Return From The Reels

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Shams Irfan on the quitting of Bollywood by promising Kashmir actor Zaira Waseem, a decision that triggered a new disquiet  in the tinsel town and social media

Zaira-Wasim file image

Last week, when Zaira Wasim, an 18-year-old Kashmiri actress, decided to quit Bollywood after a three-year dream run, it created a storm within and outside the tinsel town. Everyone wanted to know why did Zaira leave a dream spot in Bollywood, the second most popular film industry after Hollywood, and go back to her roots in Kashmir.

To clear the confusion Zaira wrote a goodbye note and shared it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to convey her dilemma of being part of Bollywood, a place she now feels is in conflict with her religious beliefs.

However, her decision did not go down well with everyone, especially with Bollywood’s big stars. Within no time, reactions started to pour from around the world. Not everyone was kind enough to this 18-year-old girl’s decision. But a confident Srinagar girl, who has seen stardom firsthand and then said goodbye at the peak of it, took it all boldly and stood by her decision.

She was called regressive, too opinionated, unthankful towards the entire film world, too young to understand what she is saying, and what not, but she held on to her decision. For fans, it was heartbreaking to see Zaira leave at a time her career in Bollywood had just started.

Given the volume of success she has achieved in the last three years, her short stint in Bollywood left a lot to desire for her fans in Kashmir and beyond. But Zaira has called it a day.

Zaira shot to fame in 2016 after she successfully auditioned for a young girl’s role in biographical sports’ movie Dangal. The movie is loosely based on freestyle wrestler Geeta Phogat’s life. Zaira played young Phogat’s character in Dangal. Zaira couldn’t have asked for more when she learned that the role of her father is being played by superstar Amir Khan. It was a dream debut in every sense as Dangal became Bollywood’s all-time highest grosser, earning over Rs 2000 crore worldwide.

For this role, Zaira won National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress and earned a nomination for Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut, a rare feat for any young actress.

This made Zaira a superstar overnight. Instantly, she was the most recognizable face of Kashmir in Bollywood. Her quick rise in Bollywood gave hope to hundreds of young Kashmiri boys and girls who dreamed of making it to the silver screen.

Also, Zaira’s instant stardom gave filmmakers hope to revive Bollywood’s lost connection with Kashmir. The success of Dangal soon translated into another film role: this time in Advait Chandan’s film Secret Superstar. Zaira played the lead role of a young girl called Insia Malik who aspires to be a singer. The film had Amir Khan in one of the main roles. Secret Superstar ended up becoming fourth highest grossing Indian film worldwide with a net earning of Rs 966 crore.

With two back to back super-hit movies in her career, Zaira was all set for a long inning in Bollywood, at least that is what everyone thought. Her two film association with Amir Khan was seen with love by her fans and with envy by her contemporaries. Not everyone in Bollywood gets two back-to-back movies with superstar Amir Khan, is what everyone would tell her. But it seems Zaira was going through a difficult phase in life while on the screen she was mesmerizing everyone with her acting skills. Recognizing the same, in November 2017, Zaira was honoured by President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, with the National Child Award for Exceptional Achievement, for Dangal and Secret Superstar.

In 2018, Zaira was nominated for Best Actress Award for her role in Secret Superstar, alongside established actors like Alia Bhat, Sri Devi, Vidya Balan and Saba Qamar. The Best Actress Award went to Vidya Balan, but Zaira went home with a winner Filmfare trophy for Critics Best Actress for Secret Superstar. These nominations and awards catapulted her to the A league of talented actresses in Bollywood instantly.

Besides, Zaira was nominated in the Best Actress category in International India Film Awards, and Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (still pending).

Born to an Executive Manager father and school teacher mother, Zaira recently got her third Bollywood role in Shonali Bose’s yet to be released film titled The Sky is Pink.

The film is still in its post-production phase when Zaira announced her disassociation from the Bollywood.

With that came to an end a Kashmiri girl’s short but dreamlike journey in the world’s most powerful entertainment industry. Bollywood could be a dream-world for many, but there are a few like Zaira who shock the world with such an adieu.

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