Mahira Khan preps for Cannes red carpet debut


CANNES: It is nothing new for stars from around the world to walk the red carpet as L’Oreal ambassadors at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. But this year marks the first time the official festival sponsor has sent a star from Pakistan.

Mahira Khan, who has risen to prominence in recent years, will make her Cannes red carpet debut Monday evening. She was appointed L’Oreal Pakistan’s hair care ambassador last year.

“It’s a huge thing, for me at least, and of course for the country… all eyes are on me.” the 33-year-old said during a seaside interview a stone’s throw away from the festival venue.

For Khan, the experience is an opportunity – not only to walk the longest and reddest red carpet of her life but to present to the world a side of Pakistan less-known.

“There are many, many facets to Pakistan, and for people… like me – musicians, artists, actors, writers – to go out and travel abroad… it just gives other people a better understanding of who we are,” she said.

For many, Khan – an actor, divorcee and single-mother – is part of a small, liberal section of our society, which has for years been beset by attempts to popularise a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Violence against women is high, and those who push feminist ideals often face a barrage of abuse and are portrayed as being infected with western ideas and modern thoughts.

But for Khan, who in one of her most recent films Verna played a rape victim, the experience of daily struggles as Pakistani women is a meeting point.

“Do I appeal to the masses? Yes, I do. I believe I do. Is every woman in Pakistan me? No. But is every woman in Pakistan, is she, sort of like me? Yes,” stated Mahira.

This year marks the first festival in Cannes since the MeToo movement – which demands greater respect for and representation of women – rolled into action when a series of sexual harassment allegations shocked the global movie industry.

Asked if the topic had made in-roads in Pakistan, Khan said: “there’s intense conversation at the moment back home about it.”

“Real change actually comes from real conversations, and I think that is what has happened,” she added.