nov-Dec 2011 edition of Aurora.)
In the recently published book Dou Rukh, photographers Arif Mahmood and Tapu Javeri share their perspectives of several prominent personalities. The list includes Abdul Sattar Edhi, Ali Zafar, Reema, Zehrah Niga… and Mathira.
This perhaps is proof of the fact that Mathira, also known as the ‘gooji-gooji-goo girl’ has finally made it into the big league. After all, of late, she has become a sensation of sorts, after debuting on a yoga show (where she taught women how to enhance their cleavage, among other things), she got a slot on Vibe TV, where she shot to fame with Love Indicator, a programme that has caused many men to either palpitate or proposition her (obscenely at times); it’s also triggered furore amongst some women, resulting in a few explicit, abusive phone calls on air.
Mathira also appeared on a cooking show and a sports show. In between, she has also hosted two successive Lux Style Awards and appeared in the pages of Xpozé Magazine several times. The magazine gave her their Everyone’s Guilty Pleasure Award in 2010, after which editor Andleeb Rana Farhan presented a glamorous ‘new’ Mathira on the magazine’s cover, which, in Mathira’s opinion, “showed the world the real me”.
The Harare-born nymphet, the daughter of a Pakistani mother and South African father, came to Pakistan after the law and order situation in Harare deteriorated five years ago.
“Pakistanis are very positive; a lot of people whom I thought would be kharoos turned out to be very friendly; and the politicians are very positive…”
“The halaat were bad there and I came to Pakistan because it was better than being kidnapped by a black man,” she says in her characteristic sing-song accent.
She adds: “Pakistanis are very positive; a lot of people whom I thought would be kharoos turned out to be very friendly; and the politicians are very positive…”
The politicians are… positive?
“They are very friendly!” she exclaims before bursting into a peal of laughter, not only betraying a sense of humour but an almost child-like innocence. As she laughs, the oomphy, sex kitten fades out, and an innocent teenager emerges for a mere fraction of a second. These, I realise are the dou rukh of Mathira.
When I point out that her onscreen demeanour exudes provocation, Mathira is quick to deny that she flirts on screen and attributes her posture to being an extremely fidgety person.
“Look, if I am standing in an elevator, I have to move from side to side, and people then start to think that I am trying to seduce them! I am a fidgety child; I don’t flirt; jis nazar se dekho, uss nazar se nazar ata hai.”
Judging by the innocent, carefree manner in which she proclaims this, she almost sounds believable.
Given the media attention Love Indicator has spurred, begs the question: How does she deal with all the negative attention?
“Controversy sells in Pakistan because at the end of the day, people tune in.”
She is aware of the fact that in order to move ahead, a makeover is needed. And she is already in the midst of her transformation. What remains to be seen, though, is whether 10 years down the line, the gooji-gooji-goo girl will be remembered for talking about sex on television or will she metamorphose into someone with more depth and dimension.
She also adds that her family has been very supportive but “my dad gets very angry at times and my mother tells me to ignore the insulting phone calls. However, both my parents believe that I will learn though the hard knocks. Besides, I don’t care what people say… I do as I please and I won’t change for them.”
However, it does seem that there is a part of this 19-year-old child-woman that gets hurt by the lurid comments she attracts. Because when I ask her how she reacted to being called the Paris Hilton of Pakistan by the LA Times, she immediately says that she was flattered, then after a pause, she reveals a more vulnerable, almost child-like side of her personality, as her voice softens:
“I was happy. I said thank you… but I have learnt to absorb everything. It doesn’t really make a difference what people say. Some people will say good things, some will say bad things. They can call me anything. Good or bad. Chalta hai. It’s okay.”
What also surprises me about Mathira is that she says that she is not much of a party-goer. (What is it that they say about making assumptions?)
“I used to socialise a lot more when I first came to Pakistan, but not anymore. People have such double standards and talk behind your back all the time, so when I do go out, I prefer to meet just a few close friends.”
Instead, she prefers listening to music, reading books like PS: I Love You and Why Men Love Bitches, dancing in front of the mirror and having a bubble bath.
It strikes me during the course of our conversation that despite the vibes (no pun intended) she may give off, Mathira is far from being an airhead. In fact, what comes across is that along with being sassy, she is quite smart and seems to have her career path charted out. She plans to give Bollywood a try, and by her own admission, she is financing an album for which she is currently recording a couple of songs.
“I plan to visit India, but will do so after my songs are released; it would be better to go there with a good portfolio, you know...”
But, I ask, won’t your accent be a hindrance? She is quick to point out that she will improve.
“When I came here, all I knew were a few lines from Mohobbatein, and then I learnt Urdu. So I’m sure I can improve my accent and do justice to a good script.”
Suffice to say, she’s made it. The question is: What’s next? The answer, according to Mathira is ‘plenty’.
Not only is she working on the album, she is also recording a reality show that she says is “all about me” which will be aired on Geo or Aag later this year. Currently, she is appearing on another late night show, Baji Online on Aag – “a classier version of Love Indicator, with better sets and clothes.”
Clearly, she is aware of the fact that in order to move ahead, a makeover is needed. And she is already in the midst of her transformation. What remains to be seen, though, is whether 10 years down the line, the gooji-gooji-goo girl will be remembered for talking about sex on television or will she metamorphose into someone with more depth and dimension.