It doesn’t matter whether she’s playing a young wrestler or a superstar singer; the sensational 17-year-old Zaira Wasim can sell a performance brilliantly.
Last weekend, the Indian actress was in Hong Kong along with renowned Bollywood producer and actor Aamir Khan to promote their latest blockbuster, musical drama Secret Superstar. Zaira spoke to Young Post about the ups and downs she‘s experienced over the course of her young, prosperous career.
Born in Kashmir in northern India, Zaira had acted in TV adverts as a child. She was invited to Mumbai to audition for the biographical sports drama Dangal (2017) when she was 14. She won the lead role as Geeta Phogat, a strong-willed athlete and daughter of a former national wrestling champion, for which she won Best Supporting Actress at India’s National Film Awards.
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In Secret Superstar, she plays 15-year-old Insia Malik, who is determined to become a famous singer and guitarist despite a mountain of things stopping her.
“Dangal involved more physical strength – I had to do a lot of training, especially [for the] wrestling,” said Zaira.
“With [Secret Superstar], I was able to experiment with my emotions and display a wide variety of [feelings], which matures you as an actor and helps you emphasise your acting skills on screen,” Zaira said.
Another big challenge, she said, was learning how to play the guitar for the role. “It was something I had always wanted to do, but never had the chance to,” she said, noting that she spent six months learning the instrument.
Playing Insia also helped Zaira learn more about herself as a person. “She has an incredible spirit,” she said of Insia. “She’s really determined, and she’s following her dream really passionately.”
She admitted, however, that the role took a toll on her emotionally.
“I think I’m completely different from Insia,” Zaira said. “She lives in a very hostile, restricted, and conservative environment where she’s not allowed to dream or make her own decisions, which was completely different from my own life, and made it difficult to relate.”
She said that putting herself in the shoes of someone faced with those kinds of difficulties was emotionally taxing.
“To be able to present these emotions which are not relevant in my life, and to not let these strong emotions consume me – to make that balance was really difficult,” she said.
Zaira said she wouldn’t have been able to do that without the help of her supporting cast.
“Your character’s emotions can only be there if the reactions you’re getting from the other actors are prominent enough – not underplayed or overdone,” she said.
At the interview, Bollywood megastar Khan was quick to sing Zaira’s praises, calling her an “instinctive, natural and gifted” actress who “manages to hit the right notes every time.”
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Despite his support and her amazing early success, Zaira is yet to decide whether she is going to continue in the movie industry.
“I have not really [decided] what I really want to do – whether I would even continue to act,” she said. “I think it’s still too soon for me to make a decision and follow that. So let’s see what happens.”
And Zaira advised more teens to follow her lead and not rush into decisions.
“We are at this age as teenagers where at times, you’ll be really lost, and it’s okay to be lost sometimes. It’s okay to not know the answers; they will come to you eventually.”
Edited by Ben Young