The first time I met Fatima Sana Shaikh it was at the Hong Kong airport and we were in line to board the ferry to Macao. I smiled at her shyly and introduced myself and she beamed at me, saying, “Very nice to meet you, I’m Fatima.” Over the next few days, we explored Macao together, took photos in exotic locations, gorged on delicious food and discussed our mutual love for fashion.
On this trip, I made another friend: her father. He and I shared many conversations over tea and five days later at the same Hong Kong airport, I bid them farewell. Fatima, the actress who has inspired many with her fierce role in Dangal, taught me a lesson in humility that will stay with me for a long time.
Wherever we went she would ask questions about the history of the area, she would listen intently as the tour guide explained the details of the event and was quick to drop in a compliment whenever she felt it was needed. We laughed over silly jokes, talked about the realities of the Bollywood industry and spoke about the wonders of travelling.
On the last day, I interviewed the actress and we discussed many things, from her Bollywood career to her experience in Macao. Here’s what she said.
Female travellers are on the rise in India and as an icon for young women, what would your advice be to them?
It’s great to research so that you know which are the safest countries and the safest areas for women to stay. One should also keep in mind what to wear and what should be avoided because certain countries have rules and dress codes and it's best to stick to those. Apart from that, a general rule should be to keep all your valuables safely and just be careful.
What was your favourite thing about Macao and the one memory that you’ll cherish forever?
For me, it was the show House of Dancing Waters because I was completely blown away by it. I had thought it would be something related to the water, but it was absolutely unreal. I felt that it was a dream--people were flying from one place to the other, there were bike stunts, they were jumping.
Which Art Macao inspired you creatively the most?
The visual art portrayal, Melting Memory, was my favourite. It was very trippy because I could just stand there and look at that clipping and create a world of my own. It was moving so magically almost like it had a beat playing in background.
The food in Macao was incredible. What one was your favourite dining experience?
I enjoyed the Chinese cuisine the most at Wing Lei and was very taken in by the tea menu they offered. There’s a tradition here that one serves tea with every course and that’s something I’m going to take back with me and implement it back home as well. I also really enjoyed the cute cafe we went to called Cha Bei and I highly recommend these two if you’re visiting Macao.
Your work involves a lot of travelling, so do you find it tedious or do you enjoy it?
When I’m working, I’m really loving it, so I’m happy nonetheless. I usually extend my trip and stay on longer to explore the destination because shoot hours are very hectic and leave you with hardly any time.
What are the three things you always have with you when you’re travelling?
I love reading, so I always have a book with me. Also, a pair of sunglasses and a notebook because I enjoy doodling and drawing.
Fame can be tricky to deal with. What do you do to stay grounded and close to reality?
I haven’t experienced that kind of fame yet where I have to think about staying grounded, but for me it’s almost overwhelming when people stop me and want to take a picture with me. I find it very sweet and it makes me very humbled, so I always get the photograph with them.
Which Bollywood film inspired you recently?
I really enjoyed Raazi. I really liked the way Alia Bhatt performed the role of Sehemat, it was heart touching. I even loved Gully Boy and again it was Alia who inspired me the most.
What is your next project?
My next project is Bhoot Police with Fox alongside Saif Ali Khan and Ali Fazal and I’m looking at some projects with Netflix as well. I am also almost done shooting a film with Anurag Basu, which I am really excited about. I am also very fortunate that all the people I’m getting to work with are super talented including Rajkumar Rao. It’s their passion and love for their craft that I am getting to learn from every day.
As a female role model, what would you like to say to young girls?
Be yourself and be honest with yourself. The moment you do that and not let the pressure of society and the opinions of others get the better of you. Achieve your dreams with hard work because talent can only take you so far and it’s hard work that’ll set you apart from everyone else.
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