Despite the fact that her heyday was back in the nineties, the svelte and stylish super model of yesteryear Atiya Khan remains an integral part of today’s fashion industry. Besides acting in serials Khan is also working on a project 3rd Option, a platform geared towards looking into Constitutional reforms and getting them implemented. In an interview with PLI, she shares how her life has come full circle.
Q: Tell us about your early years?
A: I was born in Hong Kong and spent my early years abroad. My dad was in the aviation industry so we spent quite a few years in Prague, Vienna, Singapore and Hong Kong. I was in 9th grade when we returned to Karachi. At the age of 16 I went to Canada and when I turned 18 I was back in Karachi again. I did not plan to become a model it just kind of happened. Back in the day, when modelling was nothing more than a favour for a friend who wanted to do a shoot to promote their clothes, photographic skills or make-up tricks. We were all friends – photographers, makeup artists, designers who were mostly starting out so it was more like modelling for friends. It was the time of General Ziaul Haq when Islamisation was taking place; the young of the society were rebelling against it so this new crop of artists submerged. The group of people that I was dealing with at that time were all artists from good families – Rooha Ghaznavi, Tapu Javeri, Arif Mehmood, Rizwan Beyg, Tariq Amin, to name some. And so most of us friends ended up modelling for some friend or the other rather than it being a career option for us.
Q: So were you focusing whole heartedly on modelling back then?
A: While modelling, I was simultaneously working at an Ad agency SASA Advertising as a copy writer and later in their audio visual department. I was more inclined towards the production side, behind-the-camera rather than in front of it so I found myself involved in producing music videos and television commercials. I was also modelling on the ramp, doing still shoots and TVCs unlike most models who were not in the commercial sphere then. Besides, I had started directing and producing videos, programmes and even did a serial Raqeeb which was a huge hit. As for acting, I did Nasal and Zakhm.
Q: How and when did you meet your husband?
A: My first husband was someone who had been my friend since some time. I was 19 years old when I got married.
Q: Why get married at such a tender age?
A: I guess I needed to get anchored. I was at a vulnerable point in life. Here I was in the glamour world doing high profile fashion events, fashion shows were big in those days, the grandeur and magnitude was totally different from what it is today. Today it is all commercial. Back then it was magnificent and we were the ambassadors of our people. So as a young girl with so much happening in my life I guess I felt vulnerable and wanted to feel protected. SO I ended up getting married to a good friend. However, it was not meant to be and wasn’t going to last, as it was a simple friendship and I didn’t love him, so by the age of 21 I was divorced.
Q: Wasn’t divorce a taboo in those days, how did you tackle that?
A: To be divorced was a big deal in those days. So to get away from all of the madness, the limelight, the camera’s eye I took time off from work to reconnect with myself; to rediscover who I was. It was around this time that I also discovered spiritualism. I had first read the Quran at the age of 16 and that too because I felt embarrassed when my friends in Canada would ask me about my religion. I knew nothing. But when I first read the Quran I was petrified by the wrath of Allah. But it was now at 21 that I turned to the Quran and Hadis again and this time I was awed by the benevolence of Allah and HIS generosity and love for us. It was my spiritual awakening especially when I went on a one month spiritual silent retreat to Changa Manga.
Q: What happened next after your silent retreat?
A: Once back I delved in work once again. This time the focus was on production and direction rather than modelling or acting. Around that time, at age 27, I met Ashraf Muhammad, my husband to-be who incidentally had issues with my working. So I gave up work had two kids Ishaq who is now 18 and in the university and Noor who is 15 and already a photographer. I spent the next few years as a devoted mother and wife but you need appreciation for all of it. In 2001 I met my spiritual teacher Sheikh Nazim; it was around this time that my marriage fell apart. I found myself going towards spiritualism; I even produced and directed a religious programme and started work on a spiritual documentary which I am still working on. However, it should now reach fruition in 2017.
Q: What’s keeping you busy these days?
A: These days I’m working on a project 3rd Option, a platform geared towards looking into Constitutional reforms and getting them implemented. It’s something I am passionate about as I want to see a difference in our society. With 3rd Option taking up most of my time I am left with little choice but to get back to acting and modelling as that is what fits best in the slot I am left with.
Q: What kind of a parent are you?
A: I’m not a strict parent; I don’t admonish my kids from doing anything rather I tell them the consequences letting them then decide for themselves. They are free to make their choices, my job is to guide them the best I can.
Q: How has your relationship with your parents been?
A: The softness you see in me is because of my father. My dad is a very soft, malleable and loving father who is my mentor, my confidant, my best friend. I could always discuss anything with him. As for my mother she has played a very important role in shaping my personality. She is an authoritative, disciplined, principled mother who I have always admired greatly. She has been a huge influence on me.
Q: Do you think a woman can be complete without a man?
A: Speaking for myself I have never needed a man to complete me. A lot of single women get desperate to be married. I’ve never needed a man to complete me. I have always had my own identity. Never needed it before, and don’t need it today either. I don’t see myself in a conventional marriage. A relationship between a man and a woman is built on love and connection. If I were to find someone who fits the criterion I will marry. But the biggest criterion for me would be a man who has God consciousness and a spiritual side to him. Until then I’m quite happy with my life.