It’s ironical when a Bollywood star who’s on call to promote a wedding exhibit in Dubai reveals that she isn’t a fan of extravagant ceremonies.
Something on those lines played out when Gulf News tabloid! met ‘Dangal’ (2016) star Fatima Sana Shaikh, 27, in her hotel room just before she amped up the star power at The Wedding Junction, a two-day wedding exhibit, that played out earlier this month in the UAE.
“Honestly, I have no aspiration to get married… A wedding ceremony is a waste of money. I would rather take my family for a nice trip with my future husband,” said Shaikh in an exclusive interview.
Shaikh has a valid point though. The wedding industry in India is highly lucrative and is valued at an estimated $50 billion, second only to the only to the US according to The Hindu Business Online.
“The amount that people spend on wedding ceremonies is absolutely crazy… I am not judging them. To each their own. Some love to enjoy and celebrate it with a huge crowd. They want to share their private moment and happiness with others. I am not like that. I dream of a small wedding.”
While her caveat was noted, the answer still eluded us: What was she doing at an event that’s primarily directed at brides and grooms who love a lavish wedding?
“But I love dresses, especially Indian wear… What excites me most is that I would dress up to my liking on my wedding… I want my wedding to be filled with just my family and friends,” said the actress.
If Shaikh had her way, she would just invite 15 guests to somewhere exotic.
RISE TO FAME
Unlike most public figures who love attention and bask in the media glare, Fatima Sana Shaikh — who was plucked from obscurity with wrestling blockbuster ‘Dangal’ starring Aamir Khan and Sanya Malhotra — shies away from it all.
“I lead a very private life. I am happy if I have my family, friends and work consuming me. I don’t go out much… Unfortunately or fortunately, we are out there … not just when acting, everything else including my personal life is out there.” She isn’t a narcissist by nature either. She describes herself as a “socially-awkward” person.
“I am still conscious about myself. I am the type of person who doesn’t glance at the mirror in a lift because I am worried about what they [others] will think of me. I like to keep my head down on most days.”
Shaikh, who was a child actress in films such as Chachi 420, has experienced both highs and lows.
If ‘Dangal’ kicked off her transformation from a virtual unknown to a remarkable actress, her second star-studded release ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’ gave her a taste of failure when it received a lacklustre reception.
“Don’t you think it’s beautiful that you get to experience everything … the highs and the lows. With that, you grow as a person. The moment you realise that things are not working, you learn to work harder. It’s not that we didn’t’ work hard for ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’. We did, but unfortunately it didn’t work. It is heart breaking, but our industry is like that. If they don’t like our film, the rejection is simply brutal.”
Shaikh, who is an outsider in Bollywood with no acting dynasty connections, has nothing against the critics who delivered a harsh verdict on her fantasy adventure ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’ either.
“You can’t hold that against them… I don’t mind if they don’t like my film. If they said something good, I would have liked their perspective. So I should like them when they don’t like my film too...”
FITTING IN BOLLYWOOD
Displaying a maturity that goes way beyond her young age, Shaikh believes that Bollywood is partial to success and understands that language alone.
“If you give three films that are bad back-to-back, then it doesn’t matter how much you network. It is not going to make any difference. That is what I think. So I don’t go out hoping to network. As a person, I am socially awkward,” she said.
She hasn’t gotten better with time either. At a trade party, she will be someone who stands on the side glancing nervously at her phone.
“It’s inbuilt. If I go to a film party, I am looking at my phone after the first three minutes. If I don’t find anybody who I know, I will leave within 15 minutes.”
She hasn’t made many friends in the industry either.
Barring her co-star Malhotra from ‘Dangal’, the actress who was born in Mumbai to parents from Jammu and Kashmir, she doesn’t have a huge circle of friends. Unlike 20 somethings who love to party, Shaikh would rather learn how to roller blade or read a good book in her down time. Enriching herself through books is on top of her agenda.
“I have started reading this book called ‘Habits’. I wanted to change the part of my life where I spent a lot of time on my phone. On a daily basis, I was on it for eight to nine hours… Now I make it a point to only use my phone for two hours. I use my hours now to read or watch something constructive.”
Her partner on her digital-detox mission is Malhotra. Like a good friend, they keep tabs on each other and tell each other off when they become slaves to their phones.
Shaikh, who comes across as the most-grounded celebrities in Bollywood, doesn’t take success or failure too seriously either. Shaikh says she stumbled into acting when she was a child, but gave it up when she realised that she didn’t enjoy the craft anymore. But when Dangal happened, she re-discovered her love for acting and is now here to stay.
“While I wanted appreciation and validation from people, I am always in my own little world. I like being there.”
Fatima Sana Shaikh on …
The #MeToo movement in Bollywood:
“The #MeToo movement is not limited to our industry. We could be walking down the street and someone could eve-tease you… Fortunately, nothing bad has happened in my workspace. Early on in my career, there were some who talked to me in a derogatory manner… But since ‘Dangal’, I have worked with kind and respectful people.”
Hitting back at predators:
“I was 14 years old when I started running behind a guy who touched me inappropriately. I told him, if he does it again, I will hit him. He did it again and I hit him hard. He hit me back and I passed out. He ran way. But it’s so sad that I had to resort to violence.”
“Wikipedia claims I was born in Hyderabad. To set the record straight, I was born in Mumbai.”