Dangal Girl

What began as a fun task in school ended up giving a Kashmiri teenager big break in Bollywood. The young Zaira from Srinagar is all set to do Dangal in Aamir Khan’s next flick, reports Saima Rashid

Zaira Wasim (L) with filmstar Aamir Khan
Zaira Wasim (L) with filmstar Aamir Khan

Acting in school play is now a passé for 15-year-old Zaira Wasim. Following an audition with 19000 girls, the girl known for her acting acumen managed to grab one of two top slots for the movie. And now, the Hawal girl has almost done with her shooting with ‘Mr Perfectionist’ of Bollywood, Aamir Khan, in his next flick, Dangal.

But before she could endure the painstaking efforts to fit in the role, Zaira, a Class 10 student of St. Paul’s International Academy, was selected for the audition by a team of casting directors who showed up in her school one day. And with that began her eventful journey in the run-up to her Dangal role.

“Before being cast  in Aamir Khan’s movie, I was made to do two advt films,” says Zaira, sporting a cropped hair—the style that made her cry after scissors trimmed her flowing hair. “Unlike others who had an experience in the field, I had to make a great effort.” The first effort came well before her Bollywood bash.

Zaira Wasim.
Zaira Wasim.

Her parents were against the idea, fearing the fallouts of their daughter’s decision in the society they dwell. It was then her aunt came to her rescue. She managed to motivate her parents. “Like any other Kashmiri parents, mine were no exception,” says Zaira, flashing a child-like smile. “They were more concerned about how society would react. But my aunt handled the situation tactfully.”

After parents, the second challenge was to motivate the school principal who happily gave her green signal.

Once decks to Mumbai were cleared, Zaira joined Suhani Bhatnagar, the Delhi girl playing her sibling wrestler in the reel life. Zaira is playing a character called Geeta Phogat, the role demanding wrestling skills on her part. “But being a wrestling naive, I had to go through rigorous physical and mental training,” she says. Her training included exhaustive morning sessions of running, swimming and wrestling.

After six-month long Mumbai stay, her life outlook has flipped. Besides becoming positive, she says, her level of commitment towards things enhanced. In between, her father flew to Mumbai to be with her at the sets. His perception, she says, changed after watching her working in a “friendly atmosphere”. The good mood then went on to fade her social anxieties.

Zaira Wasim with Bollywood actor, Imran Khan.
Zaira Wasim with Bollywood actor, Imran Khan.

“After finding myself in such an atmosphere, drawing best out of me, I usually forgot everything once the word ‘action’ would be announced,” says Zaira with a gleam in her eyes.

But her real life script unlike the reel one shortly disclosed some hard twists. Back home as the word of her film shooting spread, some netizens began trolling and bullying her besides issuing self-styled life threats. “All of the sudden I started receiving some nasty comments baying for my blood,” the teenager said with an apparent melancholic voice. Once such comments piled up and got on her nerves, she began having panic attacks.

“I would faint during shootings,” she says. “But the entire cast and crew of Dangal, especially Aamir Khan, helped me to overcome the worst.”

Today, Zaira vibes positivity—the biggest gift she believes her Bollywood stint gave her. But acting, she says, was never in her mind. “I have grown up aimless and will continue to be like that,” she says. “I am just going with the flow and embracing whatever comes to me, good or bad.” Perhaps this Hawal girl has learned to live her life like the Dangal tagline: Aaj Se Dangal Shuru.


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