First person: The evolution of Aaminah Sheikh

The naturally radiant Aaminah Sheikh has entered a new phase in her life where she has become quite selective about her projects.

She was last seen in Jackson Heights directed by Mehreen Jabbar and based on an immigrant community in New York. “It was a really great serial; but for now, though I am not shutting any doors, I am stepping back from things I have done before. I want to avoid themes that have been repeatedly shown, whether on TV or film, especially if they are dark and morbid.

“For instance, after I did Maat on Hum TV, which was based on a two-sister story, for the next three years the only work that came my way revolved around two sisters.

“Similarly, I feel that our recent revival of films largely revolves around war-related content and women-centric, dark issues, whereas I feel the need to explore the other end of the spectrum and branch out as an actor.

“I need to know if my comic timing is good, but most of the time we don’t get the platform to explore ourselves and discover our true potential. I’ve done so many of these layered characters back to back that I now want to wait for something that challenges me. So there are offers on the table, but I am not considering them.”


The uber-talented and beautiful Aaminah has been seen in various avatars — fashion model, TV and film actor and brand ambassador — and excels in every line of work


Sheikh is hopeful though that the phenomenal success of Na Maloom Afraad is going to spur a trend of similar movies on a lighter vein, and she is looking forward to them. She is also keen to explore international markets and with six years of her work now being shown in India on Zindagi, she feels it has given her work a new lease of life and is generating a lot of interest in her across the border.

Speaking about her “unique” experience with 021, Sheikh shares that originally the story was being directed by Summer Nicks, who had also got the initial cast on board. “He had a certain vision and certain thought behind the story, and had done major detailing behind each of the characters. About 98 per cent of my work was done with him along with other core actors, but unfortunately he got deported as he didn’t have a valid visa, and we were left in the lurch.

“A long time passed, and then the production company got Jami on board to complete the rest of the film. It was very brave of Jami to take on someone else’s baby at a point when we were under the impression that the film was almost complete, but after that there was complete lack of communication.

“Jami made the story his own, and rightfully so, being a very senior art director, but all the actors were not brought on the same page to share what direction the film would be taking now, under him. I think that ought to have been done, for the result was that we had no clue what was happening.

“I was only required for one scene with Jami, which I did, thinking that the film was now wrapped. However, what I saw at the premiere was a very different film — it was not what some of us had signed for, and a lot of people that were in the first-half of the film were not even in the original story, and we were taken completely by surprise.


“I feel that our recent revival of films largely revolves around war-related content and women-centric, dark issues, whereas I feel the need to explore the other end of the spectrum and branch out as an actor. I need to know if my comic timing is good, but most of the time we don’t get the platform to explore ourselves and discover our true potential. I’ve done so many of these layered characters back to back that I now want to wait for something that challenges me. So there are offers on the table, but I am not considering them.”


“It disheartened many of us, because as thinking actors, we had signed up for something we didn’t see materialising. I didn’t know what I was watching, and couldn’t sit through the movie, so left halfway, without seeing any of my portions.”

She adds ruefully, “My character in the film had been integral to Shaan’s vulnerability, and when instead, I saw characters I hadn’t even read about, I just couldn’t digest it. Plus, I felt my pictures would be plastered all over billboards, and when my fans would come to see me in the film they would feel cheated — it was tantamount to lying to them. I felt that when such drastic changes were going to be made to the film, they owed it to the core team to share their plans with them and treat them like members of a team.”

But Sheikh being herself, she puts down the experience to a “lesson learnt” and says she will be more careful in the future. In fact, having been associated with various brands as their ambassador from the beginning of her career, Sheikh feels that endorsements have also made her more careful with her modelling assignments.

She states “You are taken on by a brand because you have certain attributes that are synonymous with the brand. Then you cannot take generic modelling assignments light-heartedly. You have to look at yourself as a product, and gauge your market value; you need to know how to place yourself in order to get the best from fashion, drama and endorsements. By associating yourself with certain brands and becoming synonymous with their attributes, you become a brand as well; endorsements actually do wonders for boosting your own persona and market value too.”

Sheikh follows no regular beauty regime and is instead, all about healthy eating, exercising and yoga. She believes in the basics —“drinking a lot of water, sleeping right and keeping the body active, whether it is through strenuous cardio or passive yoga.”

But that said, she admits that professionally she has always been experimental with her make-up and styling and enjoys not adhering to one look. “I allow different stylists and make-up artists a freehand to do whatever they are good at, and that way, by default I also discover what is new, what is working for me, and what isn’t.”

Down-to-earth and pragmatic about her looks and age, Sheikh says, “As I get older, I realise it is all about maintenance and not so much about instant cure. Our aim should be to try and reduce wear and tear as much as possible, and exercising and eating healthy, etc are all maintenance techniques.”

She says she hasn’t had the need to tread the path of quick-fix treatments so much in vogue now. “I hope I never have to! It is just that it is not an ideology I have grown up with, so it is difficult to even consider it. I would much rather just embrace the phases my body grows through and sustain my body with the nourishment it needs.

“It’s fine to use products that help you age gracefully but to try and look 20 years younger … it somehow shows you are fighting against time and even if it is a face you may not be familiar with, it stands out as being different and unnatural. Considering that even botox and all these other invasive treatments require regular maintenance, why not just focus on natural boosters and maintenance instead?”

Ending the rezendvous on a happy note, the diva claims, “Endorsements have always played a major role in my career and is one of the things I enjoy doing. I feel it brings finesse to my career, both as an actor and as a model.”

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 12th, 2015

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