Aamina Sheikh has simply left me mesmerized! Here we were, signed on to Skype, expecting a celebrity holding a cup of chai or coffee, probably looking unnerved at being disturbed with yet another interview. There she was, the complete opposite – professional, upbeat, interested and … with looks to match! Aamina has many credits to her name, having walked the red carpet and bagged acting awards both in Pakistan and internationally.
Starting her career in 2008, Aamina has come a long way from her first telefilm Baarish Mein Deewar. Her acting prowess needs little mention as most of us remember her successful portrayal of Ayman from Maat and Salma in Jackson Heights.
It would be injustice to call our interaction an interview, for it was more a conversation than anything else. We started by talking about how she differentiates herself from her characters.
I think the objective of an actor is to attempt to play someone that he/she is not naturally; often, someone from a different background or situation, and who has a unique character. The entire process is in understanding their different habits, challenging myself with ethics and morals, and displaying personas that are varied.
Surely her family had concerns over her choice of career …
My parents’ main objective was to ensure we always had a great education, especially my father. It was a process for my parents to understand I was serious about my choices – sculpting, painting, dabbling in theatre, film – they tried their best to understand. They were concerned, obviously, as I was the one in the family doing something unique. After I graduated, I came to Karachi working for a new channel. How I was going to live in Pakistan, in such a fresh and new industry, how would I handle myself – there were the typical parental concerns all families have.
Aamina didn’t start out in front of the camera, though …
I did not ever think I would face the camera. I did theatre before, and when I landed in Pakistan, I was thrown into the deep end to manage a children’s show. The decision to face the camera was a later one. I was offered a telefilm and a commercial after my theatre work was scrutinized, and because of the success I enjoyed in those, I decided to stay the course and concentrate on the acting after researching the market, because I was in the hub of all things where new grounds were being broken.
Fans are blown away by her skilful portrayal of characters that are so different from each other, and her ability to switch with such dramatic ease. The subdued aggression in Maat or the confidence in Jackson Heights; her chemistry with the older-looking Bhatti Sahib (Nouman Ijaz), or her quiet rivalry with Saba Qamar. She has earned the reputation of going beyond just acting.
She smiles shyly when we talk about this.
Fans who have truly followed my work have always accepted my work. For me when a character evokes debate, it means I have done my job well. It is not about Aamina being Salma or Ayman – it’s about the character portraying herself, it’s about their choices, not Aamina’s, and I am so grateful that the fans understand the difference.
We had heard enough about reel life, and wanted to move onto real life. We asked about Mohib – had there been a romantic, down-on-one-knee proposal?
None of the romantic, filmy proposals; the process of us getting our families to agree was the challenge, but for the two of us, it was a very natural progression. I’ve known him since school days where he helmed the Urdu theatre scene, and I used to go watch him. On the children’s show, we toured Pakistan, working on 60-70 episodes together. We developed an understanding since our passions and concerns were similar. We just grew on each other. We celebrate our 10 years tomorrow!
Moving from the US to Pakistan did not prove to be as difficult as we would have expected.
The industry was developing then, so, it is surprising my journey was so positive. They wanted people who had studied the craft, not those who would have to come on board and learn. So it was in my favour that I carried a portfolio. Had I been in New York, fresh out of grad school, this ladder would have been far longer. I was just plain lucky because of the primitive nature of the industry; my hometown was positive for me. I was given 3 to 4 cameras, and asked to direct. I was conscious, wondering if I would be able to deliver the quality being sought!
Salma in Jackson Heights was strong internally, but had to be weak at times – how was that irony for Aamina?
Salma always worked as a subordinate, and followed a clockwork pattern in her salon work, which is very robotic. She was not the head of the salon, so there was no power figure in her; this complemented her presence in the home, helping her silence the voices in her head and the complexities in her being. She brought in the comparison to real lives, real stories of housewives today that accomplish so much, and how they stay sane.
Being married to another actor – I bet you get asked this question all the time, but humour us, nonetheless – any jealousy?
Working in the same industry means we derive a lot of strength from each other – bouncing ideas off each other, getting inspiration, addressing challenges – all in the same zone. It’s a very healthy relationship where we do not need to explain much to each other; there is no time for jealousy. *adorable Aamina giggle* A female’s approach to your career, is very different from a man’s approach.
An occupational hazard of celebrities is that they are subtle ambassadors to women and young girls. What message does Aamina want her fans to get from her?
The more one equips oneself with knowledge and an awareness of the world both around us and within us, the more one acquires tools for living, one of which is confidence. It is important to be mindful and curious about who and what we are; the more we know, the more we are connected to ourselves, and the more confidently we tread through life.
We could have carried on this lovely conversation with Aamina Sheikh for hours, given her down-to-earth nature, her wisdoms and professionalism, had Skype not cut us off. We were left wondering how a celebrity of her stature could not have any airs at all. Instead, this glamazon on our computer screen, in a pair of purple cat-eye spectacles and bright red lips, turned out really just to be the girl-next-door.