Exclusive: "I Believe In Karma" – Fatima Sana Shaikh

Exclusive: "I Believe In Karma" – Fatima Sana Shaikh

Jahnavi Patel

Fatima Sana Shaikh has had a rollercoaster Bollywood journey. We all remember her as the cute little girl who played the role of Hamal Haasan and Tabu’s daughter in Chachi 420. Since then, she always knew she wanted to be an actress. But like we all know, Bollywood isn’t an easy place to be in and Fatima too had her share of struggle. But as they say, being patient is the key, Fatima did get a role in Dangal which went on to be one of the best and most successful films of 2016. Post that, she bagged a role in Thugs Of Hindostan which starred Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif. Despite being a Yash Raj Film with a fantastic ensemble, the film failed to impress the masses and the critics. The failure of the film deeply affected her but she has now moved on. The gorgeous actress met us for interaction and was very warm throughout. From her Bollywood journey to her personal life and the idea of an ideal man, Fatima shares it with us.

Excerpts from the interview:

Fatima, let’s get to know you better. Tell us more about you and your family.
My family is originally from Jammu Kashmir and they are migrants so they have been living here since almost 30-40 years. We don’t know anybody else. We have stayed on the rent most of the time so we keep moving our base constantly. That leaves with you very little connections in the city. I don’t feel alienated but my parents (do) because their family is from Jammu Kashmir they feel they need a place to belong. They are still a little sad that they don’t go back. But I think now when they see me doing well they are happy and a little more content in life. I think the purpose that parents have baache khush hojaye, toh unka bhi voh hi hai filal.
So your family is also here with you.
Yes, they are here with me. I have a brother who is 1 year younger. He is also in the industry who wants to act eventually. He is assisting around. I have a cat, she’s a family member. We had adopted her. We usually foster a lot of cats. I don’t anymore because I am not at home most of the time so I can’t take the responsibility. But we have fostered, we have adopted a lot of cats.

Your Instagram profile is a nice mix of travel, food, fashion, wacky pictures as well. It’s colourful and vibrant. Do you actually plan how your feed is going to look like?
That depends on the mood. I used to do that before. I used to follow a grid and I wanted to do this and that but not anymore. You know I have a problem. I upload, delete, upload, delete, upload because I feel it’s not right, so I delete it. There are comments and likes but I am like it’s not looking good. Then again upload it. I am very unsure of my feed but I like it. I try to have something but it is impossible. With the kind of work we do, we just cannot do travel or fashion. So we mix a bit of this and that.
So you are what you are on Instagram as well.
You know, Instagram is what I am. If you go back before Dangal also, it has been similar. It has not changed because it is an extension of me.

Coming to Dangal, you weren’t the quintessential heroine. We loved you in the film so did the audience. Did you think of this is how I want myself to be launched in Bollywood?
No. I have been struggling since very long and I have tried to be in this industry and it’s been really hard to come into this industry. Also when you are an outsider, when you do not have work, you don’t have the options to choose films. For you, whatever opportunity comes your way you tend to grab it. For me, it couldn’t have been better that I was auditioning for a film like this. It’s a great thing that I got it, I am blessed. I didn’t get into it thinking I will get the film because by then I had got so much of rejection I thought this is also gone to be similar again. I was like let’s give the audition, it will be fun. But that’s about it.  For me, I was more than happy (to get Dangal). Jisko ek ad, ek film nahi mil rahi hai uske liye jo mil jaye khush hai but I couldn’t have been happier. It’s a difficult role, it’s challenging. I am very happy that I got to be a part of a film which reached out to so many people and they were affected by it.
How much have things changed for you personally and professionally post Dangal?
Personally not much because I am still the same person and I am as boring as I used to be. Professionally, I have more opportunities. I am at a better stage in my life because of my work. As of right now, there is financial security and takes a lot of load out of your head. Trust me, you think money is nothing but money is very important. It makes you feel you are secure. We have had those phases in my family. My father was not getting work and there was nobody working in the family. For us to get basic sabzi also we didn’t have money. There were days when we would just have little rice and little sabzi and my mother would think yaar abhi kya banaye. We have had those days. We have lived in a one-room kitchen. We have paid rent after 3 months and had the constant stress of us being thrown out. After all of that when you do get money, you feel so relaxed. So finding that financial security has really relaxed our lives out.
I like the fact that you’re addressing it and talking about. Not too many people come out and say money is also an important factor. When you know that money is going to be such an important part of your life, did you have second thoughts while considering a career like this?
I don’t know anything else. This is the only thing I really enjoyed. If I do not love what I do, I will never do well, I will always struggle. I love what I do and I will find a way.

