Al-Ahram Weekly Online   20 - 26 October 2005
Issue No. 765
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Broad canvases, multiple characters

Hanan Sabra speaks with Youssra, star of one of this Ramadan's most popular serials, Ahlam 'Adiya (Ordinary Dreams)

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Youssra and Khaled Saleh in Ahlam 'Adiya (Ordinary Dreams)

The role, or rather multiple characters, played by Youssra in one of Ramadan's most talked about television serials, Ahlam 'Adiya (Ordinary Dreams), represents a major departure from the star's usual Ramadan screen persona, which has consistently verged on the romantic and the demure. This Ramadan, though, Youssra is playing Nadia Anzaha in Ahlam 'Adiya. Nadia, a thief hailing from a poor neighbourhood, assumes some 20 different characters in the course of the series, from small-time swindler to a classy impostor on the run from the police. What prompted her to play Nadia Anzaha?

"We all of us have different faces," says Youssra, "and are always changing depending on the situation. This is exactly what goes on with Nadia Anzaha; she changes according to the situation. She is very smart and she is tough: life has taught her a thing or two about not getting taken in by people. But she is betrayed, even by those who are close to her. Nadia Anzaha is a rich character, she provides a broad canvas on which an actor can work."

Youssra reveals that she spent a great deal of time casting around for a part to play this Ramadan, going through 25 scripts before she came across Nadia Anzaha and Ahlam 'Adiya. "But when [script- writer] Mohamed Ashraf showed me the script," she says, I accepted immediately. I was really happy with it, and there wasn't a moment's hesitation."

Youssra, so rumour has it, often intervenes in scripts, and more often than not the changes she suggests are implemented. Did she, then, intervene in the script of Ordinary Dreams ? "I found the script very good, one of the best that Ashraf has written, and there was nothing that I would have wanted to change. Well, apart from asking him to expand two other roles, played by Galila Mahmoud and Alaa Mursi." The filming, she adds, took four months and 10 days, during which time she concentrated exclusively on the serial, accepting no other parts.

Is there a particular message, a moral, that Youssra is seeking to put across through the character of Nadia Anzaha? "Nadia is a character who is completely rejected by society. She grew up in morally polluted environment and she cannot get away from the crimes she has committed in the past. The real question is whether society will be able to find it within itself to forgive her for past misdemeanours or does it simply pretend to have forgiven, reopening the entire file whenever there's the slightest mishap or mistake? Can a criminal who has reformed lead a balanced and functional life in society, or not?"

Youssra has been keeping her eye closely on other serials this Ramadan, assessing the competition so to speak. So what does she think? "Well Yehia El-Fakharani in Al-Marsa wal Bahhar (The Sailor and the Harbour) is great. Hisham Selim plays a very good role in Amaken Fil Qalb (Places in the Heart), and so does Abla Kamel in Raya wa Sekina."

And current projects? "I'm taking modern salsa dance classes at the moment for a role I will be playing soon in a new film, Al-Raqsa Al-Akhira (The Last Dance). It will be directed by Inas El-Degheidi, and I'll be acting with Hala Sidqi and Ezzat Abu Ouf."

The film, says Youssra, is based on the Richard Gere vehicle Shall We Dance ?, and deals with body language and the importance of physical expression to overall well-being.

Will any of her new films be screened during the Eid?

"I have three new movies, but I don't think any of them will be being premiered during the feast. The First is Imarat Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building) -- based on the novel by Alaa El-Aswani -- in which I have only five scenes, but they are very important. The film is directed by Marwan Hamed, and stars Adel Imam. Then there is Kalam fil Hobb (Talking about Love), directed by Ali Idris, which is a light romantic comedy in which I play opposite Hisham Selim. Finally, there's Dam El-Ghazal (Gazelle 's Blood), directed by Mohamed Yassin, which is now being edited. The three directors, Hamed, Idris and Yassin, though they are all new to directing, were a joy to work with."

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