One of the reviews of Cake, the Pakistani family drama that released earlier this year to a rousing reception, read, ‘One slice won’t be enough’. Well, the same can be said of its leading lady Aamina Sheikh too. One conversation isn’t just enough with this actress who is as comfortable articulating her views on feminism and education as she is giggling over gossip and hot men! In many ways, she mirrors the feisty, independent Zareen she played in the afore-mentioned blockbuster – a woman who knows what she wants and is confident to express it. But at the core, she is also the girl-next-door who doesn’t take her stardom seriously despite her huge influence on the Pakistani entertainment industry at large. The influence that has seen her get selected as the ambassador of PAGE (Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education), a role that requires her to promote the cause of girl’s education and empowerment.
2018 has been an excellent year for Aamina, mainly thanks to Cake, a film she is still sentimental about. “The makers promoted it so well, we had screenings in London, dubai and other cities of the world. The film really travelled well. The reason why it’s so special is because it was so inclusive. It was a perfect case of my own values aligning with the process of filmmaking. We were all equally involved in filming and promotions. That’s one whatsapp group I still haven’t deleted! Otherwise, film khatam hote hi, the group dissolves,” she chuckles.
Right now though, her focus is on PAGE. Aamina has taken to her new avatar whole-heartedly, rattling off numbers and statistics regarding the state of education. She talks passionately about the cultural norms, misinterpreted religious values and the need to change the narrative. “Why just girls, I want to educate boys too. The #MeToo movement and the cases that have made news, have raised awareness levels. We need to focus on the boys to make the future of our girls better.”
It’s evident why Aamina was chosen to lead this campaign. In Lollywood, she has done her share of ‘strong woman’ roles, being known more for her performance and persona than glamour. But what has also worked in her favour are her varied interests and inclination towards production. With a background in art, filmmaking and theatre, Aamina, inspired by the likes of Sharmeen Chinoy Obaid, is raring to go behind the scenes. “I have so many concepts buzzing in my head. One thing I strongly feel about is the need for our content to reflect more positive change than negative elements. Enough of showing a woman as bechari for 20 episodes and then showing her as strong in two. Time to change the vocabulary!” she says.
How easy is that task going to be, especially in a society that trolls women for merely smoking or just living her life! Remember what Mahira Khan faced? Aamina doesn’t take names but she makes her views clear. “We have been so ingrained in this concept of right or wrong, black and white… we should just people be!” Can she claim to have the freedom to just be and do her own thing? “Yes,” she says thoughtfully. “I don’t want to explain anything to anyone”.
We ask her if she has ever rebelled against the existing order. “I guess me being me itself is rebellion!” laughs Aamina going to explain how she stood her ground despite belonging to a conservative family. “I am the first woman to go abroad on my own, study abroad and work in this field. So that alone makes me responsible and cautious. You won’t find me doing anything naughty!
The naughtiness is left for the screen. We ask her about her dream roles and pat comes the reply. “Wonderwoman. I want to do action stuff or even real good love stories. Also, something like Big Little Lies.” She also has a wish list for dream actors? “Ranveer Singh is endearing but hey, Ryan Gosling is my crush. He wouldn’t be a bad start!”