I didn’t want to be dependent on anybody: Mahira Khan opens up on divorce

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In a recent episode of Frieha Altaf’s FWhy Podcast, celebrated Pakistani actor Mahira Khan delved into her past, sharing intimate anecdotes about her childhood, relationships, and remarkable entertainment industry journey. A household name and one of Pakistan’s most celebrated stars, Mahira took a trip down memory lane as she recounted pivotal moments from her life, offering listeners a candid look into her personal experiences.

As the conversation began, Mahira painted a colourful picture of her childhood. She fondly remembered growing up in a large joint family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all under one roof. She called her childhood “beautiful,” marked by protection, dreams, and a knack for keeping relationships separate. “My father was born in Delhi. Both my mom’s family and my dad’s families were from India,” the star recalled.

She further highlighted, “When I was born, I was born after eight years, so I was very spoilt. I was the miracle baby because my parents were trying for all these years, and they’d given up and whatnot. And so, I was born, and my brother was born a year later.” The star also said, “I was very protected. Some people go through some teenage rough years. I think for me, I was quite a dreamer. I wondered what would happen to me in life. I still am… I became very good at keeping relationships separate…But I think I became a people pleaser.”

She affectionately described her father as a “hippie” who had attended Woodstock in 1969, while her mother was a romantic dreamer with a teaching profession. “My father was like a hippie. Still is. So we had Bob Marley and Janis Joplin playing. He was a real hippie. I mean, he attended Woodstock in 1969. He was a banker, but prior to being a banker, he was doing his Masters in Philadelphia. After he was done, he was a backpacker.”

Talking about her mother, Mahira shared, “My mother was, on the other hand, very protected, just gorgeous, and again, a dreamer, romantic. I think she looked at everything with rose-tinted glasses. Educated, also, as was my father. But two different worlds. And she was a teacher; I always saw my parents working.”

Mahira delved into her teenage years, acknowledging that she was more of a dreamer than someone who faced rough patches during that phase. She discussed the challenges of leaving for Los Angeles at the age of 17, leaving her education and familiar life behind. Despite the hardships she faced, she expressed that the experience allowed her to taste true independence and start dreaming big. She also fell in love at this point in time and wanted to join her “first love” in LA.

“I was 17 when I left,” recalled the actor. “I didn’t even complete my A Levels. When I went there, I was baffled. It was tough for me…I wasn’t that rich kid going to college…When my friends started going to college, their lives were different. They could go to college, party, go for holidays, go for Spring break – To date when people talk about college life, I had none.”

Recalling her time in the USA, Mahira said, “I ended up not being with that boy…I mean, later in the story, I marry that boy. But at that time, we split up for a bit. My father was going through his own journey with his career. My brother and I went – we had this apartment in Santa Monica because that’s where my community college was and it was this small tiny apartment. My brother bothered me a lot…Now, he’s just a blessing – even then, he was, but party, party, party. And I’m coming back from my job, and people are lying to me about his whereabouts.”

Her journey led her to pursue various opportunities, including a job in inventory, where she faced challenges related to handling alcohol. Work became her refuge during personal heartbreaks and challenges, which eventually led her to establish herself as a prominent video jockey when MTV arrived in Pakistan. In all of this, she also stressed the importance of protecting children in a marriage dynamic.

“It’s all about children,” she stated. “At the end of the day, there is so much that we…you know, you kill your ego for your child. But you brought that child into the world. And then you decided – I chose not to be with that person. But that child did not make those choices. Till the time that they are 18, it is up to you to keep it as non-dysfunctional as possible.”

Amidst her professional success, Mahira openly discussed her personal struggles, including a marriage that eventually faced difficulties. When she came back from the USA, she got married, but her journey as a video jockey also began. “The minute I came on-screen, there was so much love. I feel that that was when the Pakistani youth watched television.” However, all was not well in her personal life.

“Post [my son], even prior, I knew my marriage was [not working.],” said Mahira. “You let it go on; you love the person – they’re your childhood sweetheart, but I knew, and I think that was a difficult and painful time for me. Personally, I was like, what is happening? I had a baby, I was scared. Professionally, I had no idea success would come in this way – overnight with Humsafar. That was tough.”

The star also shared how she always knew she wanted to achieve something monumental, recalling a time when she would look at signs and imagine her face on billboards or starring alongside Shah Rukh Khan. She went on to achieve both dreams. “Work has been my saviour,” commented the superstar. She recalled being on the set of Bol, working “earnestly.” She said, “And for Shoaib Mansoor Sahab to be my first director was something else. And then that song, Hona Tha Pyar – to date, it’s everywhere. And very soon after, Humsafar came.”

She spoke about the pain of navigating a marriage that was no longer working, all while her career skyrocketed with her role in the hit drama Humsafar. Mahira vulnerably revealed, “I think when you’re going through it, and you don’t know what’s happening, but you’re in pain, and you’re sitting in a room, and you feel like the walls are closing in on you, and you’re feeling anxious, and you don’t know what it is – I think that’s more painful than when you make a decision. When you make that decision and – you don’t need to say it to anybody, your heart and mind say that this is it – and I think women have this great strength where once they have decided, it’s done. I knew I’d take my child and be with him, but I knew I didn’t want to depend on anybody. Not even my parents. And when nobody was with me, work was with me.”

She further opened up to state, “The first few years were very painful. Again, it was two good people [in the relationship]. It wasn’t abusive; it was just that two kids had gotten married. Two people can evolve differently. But it was painful. There was a little bit of pressure, go back, that sort of thing.”

Mahira emphasised the importance of prioritising her child through the ups and downs, even as she and her ex-husband separated. She revealed they have evolved into a “modern family,” where respect for each other’s partners prevails. Despite the pain and difficulties, the common thread of unconditional love for their child has kept them united. “We respect each other’s partners; it’s taken a lot, but we’re there,” shared the star.

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