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Interview Hindi

Familiar with Marathi language and culture, says Fatima Sana Shaikh of Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari

The actress speaks about working with Manoj Bajpayee and the importance of Dangal (2016) in her career.

Keyur Seta

Fatima Sana Shaikh’s three films on the trot — Dangal (2016), Thugs Of Hindostan (2018) and the upcoming Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari (2020) — have been period films. But for that common factor, all three are very different from one another.

Directed by Abhishek Sharma, Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari sees Shaikh play a simple young woman from Mumbai 1995. “I play a Maharashtrian girl who is very gharelu [homely], simple, middle class," the actress told Cinestaan.com. "But she has a secret that she is hiding from her family. There is a boy whom she likes and her brother, who is a detective, is not very fond of him. The film is about what happens between the three of them.”

Donning the avatar of a Marathi mulgi (girl) wasn’t very difficult for Shaikh. “I am from Maharashtra, so I am familiar with the language and the culture," she said. "But I did go through training because we didn’t want to end up saying something wrong. Apart from that, there wasn’t much training honestly, except the dialect training.”

With Diljit Dosanjh in Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari

The film sees Manoj Bajpayee play the unusual role of a detective who specializes in breaking marriage alliances. Diljit Dosanjh plays the boyfriend of Shaikh’s character.

This is the first time Shaikh and Bajpayee have featured together in a film and the young actress said it was a memorable experience to work with the veteran. “I am a huge fan of his work and have loved all of his performances," she said. "There is no role of his that I haven’t found memorable. For me, simply sharing the screen with him was an honour.”

Of the other cast members, she said, “I have been a fan of Diljit Dosanjh since Udta Punjab (2016). His music is great. He is very passionate about everything [he does]. Then there are Seema Pahwa, Manoj Pahwa, Annu Kapoor, the whole cast was great. So for me, it was a no-brainer; I wanted to be a part of this film.”

[Clockwise] Manoj Bajpayee, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Diljit Dosanjh and Abhishek Sharma

Shaikh said she had liked Abhishek Sharma’s Tere Bin Laden (2010), which was one reason for her to look forward to working with him. “He is an incredible director, very sure of himself, on what he wants," she said. "He has a great comic sense and timing. We get to know this from his films themselves. The beauty of working with him is that, although he is very sure of what he wants, he is also open to people’s suggestions.”

Shaikh's choice of roles since Dangal has been eclectic. Explaining her selection, she said, “I look for a good script and at the director. These are the only criteria. If these two things are working, then I am more than happy.”

Looking back on her journey so far, the actress credited Dangal with changing her life. Starring Aamir Khan, her and Sanya Malhotra, the Nitesh Tiwari film went on to become a blockbuster hit. “I truly got into the industry after that film," Fatima Sana Shaikh, who had played small parts in a few films before Dangal, said. "If there were no Dangal, maybe I wouldn’t have been in the industry, honestly. I am very thankful I got to be a part of Dangal. It was such a huge film and success. That [film] put Sanya and myself on the radar.”

Khan had become a mentor of sorts for his two young co-stars during the making of Dangal. Shaikh said he does not advise her on her career moves, “but our Dangal WhatsApp group exists. It has the director, actors and everyone. It’s called Dhaakad [after the popular song from the film]."

The actress wants to do good work in the future as well but she does not believe in having a plan. “I can’t think much about the future because I live in the moment," she said. "I only think whether what I have in hand currently is right. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how it is going to shape up. I hope it is bright. Let’s see where destiny takes me.”