After Dangal, you invested a lot of time in Thugs Of Hindostan. A lot of hard work went into it. But the film didn’t do as well as it should have done. Did you see that coming?
No. I am somebody who is always anxious to know what will happen. Unfortunately, people didn’t like it. Of course, I was hoping that people will like the film and it does well. Anybody who will be so deeply involved in any project would be affected by it. There are so many people who are involved in making a film. Like there is art, there is costume and everybody has given 1 and a half year to that film and I am sure everybody is disturbed. Because the faith of the film was not good does not mean I don’t appreciate the time that I have spent or cherish the moments that I’ve spent. I will not wash my hands and say ke film ne accha nahi kiya toh kuch nahi. I am fortunate that I got an opportunity to work with such good people. So for me, I take it as a stepping stone and every set back is a learning experience. Now I am okay with it. Initially, week and a half I was very disturbed. I didn’t get out of my room, I didn’t want to eat anything, I didn’t want to do anything. I was very sad. This has never happened to me. Dangal did so well. People loved it and loved everything about the film. After that, you come out of Thugs and people are not loving it and you go like ‘what just happened’? So it’s okay. I’m somebody who watches every review and I am that kind of audience. Even before Dangal, I would watch Rajeev Masand, Kamaal R Khan. So when I saw them being so brutally critical about the film, mujhe lag raha tha ki kar lo, bata do joh aapko feel hota hai par thoda pyaar se bata do. But you know it’s their job and everybody has an opinion and you should not take that away from the audience. They should have the liberty and you should have the dignity to accept that and I accept it. Also, it’s the nature of our film, of our industry, we make films for the audience. Anything that you have to serve to other people, it will be judged. So you just have to accept it. You have to move on and do better.
Do you have a plan of action?
No, I can’t. I don’t plan things. In this industry you can’t plan things. Until and unless you don’t start shooting, you don’t know what you get into. Things change like that.

Coming to Aamir Khan, he has been the kind of person who has kept his co-stars close to him. Eventually, everyone becomes like one big family. Is that how he is as a person?
He is, he is very warm as a person. You know the AKP team is very nice. I am friends with Ira and Junaid, his children. They are very nice, down to earth and humble people. Kiran (Rao) also, they are very normal. When a star comes you know someone has come. But when he came to the room we didn’t even realise. He’s that person. He’s very nice.

When you have someone like Aamir to guide you, is there like a sense of security?
You know he’s not the only person I talk to. I talk to Nitesh (Tiwari) sir, I talk to Ashwiny (Iyer Tiwari) ma’am, I speak to Sanya. I have some other friends. Actually, I would not go to him first because I would go to a close friend. But if I need help, I am sure he will help. Till now I was doing films, so I didn’t feel the need to ask him anything.
What is that one thing you’ve learned from your journey till date?
I have realised that until and unless you don’t love what you do, you won’t be able to withstand anything because I love my work, jitne gaaliya milenge main seh loongi because I love my job.

Do you think being an actress is a difficult job?
Ya, it is difficult because you are constantly in the public eye. Every word that comes of your mouth will be judged. Every action of yours will be noticed. And now that social media is a huge thing, people talk about it. There are blinds, there are a lot of things. I do read everything so it’s not that I don’t know what’s happening around me. I know what’s happening around me but I choose to not get affected by it. They are investing their time in me. If they want to write about me it means I am important to them at some level that they find to need to write about me and my personal life. So I am okay with it.
People want to know about their favourite stars but when the personal life is written about more than the professional life, does it take a toll on you?
Of course. I don’t know about others but at some point, it did, for me. I have a family. I think, sometimes people, who do know the truth about you, assume and make up stories about you. These are being read by a lot of people read and a lot of people are in touch with that content. They are persuading them to think in a certain light about you without them even knowing you. So first I think that is very beneath them and it shouldn’t be done. I am not somebody who gossips and if I gossip I feel horrible because if I am going to meet that person I am going to feel like ‘what did I say about the person?’. That’s the kind of person I am. Clearly, a lot of other people are not like that and it’s probably fun for them to talk about another person’s life in a negative way, talk about their character. And this happens. I am not saying it only happens to me, it happens with other people. People talk about their looks and more. I don’t think it’s nice. I hope they sleep well. I believe in karma.
As an actor, do you want to explore different genres and explore yourself also?
You know you explore about the kind of person you are when you’re playing different characters because you are not the person that the character demands you to be. So you are challenging yourself. I am somebody who takes home the character. Subconsciously, it stays with me. I enjoy it and it has helped me change. I am living so many lives, what can be better? I can be a wrestler, an archer. I can be anything I want to be. I can be a mother, I can be in a beautiful relationship since I don’t have a love life. It’s amazing. That’s why I love my job.
Since you mentioned you don’t have a love life, we would like to know about it.
I have no relationship. I think the only relation I have is with my cat. I spent so much of time in Thugs and Dangal that I do not meet anybody apart from the people I am working with. When I travelled, that’s when I met a lot of people. But I think I submerge myself too much in work and I think it is okay. Eventually one day I will find somebody. But that’s not what I am looking for. A man doesn’t define me. So it’s okay.

What is your idea of an ideal man?
He needs to be intelligent. He needs to have some sort of sense of humour because I am somebody who makes a lot of fun. I crack jokes at the expense of others, which is not a nice thing, but I do that. That’s the only way I know how to make somebody laugh. I want somebody who will take that. A little fun and that’s it.
Is it because that you are so invested in work that you don’t want to divert in that direction?
I mean anybody who makes me think in a different way, I would be attracted to that person. And who is sure of himself and is intelligent. Because I want to learn from the person with whom I am spending a lot of time with. If the person I am sending time with has nothing to offer then I won’t grow. I need to be in awe of that person.
So what’s next in the pipeline?
As of right now I just have the Anurag Basu film. But I am very happy and excited about it. I love Rajkumar (Rao) and Basu sir.