Art & Entertainment

Fatima Sana Shaikh Gets Candid About Female Portrayal In ‘Dhak Dhak’, Playing Indira Gandhi In ‘Sam Bahadur’

‘When I approach films, I don’t do it on the basis of fear. I do it because it excites me,’ says Fatima Sana Shaikh.

Fatima Sana Shaikh

Fatima Sana Shaikh rose to fame with her role in Aamir Khan's sports drama, Dangal. She recently starred in the film ‘Dhak Dhak’ with Ratna Pathak Shah, Dia Mirza, and Sanjana Sanghi, and is also awaiting the release of Vicky Kaushal's ‘Sam Bahadur’, directed by Meghna Gulzar, in December. 

In an exclusive chat with Outlook, the actress shared about the feedback for ‘Dhak Dhak’, collaborating with a female-led cast and playing Indra Gandhi in ‘Sam Bahadur’. Excerpts from the interview: 

‘Dhak Dhak’ puts a spotlight on genuine female friendships. What was the feedback?

We have been very lucky because everyone who has seen the film has liked it. Everyone has written well about the film, and they have got the essence and connected to the core emotions of the film. In the end, when you finish the film, you would feel that you connected with it and the gender does not matter. There are so many layers to a person, and that is what the film’s writers, Tarun and Parijaat, have made sure to blend it beautifully.  

How was it to work with a female led team, specially with Tapsee Pannu as a producer? 

I had a blast working with the team, with such wonderful actors, including Ratna ma’am and Dia. It was a tough schedule, across Delhi to Manali, in extreme weather. But if you have a team that believes it in a story like this about four females with no big stars, nothing like it. Both Taapsee and Pranjal Khandhdiya, the producers, believed in it. So you feel happy that you are able to explore such a script. It is a great experience for an actor. 

Be it ‘Thank you For Coming’ or ‘Dhak Dhak’, do you think cinema is finally accepting female portrayals? Were you apprehensive anytime? 

Bilkul bhi nahi. I feel that initially a lot of female-led films were made. Then in the 80s and the 90s, there was a shift. But after that, there have been films with female leads, including ‘Queen’. Good stories, they do travel. It takes time for society to accept a change but you keep challenging them. If the conversation is happening in society, then it would be in the films. When I approach films, I don’t do it on the basis of fear. I do it because it excites me and that’s the story I want to do. So, if I was even offered ‘Thank you For Coming’, if I liked it, I would have done it. 

How important are female friendships to you in a space where you work in cut throat competition? 

Sanya Malhotra is a good friend of mine. Shreya Dubey, the DOP of ‘Thar’, is a dear friend. Ria Singh, the director, and Shonali Bose too. So, if you connect with someone on a human level, you tend to treasure all these female friendships. In fact, before Sanya, I did not have too many female friends. And now I have realised, it is a different community. The support system is really strong, and you relate to so many things. Both men and women have different perspectives about a lot of things, for instance, even if they are feminists. In stories, there are often stereotypes. A parsi or a Punjabi would speak a certain way, so you need stories like these, to explore different forms of emotions. So you need to break that pattern with more films like these.

Do you ever feel that a film about female friendships/protagonists doesn’t get the same initial hype as one with male protagonists?

No, not at all. Like if you talk about ‘Jee Le Zaraa’, everyone is excited about it. Everyone knows the actresses, so it is not about a female-led film but also who is cast in the film. It is also about the business module now because it has changed, and it is constantly evolving for everyone, the producer or the studio, to even gauge what is working and what is not. Yes, there should be more support but I am not putting any money. It’s on the business right? There is so much content, both in theatres and OTT. So it is complicated. I wouldn’t say the promotional strategy is based on it being a female-led film. Also, all of us are fairly new in terms of stardom. We are not stars, stars. It is a mid-sized budget film. So, we all need to fight and focus on smaller films as well. Also, COVID has changed everything. 

The teaser of ‘Sam Bahadur’ is out, and you look convincing as Indira Gandhi. What did you do differently to play a role, which has been explored widely? 

I was apprehensive in the start because I did not know if I could do it. It is too big a character, a personality. Everyone knows Indira Gandhi, there has been so much content out there. So either you pick from the material out there or just take the spirit of that personality and play the part. But doing something like this with the right director makes it worth the while. Maybe she is seeing something that I don’t see. If Meghna Gulzar is saying trust me, I would actually end up saying okay.