Actor Fatima Sana Shaikh calls herself blessed for her last release Dhak Dhak. With the Tarun Dudeja film, she ticked off her dream to ride a motorcycle as the film revolves around four women who take on a bike journey to Khardung La. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Fatima revisits her memories from the making of the film.
The 31-year-old actor says, “I feel lucky to live my life through work, and got a chance to visit Khardung La. Every character adds value to my life and with Dhak Dhak, I have connected with all the women.” The film also stars Dia Mirza, Ratna Pathak Shah and Sanjana Sanghi. The film was wrapped up in 42 days, all the way from Delhi to Leh.
Fatima recalls falling under the weather. “Sometimes the weather used to be problematic, and there were altitude problems as well. It really hit me hard. But, in the end, it was worth it, it turned out to be a good film.”
Fatima on working with Dia Mirza, Ratna Pathak Shah and Sanjana Sanghi
The film brings together women across all age groups, as represented by Fatima, Dia, Ratna and Sanjana. The Dangal girl shares her biggest takeaway from her co-stars, “We enjoyed doing the scenes together and I feel age doesn’t matter here. Women connect irrespective of age. I have felt the biggest connection with Ratna and Dia, mostly with Dia. Sanjana is a sweet and very hard-working girl.
“Dia is everyone’s crush. To be honest, she is a beautiful person inside and out. Beyond acting, she is an activist. She talks about it. When you meet her there’s an aura that she carries… it’s almost like pari zameen par aa gayi. But, yehi sanch hain (It’s almost like she is a fairy from the heavens). There is such a soothing and calming effect when one gets to speak with her. She puts you at ease. There’s a motherly, nurturing feel.”
“With Ratna, I had a wonderful time she is a fabulous actor. You can say anything to her. I would have bantered with her; she would always have a comeback. That’s the beauty of her.”
Fatima on epileptic seizure on sets
Diagnosed with epilepsy, Fatima had to deal with an epileptic seizure during the Dhak Dhak shoot. It was Dia Mirza who revealed it some time ago and shared how helpless she was upon seeing the actor. Fatima shares her health update, “This is something I live with. I am recovering and I am much better today.
She continues, “It’s not a big event for me because I live with it. I have seizures and then I carry on with work. Of course, it’s difficult for somebody else to see, they care about me. I think not many people have seen it happening, so for them, it can be very traumatic. I am touched that Dia cared because a lot of people don’t have the awareness…the person who goes through the episodes knows how difficult it is. Everyone on the sets was very supportive. I always inform everyone that I have epilepsy and might get an episode so I need a break.”
So what happened on the sets? Fatima says the seizure struck when she insisted on finishing a shoot without a break. “But that time if I had taken a break then we wouldn’t have gotten the shoot done. Woh location chala jata (we would have missed the scene)…”
Fatima on Dia Mirza
Talking about Dia being worried for her, Fatima adds, “She knows I have recently come back from multiple episodes. I am on medications. She was worried because it’s very taxing on the body.”
Fatima on epilepsy struggles at work
Often people face difficulties at work while dealing with epilepsy. Has there been any major problem at work? Fatima replies candidly, “Honesty, I’ve never faced it in the film industry; people have been extremely supportive. You tell them that you have a problem and they will help you. Beyond anything your craft is most important. Everybody has some baggage or injuries and it keeps happening. Other than that, of all the people I have worked with, everyone has been quite welcoming. I have never faced a problem at work. Woh apni khud ki insecurities hoti hain (sometimes people are insecure).”
“For me, I am in a completely different place in my life. For working-class people, it’s extremely difficult. Nobody wants to see you having a seizure at work. There’s a stigma attached to it. People don’t get married, they don’t get a job or let babies near you. Kids with epilepsy don’t get an education because nobody wants to take their responsibility. There’s no awareness, people think mata aa gayi, bhoot-preet hai ya kuch ho gaya (seizures are due to God or demonic possessions); it gets scary for people to deal with it. In industry, it is different for me… maybe because I am an actor. Had I been a technician, maybe things would have been different… that I don’t know.”
Fatima looks forward to better medicines and medical advancement in order to treat epilepsy in future. She believes it spreading awareness is the key to bringing a change in society. Till then the actor has no qualms to talk about her condition and encourage others.
Fatima Sana Shaikh: Even today when I tell people about epilepsy, they don’t understand
She says, “The more you talk about it, the more awareness you will create. It will get normalised. We often use the word as a slur–are isko toh mirgi aa rahi hain. Isme kuch galat nahi hain (there’s nothing wrong with it), simply because we don’t know about it. Even today when I tell people about it, they don’t understand what it is. I explain to them what it is and when the next episode comes. There are variations in episodes too and I prepare accordingly. I tell people around about it too and that’s fine. I cannot be mad at the world for not understanding my condition. Even I didn’t understand at one point.”
Fatima’s next wish
After riding a motorbike and travelling about 966 km on the road, Fatima now has a new goal on her bucket list. She tells us, “I want to climb mountains.” “I want to explore different worlds and different characters. An actor’s life is very exciting,” she signs off with a smile. Fatima will be next seen in Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur.