She arrived in showbiz as the popular radio and television host Mani’s newly-wed wife.
Her gift of gab got her chattering away in guest appearances and soon she was seen co-hosting a chand raat show with hubby dearest. Then followed Hum 2 Hamara Show and soon they became a popular star couple doing the Hira Mani Show.
Then, in 2015, the host turned actor as Hira Mani bagged her first Momina Duraid serial Preet Na Kariyo Koi (PNKK) opposite Ahsan Khan, directed by Mohammed Ehteshamuddin. Today, she has cut a niche for herself as an actor with hits such as Bilqees Urf Bitto, Pagli, Sun Yaara, Yaqeen Ka Safar (YKS), and, the currently on-air, Thaiss and Mera Khuda Jane.
She started off as the young wife of a celebrity, became a TV show host and then established herself as a popular drama actor. What else does Hira Mani have up her long-flowing sleeves?
Contrary to her ultra-feminine TV serial persona of flowing chiffon dupattas, long lustrous hair, ankle-length kurtas and chooridars, I find her wearing a white tee with black tights, sans makeup and her hair tied up in a high ponytail. She has just returned from the gym, her skin glowing and eyes sparkling.
As we settle down in her minimalist white bedroom, she speaks to her young sons Muzammil and Ibrahim playing in the living room: “Meeting ho rahi hai, ab Mama nahin hai” [Meeting is underway, Mama’s not available now]. Ibrahim carries away a basket of nachos and his mum’s mobile phone as she smiles and sits cross-legged on her bed, her eyes intent as though awaiting an onslaught of questions.
I deliberately began with a ridiculous question to relax her. Did she marry Mani to come into showbiz? She laughs, “No, it is the other way round! I’m still a die-hard fan of Mani,” she adds. “I would do anything for him.”
Would she give up acting for him? “Acting? Mein duniya choor doon uss ke liye [I would gladly leave the world for him]. He is my mentor, my best friend,” she says, a bit emotional.
So how did they meet?
“Meeting Mani is quite a dramatic story,” a naughty smile flashes across her face. “A friend of mine used to talk to him on the phone while I would be hanging around doing this girl’s assignments. One day, I asked her who this person was that she would endlessly talk to and she asked me if I had seen Mani on TV [at the time Mani used to do Street on TV]. I replied in affirmation and I’m sure I must have gotten starry-eyed because I had the biggest crush on him.”
“I just knew that I had to get hold of his number. So I stole the number from my friend’s mobile phone and called him,” she clasped her hands together. “I told him that I wanted to meet him and asked him if he would marry me,” she says, her eyes suddenly becoming intent again.”
She continued, “Then one day [I was about 17] I went to see him at ARY News with my friend. I hadn’t told her about my crush but just that I wanted to see Mani in person. Of course, I was dressed to the hilt, hair blow-dried. I didn’t let him know that I was the Hira who had already proposed to him on the phone.”
“Later, he called me and told me about how this girl all dressed to kill had come to see him, saying that she is his fan and although he didn’t think much of her, his friend Boni [who does the scripting for Mani] liked her very much and that Mani’s mission now was to find out the girl’s address and take Boni’s proposal for her. This scared the life out of me and I told him that it was me! And he said he knew all along,” she said with a look as though she had won the lottery. “We got married not long after that.”
And then showbiz happened. “I was camera-shy but would talk so much that [Hum TV chief] Sultana Siddiqui thought I should host shows,” says Hira, who refused an offer to do a morning show because she thought she was too young and inexperienced for that kind of responsibility.
Her first major drama serial PNKK, she claims, is one of the best experiences of her showbiz life. “At the time Ibrahim, my youngest, was still a baby and at one point I had to leave him for a couple of weeks to go out of the city. I still feel really guilty about that.”