Meher Bano discusses sexism, mental health and future film making pursuits

The actress opened up about the experience of working on Churails and her desire to work behind the cameras as a director or script writer

Mahnoor Jalal

Mahnoor Jalal

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Trigger warning: mentions of suicide

Actress and dancer Meher Bano has been dazzling the audiences with her performances in series like Churails, Daagh and now Khuda Aur Mohabbat. She was the latest guest on the show “Something Haute” where she further opened up about her desire for strong female characters, her pursuit to become a film maker and script writer and how she began dealing with trolls on social media:

Dealing with harassment and the casting couch

When Meher Bano was asked about whether there was the problem of harassment and the casting couch in the entertainment industry, she said it did exist and it was because of the fact that harassers are mostly the men in powerful positions that there is no discussion on this publicly:

“Harassment does exist in the entertainment industry, and the big problem is that it is all kept hush hush so women cant speak out or seek any help on this issue. In these cases, the harasser is someone who is from a powerful position, and the victim has to remain silent because they fear losing their job. Usually, harassment happens around film sets and people tend to ignore it and move on because they are afraid of the repercussions of speaking out.”

The actress then re-called her experience of harassment when she was younger and had started to work on the set, and Saba Qamar was the one who had helped her when a mic operator harassed her on set:

“My earliest experience of facing harassment had happened when I was quite young and on the set it was a guy holding the mike who did it. I also did not understand what was going on or how to react to it. I remember I had spoken up about this issue to Saba Qamar who had then gone to the set and had gotten the guy fired.”

When asked about whether there is a protection system offered by experienced actors on set for newcomers when they deal with abuse or sexual harassment, Meher Bano said that while most actors are lovely and accommodating when you seek out their help, largely in many cases actors tend to overlook and move on because every one is trying to protect their careers:

“There are many people who I’ve worked with who made me feel safe on film sets. Sarmad Khoosat was one person and so is Ushna Shah since she’s a lovely person. But in many cases, people tend to overlook or ignore this issue because they fear that speaking out against a powerful person might cause them to lose their jobs.”

Take on problematic characters in drama’s

When the conversation came to the show Khuda Aur Mohabbat and the character of Farhad, Meher Bano did agree with the take that his character would be considered to be a misogynist and a stalker since he refuses to consider the female character’s choice and follow’s her to her home.

“When I had signed up to do Khudda Aur Mohabbat, I had only read the first few scripts. But when I recieved the rest of the scripts and was reading them, I was concerned with the misogyny and did reach out to the director to ask him about it. I do feel that if I had been a script writer myself, I would not have agreed with the content of the show. I actually do agree that Farhad is a stalker, and in real life I have met men who are completely oblivious to the other woman’s consent and do go to this extent. ”

Meher Bano also opened up about her own film making pursuits by revealing that she aspired to work as a director and writer someday, and wants to bring the stories of women she has worked with to the front screen someday:

“I do have the desire to pursue film making someday and I have already been working on two scripts. I have long desired to write about strong and empowered women in this industry who have been willing to risk everything to climb up.”

Dealing with trolls

When coming to the subject of dealing with trolls, Meher Bano said that the backlash last year had been so intense for her, coupled with the onset of Covid-19 that she had suicidal tendencies and had to seek therapy:

“Trolling on social media increased after Churails had released, and it’s impact was so intense that you forget about the good things in life and only remember the bad things people say about you. I had also started to become suicidal because of it, there was a point in life where I wanted to hang myself. Then, last year I started going to therapy which was quite a relief for me.”

Meher Bano also opened up about why actors are trolled so much on social media, especially women. She said that our public tends to put women on a pedestal thinking that they could do no wrong, and when they do make a mistake, they are discarded and considered no good for public consumption. She said that social media users need to understand that actors are also human beings, and can make mistakes like other people:

“I think that actors are put on a pedestal when they come into the industry because people think that we can never do anything wrong, but when we do make a mistake we are pushed off and discarded because we are no longer good for public consumption. Women especially face greater scrutiny from the public in ways men never do because like the characters on screen, we can only be good or bad people. We could be scrutinized over the most smallest things like wearing a sleeveless shirt, and suddenly we are no longer good people. I think people on social media do need to remember that actors are also human beings. We make mistakes, we say things that we regret instantly. We also are learning and growing up like everyone else.

You can watch the complete interview below: