Aymen Saleem believes education is key to any success in the world

The hit new sensation speaks on all things Dubai, acting and her Ivy League background.

By Mahwash Ajaz

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Photos: Rahul Gajjar
Photos: Rahul Gajjar

Published: Thu 26 May 2022, 10:30 AM

Last updated: Sun 29 May 2022, 1:36 PM

Aymen Saleem has taken the subcontinent by storm – by way of television and YouTube. Her happy-go-lucky demeanor and charming good looks have earned her a massive fan base across India, Pakistan and the global diaspora. Aymen is no stranger to the world of entertainment – she’s closely related to the late pop icon Nazia Hassan and is the daughter of famed cricketer Saleem Yusuf.

Dubai holds a special place in her heart as she has lived and worked here but now, she hops between Pakistan, USA and UAE and her spirits continue to be as high as her ever-increasing career graph.

We sat down for a tete a tete with the talented actress who stole everyone’s hearts in Chupke Chupke last year and Paristan this year on Hum TV Network. She is also appearing in a show called Ibn e Hawwa which is currently airing.

She seems to have slipped into the ‘professional actor’ role very easily: she seems at ease on screen and showcases impressive acting chops in her roles. How did she come to be an actor, despite being a business graduate from an Ivy League university?

“Acting honestly was not something that I had planned to do but I'm a very plan-oriented person, I usually stick to the plan,” says the young actress, “but at the same time I sort of leave myself that margin where I'm also flexible if there's going to be an opportunity, if there's going to be something that I just feel like doing I'll act on my instincts as well. I'm not just going to be like, no, I'm 'Destiny's Child' and this is what I need to do! I sort of go with the flow as well and and I feel that's exactly what happened at a point in my life. I wanted to feel a little bit more challenged, I wanted to do something new, I wanted to learn something. And it was at this point in my life that this opportunity came up where I was offered Chupke Chupke. I said okay, I’ll seize this and work really hard and let's see what happens.”

\Was this ever planned to be a full-time career shift? “I didn't think too much,” she goes on to tell us. “I’m the kind of person that no matter what I do I don't really think about the outcome. I just think about my input that I'm going to give my 100% with all sincerity and I'm going to give more than 100% and then whatever happens - leave it to God! Even if it doesn't work, that too is a sign for me that this is not for me.”

She had a special message to the audiences about taking opportunities and making the best out of it. “For everybody listening through your platform,” said Aymen, “I would honestly want to say this to all the youngsters and even other people who are, sometimes, not satisfied with what they're doing in their current job, (by the way I was very happy with the job I had) I just want to say that just look around there are always opportunities. Sometimes you just don't recognize them. I say, recognize it, seize it, work hard, and you’re good to go.”

Telling us about her childhood and her connection with Nazia Hassan, Aymen recalled how she grew up with a lot of memories of the iconic singer. “I was very little when she passed away, so I actually don't remember her at all but of course I've heard stories. I was born in Karachi, and I grew up there, I was studying there, but then I used to move back and forth a lot because I also have family here in Dubai. Dubai and Karachi were always hand in hand until I moved to the US to work and then came back to Dubai for further work.”

Aymen is a business graduate and has also worked with the Dubai government. How does her business degree contribute to her current line of work? “That’s an important question to address: what does a business degree in an Ivy League institution really teach you? If we try to just get to the core of it, it teaches you to develop your critical communication skills, it teaches you marketing 101 which is knowing your audience. It teaches you finance investment which is basically just knowing how the world goes round. It teaches you how to unlock your inner entrepreneur, which is how you leave a mark in the world. So technically these skills are just core skills that you need as a person. These skill sets and all this knowledge go with me wherever I go, so as an actress if people think that I'm not using these skills, they're so mistaken. Then they don't really understand what education is. Education is key.”

We discuss her chemistry with YouTube sensation Arslan Naseer and her continued success with the digital star. Arslan and Aymen appeared in the hit television series last year called Chupke Chupke and appeared as a lead pair this year in the TV show Paristan. Both shows were much appreciated by fans and audiences. What is key to creating such chemistry? What would she advise other actors to do to replicate this?

Her candid answer to this is, “I have no idea!”

“Probably that's not the answer that you expect or want but honestly, I feel it was very organic, there was no plan, nothing at all. During Chupke Chupke, we would barely even speak to each other. We were cordial, of course, we would come to the set and do the work and leave. We are more friendly now of course because we’ve worked on another show as well (Paristan). However, I'll also add I feel like both of us are intelligent actors and both of us give each other room to do their scenes so a scene that is meant for me, he never tried to steal my thunder in that scene which I feel a lot of people might do.

"Again, this is just if you really want an answer. He lets me perform when it's my scene and when it's his scene I let him perform – we don't try to overshadow each other or sort of outdo each other. Maybe that’s why our scenes have that sort of effect where we give each other the room to perform and it's very sincere. When it's his scene, we discuss. We say, hey this is your scene, so I say go steal the show and vice versa he gives me that room as well. I feel that that kind of like sincerity and honesty in our performances is what probably clicks.”

Is there any actor whose career trajectory she admires, we asked. “Alia Bhatt from India has made some smart choices. She’s picking the right projects, showing different sides of her talent and even though I feel everyone has their own journey, her versatility and diverse selection is very commendable.”

So, what’s on her agenda now? “This is just step one,” she states happily. Does she have any idea if she will be doing this long-term? “I go with the flow. And change is the only constant. I want to learn and get better at my craft. I want to do different roles and challenge myself. As we speak, I'm considering something very, very different. It’s very deglamorized. I’m reading the script right now.”

Aymen continues to believe that the idea behind her work is to continue challenging herself. “The goal is to sort of do different things and excite myself because I get bored very easily,” she states. She also has some key life lessons for budding actors and young women everywhere. “Be whoever you want to be and do what excites you. I understand that not everyone has the luxury to pick and choose what they can do but I would say try to challenge yourself. Learn new things. When you see opportunities, be smart enough to recognize them. Take a leap of faith and work as hard as you can.”


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