Reem Shaikh is making her Bollywood debut with Gul Makai. The actress is playing the role of Pakistani girl-education activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai. The film is a biopic on her life struggle and the hardships she faced to seek justice. Reem has been the face of many television shows and is currently seen in Tujhse Hai Raabta. She also did a cameo in Bollywood film Wazzir.
In an exclusive conversation with PeepingMoon, Reem spoke about making her Bollywood debut with a serious and controversial film, the research she did for her role and the challenges she faced while enacting the role of Malala.
Excerpts from the interview:
From TV to films, how has the transition been?
I am doing a TV show now but when I had signed the film I wasn’t doing any show. When I got this role, I readily agreed to be a part of this as I believe that whatever role I do, in whichever medium, it should be powerful and impactful.
How much did you know about Malala Yousafzai before signing the film?
I did not know much about Malala, I knew she is a Nobel Prize winner and was shot on the forehead by Taliban. Obviously, when I was offered the role, I researched more about her. While researching I got to know her dad played an integral part in shaping her journey. Be it blogging or fighting against all odds, he stood by her daughter and motivated her at every given step.
Gul Makia deals with a critical subject. Did it take a toll on you?
No, not really. What I am doing is not wrong and not hurting anyone’s sentiments. I am doing this for my career and we are not showing anything wrong, we are showing the truth and facts. It’s a biopic, a documentary and there was nothing to fear about. I am more than happy to do this film. People in the past have said no to do this project and refrained from being a part of this because it has a Pakistan connection. I am glad my parents have backed me for this and here I am doing the film.
How was it sharing the screen space with acclaimed actors like Divya Dutta and Atul Kulkarni?
I have been a huge fan of Divya ma’am and Atul sir and it’s indeed a pleasure to have worked with them. There are so many instances wherein I was mesmerized by the way she (Divya) emoted scenes and mouthed heavy dialogues. Atul Sir was also a delight to work it and I have learned a lot from both them.
You’re just 16 and you’re managing your career along with your studies. How important do you think education is, personally?
Education is very important. The more educated you are, the more confident you feel. The same way how Malala’s parents were there to support, my parents have always been supporting me. My dad always gives me lessons on grammatical mistakes which I make while writing spellings, and he guides me and corrects me. My mother is always there with me on the shoots. Whatever knowledge I have about the world, be it politics or current affairs, it is all because of my parents.
Did you get a chance to meet Malala and interact with her?
I didn’t get a chance to meet her but in the future, I hope I do. I have met her father, he told me that I am her lookalike. He even gave me a dupatta of hers that she has worn. To me, it has more meaning than a brand new dupatta.
At a very young age, you’re getting to play a real-life role based on such a strong woman. Do you ever feel stressed out?
It was nothing of that sort. As the days passed by, I was getting confident. It changed my personality and perception about education and human rights, it also helped me a lot personally. It was never taxing.
Did you follow what your director Amjad Khan said or did you do your own research as well?
Amjad Sir has shown a lot of faith in me. The entire process of research he left it on me and told me to read about Malala and even did rehearsals with the cast.