Maria Wasti (born 14 August 1974) is a Pakistani film and television actress. Most of her roles in television serials portray her as a Pakistani woman going through difficult times and have landed her great respect in the eyes of critics and fans alike.
Wasti was born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, where she lived and went to school for 7 years. She has originally wanted to study Business Management but instead started acting by chance. In her early days, Wasti's parents wanted their daughter to become a doctor. In the day, the only television network active in the country was the government-owned Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). It would be later in the 1980s that Network Television Marketing (NTM), the country's first privately owned channel, showcased content specifically targeted to the younger generation and Wasti got interested in acting.
In mid-1990s, she was approached by Bakhtiar Ahmed, the programme manager PTV Lahore Centre to be cast in a play called Sarah Aur Ammara alongside Resham, a film actress. The teleplay highlighted a story around two sisters going through the turmoil of arranged marriages. The show was received well with the critics as never before had a show captivated the true essence of gender divide and Wasti's acting admired. She has since done over 50 serials and around the same number of assorted plays.
Acting as a career
Where her parents initially wanted her to be a doctor, they were supportive after her acting skills were adorned. Wasti recalls that her first experience in acting was for the passion of art, but later her parents told her to pursue the career in a professional manner. After her first stint, Wasti began receiving roles in various other plays in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabadcentres for PTV. In a short span of time, she was commended for being an extremely exceptional actress. She reminisces that people were sceptical when she stepped into acting, but once she proved herself they started accepting her.
She considers Bano Qudsia's Kallo one of her most memorable plays where she had to ‘put on tonnes of make-up to look really dark’ to play a dark-skinned girl who falls in love with a fairer man. This role brought her instant success. In other equally applauded roles, she played a woman victim in Baadlon Par Basera, who is forcefully led into marriage with a man in the United States of America on the phone and when she meets him for the first time, she realises the man is older than the picture she saw him in.
Maria is usually seen playing unglamorous roles involving sensitive issues regarding women in Pakistan. She has played roles depicting prominent women like Salma Murad and Lenin Peace Prize winner Bilquis Edhi.
Maria is known for being outspoken on various of issues women's rights, gender equality and prejudice.
Wasti has expressed that newer Pakistani plays should portray issues in today's Pakistan. She names drugs and AIDS being amongst the most sensitive. She also cites the reason for the decrease in the quality of drama serials as being the lack of a supply of actors, actresses, writers, directors and producers.
In view of these thoughts, Wasti opened up a production house in 2002, where she has successfully produced several serials and a dozen plays. Her productions aim at the revival of television in Pakistan through better quality and content rivalling the glamour filled television plays from across the border in India.