Actress Fatima Sana Sheikh, who played Geeta Phogat in Aamir Khan’s 2016-sports drama Dangal, has come a long way from her days as a child artist in the 1997-remake of Mrs Doubtfire, Chachi No 420.
Now, Fatima is in a happy space professionally, with not one but two of her films releasing this Diwali: Suraj Pey Mangal Bhari, set to release in theatres on 13th November, and the much-awaited Ludo, releasing on an OTT on 12th November.
“Yes, in a way, it’s a Diwali bumper gift for me,” says Fatima smiling. “I am also excited that with the unlock happening films are finally going to release in theatres with the necessary COVID-19 protocols in place. It’s been quite some time, and I hope people like these films.” Regarding her role in Suraj Pey Mangal Bhari, Fatima tells us she plays a Maharashtrian girl in the film. “While her family believes she is a simple homely person, my character is, in fact, a dual personality who hides the other side of her from her family members. Suraj is a Punjabi character in the family while the name of my character’s brother is Mangal, and thus the title,” Fatima elaborates.
A director’s actor
Recalling her experience of working with Abhishek Sharma, the director of Suraj Pey Mangal Bhari, Fatima shares how he helped her through the film. “Working with Abhishek was such fun! We would sometimes laugh so much at the funny dialogues in the film that we could not finish the day’s schedule some days. Abhishek is an adorable person, who is clear about what he wants. He was a big help for me especially with the Marathi dialect we use in the film. Fortunately, as I’ve been living in Maharashtra I know the language too,” she says, adding how he has a terrific memory, remembering everything including what one may have been wearing in a particular scene. “There is a character like him in the film, too, with an OCD and who likes everything in its right place.”
Despite the fun she has acting now Fatima tells us working as a child artist wasn’t something she enjoyed. “My parents wanted me to act. Back then, I didn’t enjoy it because the working hours were approximately sixteen to seventeen hours a day,” remembers Fatima. “As a child, you want to play, not work. You do not understand the gravity of the situation. I’d decided to stop working as a child artist and worked only in between. But I began enjoying acting again late in my teens, when I was in college, and realised I wanted to act again. After long, I finally began auditioning, after which began my struggles until I got Dangal, which I can safely consider the turning point of my life. Because if not for Dangal, would I even be here?”
Understanding her dynamics
Given her response to our earlier question, we wonder if we might see her working with Aamir Khan and his production house again. But Fatima only laughs out loud before saying, “He makes two films in five years or so, but yes, I hope he makes something in which I have a role.” So what has Fatima’s trajectory from being a child artiste to playing lead in films made her understand?
“I don’t know, and frankly, I am unaware about many things and am still trying to figure it all out, understanding what works and does not work in my favour,” answers Fatima simply. “That being said, I’m not too aggressive. I have a personal life, which I love, and so I am not constantly on social media, for instance. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy attention; I think every actor seeks attention. And while I am trying to understand those dynamics within me, I know for now that I love my work and I love being appreciated for my work and love going on the sets.”