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Exclusive! Fatima Sana Shaikh: I would love to play a character like the one in Inventing Anna

Fatima Sana Shaikh spoke at length about the success of Modern Love: Mumbai and the appreciation she has been receiving for her role in Raat Rani.

  • Aishwarya Vasudevan

Last Updated: 08.01 AM, Jun 02, 2022

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Exclusive! Fatima Sana Shaikh: I would love to play a character like the one in Inventing Anna
Fatima Sana Shaikh/Instagram

One recent character that has stayed in the minds of the people is Lalzari aka Lali from Modern Love: Mumbai's segment Raat Rani. The beautiful role is played by Fatima Sana Shaikh in the Shonali Bose directorial and fans can't stop lauding the actor for her performance. Nilesh Maniyar wrote the screenplay, and the short film also features Bhupendra Jadawat in a pivotal role.

In the short film, Lali is seen crossing the flyover literally and metaphorically after her husband abandons her all of a sudden. The beautiful film struck the right chord with the masses for the right reasons.

While basking in the success of Modern Love: Mumbai, Fatima has moved on to her next project, Dhak Dhak, in which she plays the role of a biker.

Taking a break from the shoot, the actor met up with OTTplay virtually for a quick chat about the love she has been receiving for Modern Love: Mumbai, her nearly five-year-long journey in the movies and more.

Excerpts:

It's been nearly a month since Modern Love: Mumbai has been streaming on Amazon Prime Video and I am sure you're still getting tons of compliments.

It's mad. It's quite interesting. I am very overwhelmed by the love that I'm receiving. I am feeling it because the people who are commenting are saying that they also crossed the flyover and they liked the film. It's more that they've connected with the character. Every comment has something to do with Lali's journey in the film, and they have felt a connection. More than me, it's about Lali.

It's rare for an actor to have two back-to-back releases within a week. You had them with Thar and Modern Love: Mumbai. Did even that overwhelm you with people appreciating you for the performances, which are poles apart from each other?

Both films were not shot at the same time, but yes, they were filmed back-to-back. It's good that people can see now that I can do two different kinds of roles and appreciate my work.

It wasn't intentional; the time of the release of the films came together by chance. But I am glad they were both released back-to-back because there was an immediate comparison. I am happy that people liked both the performances and not that people were inclined towards one more than the other. It feels like I'm doing something right.

Going by your previous works, you have been a part of anthologies before like Ludo (2020), Ajeeb Daastaans (2021) and now Modern Love: Mumbai (2022). What is it about the format that attracts you so much?

It's not like that. Ludo is directed by one director, Anurag Basu, and in Ajeeb Daastaans, I was a part of one story. But whatever role it is, be its length or for any platform, actors do it with their whole conviction, putting in so much effort and with all honesty. I don't know what happens when the format is changed. Because irrespective of what the format is, if it's an anthology, a full feature or a short film, you put in the same effort. There's no different feeling for each format.

Going back to Modern Love: Mumbai, how did you become Lali?

When I got the film, I was also at a point where I wanted to cross a flyover. Honestly, I am very instinctive as a performer; I don't put in a lot of thought in terms of body language, the rhythm and all; I am learning. My co-actor in the film, Bhupendra, is an NSD pass out, so he is very much into technique. When I used to perform with him, he used to tell me I could do it in different ways. I am like a child and have a lot of curiosity knowing that an actor can see their work in so many different ways.

But I don't do any of those things. I work and something comes out of it. I am also figuring it out. I practice my lines and dialect a lot. The more I do it, the longer it stays with me, and then I feel free. I am uncomfortable when I am given lines on the sets, but they used to give them to me prior to the shoot, and I rehearsed them.

Is there anything you imbibed in yourself from your character, Lali?

That you don't need anybody to be happy. With your work and your journey, you can look after yourself.

How do you juggle between two projects, is there any process you have to switch off from one character to another?

I haven't got an opportunity to work on two films together. I prefer working comfortably, what's the use of rushing into things? Enjoy your work as you spend nearly four months in a film. So it should be a very encouraging and nourishing experience. During those times, the whole team of the film becomes your family and you get close to each other.

How do I switch off and switch on? I do it during that time and I just forget about it. I don't even remember the dialogues from my film. I don't remember my dialogues from Dangal or even Thar. I have to get into the script again, and then I remember those dialogues. I have a real-life problem like that of the character Dory; my memory is short-term.

Since the time you started with Dangal, there have been a lot of changes in the film industry, including a new format of OTT coming in. And you are someone who, with immediate success, sadly also witnessed a failure. But then your variety of roles has impressed people in the past few years. How do you look back on your journey?

Well, it only looks beautiful from afar (laughs). At that time, you don't understand the choices you make and the roles you play. But you don't know how they will be received. I didn't do these roles to do something different; it's the byproduct of what I like. I get attracted to roles which are different. It's interesting to do characters who are very far away from you. I don't know, I just do it and it turns out to be a variety.

I think Lali is the closest to me in some ways than any of the characters I have played. She is the extreme version of myself.

And it also seems like filmmakers approach you with different roles knowing that you can pull them off...

Yes, and that's a good thing, right? After a point in time, you are typecast as people feel that you can only play strong characters and you can't play timid, vulnerable, or innocent characters. Like in Ludo, Dada (Basu) saw me as Pinky. It's interesting.

When I did Dangal, I had long hair. I looked nothing like what I did in the film. But they had a vision and trusted that this actor could chop off her hair, make an effort, and she would look like the character. At times, it's the vision of the directors too. They need to trust you. That's very important. You need a director who believes in you.

Are there any key learnings from every project you take on?

I learn from every project. I am gaining more confidence. I am slightly underconfident as a person. It has taken a lot of time and I still struggle with it. I can't define how I work or how I think; it's very organic. If you ask me to judge my journey, it will be very difficult.

And are you missing the big screen experience because it's been a long time since you had a theatrical release?

100%! I want my films to come into theatres because it's a different experience altogether. But the fact that a lot of people come together and watch your film on one screen, that community feeling, that's different.

We have seen your skating videos on Instagram and now you are riding a bike to the mountains in Dhak Dhak. Is there anything else you wish to do on the screen?

I have been fortunate that I have gotten to do something different every time. Like in Dangal, I learnt to wrestle; in Thugs of Hindostan, I was trained in archery; even in Ludo, I learnt how to hold a kid. In Modern Love: Mumbai, I acted like I didn't know how to cycle, but I am pretty good at it. Now let's see what challenges I get.

Are you keen on doing longer formats as a lot of actors are getting into the web series space?

I have been offered, but nothing has excited me. Formats don't matter to me, be they long or short. I would love to play a character like in Inventing Anna, with lots of twists and weird and quirky characters. I'd love to do more of these roles.

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