Zaira Wasim — new star on the block

ll “I could not relate to the story,” says Zaira Wasim speaking of the opposition her character Insiya faces from her on-screen father in the upcoming film Secret Superstar. Despite the obvious differences in circumstances the actor, feels fortunate to have loving and supportive parents in real life. Wasim says she was convinced about being a part of Secret Superstar when writer-director Advait Chandan finished his script. While she found the story deeply moving, it was the opportunity to play a character as dreamy and intense — and even occasionally silly — that excited Wasim to no end. Moreover, the character’s love for her mother and the close bond shared between the two were particularly endearing.

For the 16-year-old Wasim it was her performance in a school play that set the ball rolling a few years ago. Spotted by a casting director present at the staging she remembers being asked by her principal on pursuing acting, and recalls wanting to try. Auditions followed and she was eventually cast as the young Geeta Phogat in Dangal. Incidentally, she was offered the role in Secret Superstar even before the shooting for Dangal officially began. The young actor cheerily describes how overwhelmed she was at having landed two successive films with Aamir Khan Productions, and her joy at the prospect of working with Khan in both.

Secret Superstar however came with its fair share of challenges. For the actor who plays an aspiring singer, there was the arduous task of learning to play the guitar, along with the demands of lip synching and wearing a burkha. “I had repeated sessions with [singer] Meghna [Mishra] to make it look like I was singing,” she shares. Discussing the predominance of music in the film and the challenges each song posed, Wasim relates how for ‘Sapne Re’, the chords were difficult and the solo hard to pull off. Of the popular ‘Main Kaun Hoon’, she explains: “I would call it a very dangerous song.” “It can either lift you up or it can shatter you to pieces”, she elaborates thoughtfully.

Speaking of working with Aamir Khan consecutively in two films, Wasim says that there was a difference in the way the actor seemed on the sets of each. She credits this to the Khan’s acute involvement with and immersion into the characters he plays. She tells me about the many things she learnt from him over this period. But there is one conversation in particular that she remembers very clearly. She had been rehearsing a scene with Khan when the latter had told her that there was no such thing as “best”; there could only be a “good” and a “better”. Warning against complacence, he advised the young actor to always treat every new shot as an opportunity to strive for better.

Wasim’s experiences of working with the directors of her two films were also radically different. While the crew was largely the same, Dangal-director Nitesh Tiwari was more like a father figure. On the other hand, first-time filmmaker Advait Chandan came across as a friend: “With Advait, it was like I had a person of my age,” she laughs.

The actor feels blessed to have worked on films which have generated conversations about relevant women-centric issues. While Dangal questioned and challenged societal expectations around women, in Secret Superstar it is the mother’s struggle that struck Wasim as particularly important. Having given up on her own dreams, Insiya’s mother is now determined to at least let her daughter fulfil hers. It is lending a voice both literally and figuratively to the woman who had been silenced that is crucial here.

As for the future, Wasim says that she feels no immediate need to rush towards new things, preferring instead to let them come to her gradually. But for any new project to take off, the script she feels needs to be superlative. And for the National Award-winning actor, “the definition of a good script is that I should be able to imagine myself in it,” she asserts.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 7:53:55 AM |

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