LAHORE: On Wednesday evening, housewives, media mavens and fans made their way to a local bookshop in Lahore, for a chance to get to know Aamina Sheikh’s off-screen persona better. The session started in quintessential Lahore style — late, as the star attraction was surrounded by media for a chance for exclusive face time. During the candid session, moderated by Rehan Babar, the actor spoke about how she built her career upon returning to Pakistan and her opinion on her body of work, while also answering impromptu questions asked by the attendees.
Always one for doing things differently, Sheikh became the first woman in her family to go abroad to study. She chose to study video production in New York, saying, “Often women go into cookie cutter careers because that’s easy. We all stand at crossroads when we are younger. Some parents are supportive and some aren’t, mine were stuck in the middle.” Sheikh graduated with a degree in video production with ambitious dreams to work in Hollywood, and set out to find an opportunity but the road was long and winding. “The ladder was too long and at that time I happened to meet Mehreen Jabbar who said Pakistan needs people with an academic background and channels are booming. She said it was the right time to be in Pakistan and I listened to her.”
On whether her US stamped degree helped, she said, “I believe having a degree doesn’t mean you’re good at your craft but people definitely think so. In the arts, I don’t think it’s important because you cannot categorise people that way. It’s not about IQ or numbers, it’s about your creative ideas, how you tell stories and feel about things which a degree will not teach you.”
Sheikh also pondered over the current state of Pakistani cinema. She believes it is important to make more blockbuster films to be able to sustain growth. Cinema, she added, is a business like any other and needs to be brought to a point where people can make money from it. “This will encourage more people to invest and allow us to manifest larger visions onto the big screen.”
She feels the standout films in the past year were Moor and Manto. “They have been conversation starters in Pakistani cinema but there is a need for light hearted topics. I really liked Na Maloom Afrad (NMA) because TV is already cathartic, filled with gloomy and dark things and then we have the news so cinema needs to be a relief. NMA provided relief and humour and that was the turning point. There have been more after that but that was the true game changer,” she articulates. At this point in her career, Sheikh is looking for challenging roles. “When you’ve gotten positive feedback from the audience you reach a point where you want to do things for yourself.” She feels films such as Lunchbox, Kapoor & Sons and Queen were handled well by our local audiences and are in accordance with our cinema. “They talk about something controversial but in a light way, that’s what we need.”
In and out of acting projects, Sheikh has continued doing experimental fashion shoots and donned daring looks for red carpet appearances. “Fashion is my relief. I always kept one foot in fashion because I need that expression to break the mould.”
About what she aspires to be, Sheikh shared, “I want to be the next Muslim Marvel superhero in the global market. You won’t see me in a typical garb on TV or cinema.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2016.