190702 Zaira Wasim
Zaira Wasim Image Credit: IANS

A Muslim actress’ decision to quit Bollywood, saying acting was taking her away from her faith, has triggered a backlash in India from fellow actors and fans.

Zaira Wasim, 18, best known for her role as a wrestler in the 2016 film ‘Dangal’, announced her “disassociation” from acting on Sunday.

“This field indeed brought a lot of love, support and applause my way, but what it also did was to lead me to a path of ignorance, as I silently and unconsciously transitioned out of ‘imaan’,” she said, referring to her faith.

“While I continued to work in an environment that consistently interfered with my ‘imaan’, my relationship with my religion was threatened,” she said in simultaneous posts on her social media profiles.

On Instagram alone, her post drew more than 27,000 comments.

Wasim’s manager confirmed the announcement.

“Her posts are genuine and written in the state of mind she is currently in. Let’s give her time and space,” said Tuhin Mishra, managing director of Baseline Ventures.

Wasim’s last film was the 2017 drama ‘Secret Superstar’, in which she played a Muslim teenager who sings surreptitiously because her abusive father will not allow it.

She won several awards for the film.

Actress Raveena Tandon accused Wasim of being ungrateful to an industry that gave her opportunities.

“Just wish they’d exit gracefully and keep their regressive views to themselves,” Tandon said on Twitter. “Exit is your choice, reason, by all means. Just do not demean it for everyone else. The industry where all work shoulder to shoulder, no differences, caste, religion or where you come from.”

Twitter user Ifra Jan said Wasim’s decision would make it harder for other Muslim women to pursue an acting career.

“Please don’t leave spitting at an industry, audience that gave you SO much,” Jan said.

“PS, you could have left quietly. With this letter, you’ve made it difficult for every Muslim woman to choose an unconventional career. As if our society wasn’t enough!”

Public figures in Wasim’s native Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, came to her defence.

“Who are any of us to question @ZairaWasimmm’s choices?,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah said in a tweet.

“It’s her life to do with as she pleases. All I will do is wish her well and hope that what ever she does makes her happy,” he said.

Wasim’s last film will be ‘The Sky is Pink’, due out in October, where she will be seen alongside Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The filmmakers said in a statement that Wasim had been “a complete professional” throughout the shooting of the movie, which finished in June.

“This is a purely personal decision, which she has taken after much thought and we will be supportive of her in every way — now and always,” they said. 

On Monday, Wasim shot down rumours that her social media accounts were hacked when she announced her decision to quit the world of showbiz.

“This to clarify that none of my social media accounts were or are hacked and are being handled by me personally. Kindly refrain from believing or sharing claims that state otherwise! Thanks,” she posted on Twitter.