Fatima Sana Shaikh who played Geeta Phogat in the box office hit ‘Dangal’ (2016), was unaware of her soaring popularity until recently when she went to the cinemas and people started to recognise her. She says before the film she had lost confidence in her acting ability.
Reported in the Hindustan Times, Shaikh reveals how overwhelmed she felt saying, “The magnitude of the film’s success, and how much people have loved it hit me after I went to a theatre recently.”
Shaikh started of her acting career at a very young age, when she starred in ‘Chachi 420’ (1997) and then her first film as an adult in ‘Bittoo Boss’ (2012), explains how her journey as an actor was slightly different to the norm. “I was very young during Chachi 420 and don’t remember much now. Kids and adults are treated differently on sets. Being a kid, you can get away with anything and it looks cute. But as an adult, it’s a whole new journey.”
Speaking of her experience working with Aamir Khan she said, “I was fortunate to get the chance to work with AK and Nitesh (Tiwari; director) sir. They were nurturing and I learnt a lot [from them].”
When Shaikh reached her teens , she found it difficult to believe in herself even though people thought she was a “good actor”. The ‘Dangal’ (2016) actress later struggled to get much work and lost her confidence. “It was disappointing. At one point, I had lost my confidence as an actor, and working again was tough,” says the actor, adding, “I started stammering due to lack of confidence. It took time, but things became better. Now, I am not conscious. I am aware and confident.”
Shaikh talks about how she was “desperate to get a good role” and in order to achieve this she was prepared to go great lengths to reach her goal, whether it was to “put on weight” or cutting her hair short. Working with Khan taught her lots, and admires him greatly. “He is very childlike, and is excited and curious about things. I want to imbibe that [quality of his], and not lose my passion for acting over the years. I wasn’t an Aamir fan as I was a Shah Rukh Khan fan, but I always respected him as an actor and have watched all his movies in the first week itself. But after having worked with him, now I am his huge fan.”
At the age of 11, Shaikh decided to quit acting and go on to pursue other things, but always knew she was an actor. “I was always an actor, even when I was a kid”…“But once I joined full-time school, I realised I missed acting. At that age, I didn’t decide that I wanted to be an actor, but I knew I wanted to act. I never dreamt to be a heroine in a film. I did many character roles [as a child actor].” Shaikh said.
Shaikh’s journey has been a bumpy one, saying “I faced many ups and downs like any other actor. Not getting through auditions or even worse — getting shortlisted and not being selected. Most actors go through the process.” But now Shaikh is sure of what she wants and that is to be an actor saying, she would like “work that is challenging” and that her main focus is now on “growth as an actor and not necessarily only playing a lead role.”
It was a long, gruelling process for Shaikh when she went to audition for the role of Geeta Phogat, “When I was called for the auditions, I had googled and done my research about the film and Phogat sisters. I had learnt all about Geeta Phogat, which made me confident about my audition. However, only after three to four months of gruelling audition process, we got to know about our selection. Yet, we were not sure as we were told not to tell anyone that we were doing the film,” said Shaikh. This secret which was kept for two months made Shaikh feel “insecure”.
She added “Even when we got hurt during the training process, we didn’t tell our coaches, as we feared that they would replace us.”