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Reema - 'I am very simple'

"Nobody knows the effort I have put into improving myself. I believe there's much to do for me. I'm thinking of going to Hollywood and want to be known as a good Pakistani actress there"

She still holds the power to dazzle. Her smoky eyes, made smokier by grey eyeshadow, are captivating. Reema looks into the mirror, moves her head from side to side, and wants to know if she is 'okay' for the shoot. Okay? If Reema can pass for 'okay' with her threateningly lethal looks and cover-girl makeup, then a commoner should be ready to pack up to leave for the world hereafter. Stunning is more the word for her.

In her tightly fitted black jeans and a crisp cotton shirt, tied flirtatiously at the naval, Reema swings her silken crop of hair to let the curls cascade naturally around her face. The sex kitten of Pakistan's film industry, also known as the Barbie doll by millions of her admirers, a title she adores, is ready to face the camera. Her photographer queues her for different posses and with each call Reema gives a preview of her multiple charms. She is coy one minute, and the next moment reveals a staggering glimpse into seduction. She is playing with the camera; egging it on to catch her every movement.

"Oh, the real Reema is very simple, really very simple. It might be hard for people who don't know me to believe that. Whatever I have is all because of Him," she points up wards to God.

After pack-up Reema dashes downstairs to the makeup room of her photographer, digs into her bags and pulls out a five hundred note to give it to her helper. The woman stares at the huge amount, but before she is given time to decide, Lollywood's incomparable diva forces it into her palm. "Allah has given me so much. I must give some to those who are in need," she flashes a smile to reveal a set of perfect, pearl drop teeth.

Reema has been called manipulative, scheming, conniving and all that by the industry people. Rumours of amorous associations with one co-star after another are a molehill compared to how she destroys their careers if they dare to star with other actresses. At hearing these allegations, Reema bursts out laughing. Taking a helping of the delicious pulao, offered as a post-shoot refreshment, Reema seems to be enjoying the food more than the questions. She shakes her head and says confidently: "I've heard them before and am not at all surprised. Tell me one thing, how can Reema kick somebody out of a movie. Am I a director or a producer or some sort of a ringleader of the industry? It's pure nonsense and I don't care whether anybody believes me or not. I have faith in Allah. He knows it is not true."

Reema's side of the story shows that it is she who feels slighted and wronged. Her more than decade-long career in the film industry has been brutally victimised by a few who control and run it.

"You don't know how cruel this industry is and how difficult it is to survive here. It is full of leg-pullers and backstabbers."

She takes a sip of water to finish off the meal. A constant running of her fingers through her glossy hair disturbs its status quo, making it turn to its original, straight texture. Reema's eyes flash as she speaks of the torture her family went through when she was linked to different men by the industry and the print media. Twice her mother suffered a cardiac arrest, girls at school would laugh at her younger sisters, whom she guards fiercely from the claws of the industry.

"I want them to have a good education and a normal life. Something which I could not have. These lies had such a terrible effect on them. And I often ended up crying whenever I was alone." Reema does not profess to be self-righteous and boldly admits that she is far from perfect. "But why should the wish to be perfect turn into a major crime," questions the actress.

Her detractors here might have written off her career out of sheer spite. But they could not control the pitch of applause Reema received when she was asked to perform live at the Bollywood awards, held a few months back in New York (pre-Sept 11 period of course). She was the only actress invited from Pakistan, and certainly not because her career was on the wane.

"The organizers of the awards' show had seen recent clips of my shows in the States and contacted me to perform a classical dance. I felt so happy when the public clapped continuously and kept on calling my name after the dance. Their response was unbelievable!"

And anybody who saw her performance at the PTV Awards, held in Lahore earlier, would think twice before writing her off as a 'has been'.

"I am learning classical dancing from Khanu Samrat and want to go to the States to learn western dancing. Nobody knows the effort I have put into improving myself. I believe there's much to do for me. I'm thinking of going to Hollywood. I want to go out of Pakistan and want to be known as a good Pakistani actress."

Before she trots off to Hollywood or other challenging place, Reema is anxiously waiting for the release of Syed Noor's Sanam, starring Saima and Babar Ali.

"With its unusual script, believe me, it will be one of the best pictures of Pakistan. I can't wait for its release, which will be on Eid. Another movie of mine is Iqbal Kashmiri's Sangram which again will be out on Eid." Reema is also working in Shararat and Shamim Ara's Kaun Banega Crorepati.

"I firmly believe in quality work and want to work in movies which require me to act. That is why I agreed to do Farooq Mengal's TV serial. The first episode will be shown on Eid day."

So, Eid will have a two-fold significance for Reema. Apart from the obvious importance of the day, she will be under heavy scrutiny by her critics for any failing in acting.

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