“When Tanya Shafi, an ex-model and a consultant at the music channel Play, asked for my head shots to explore the possibility of making a commercial, I told myself, ‘this is it.’ I did not even vacillate knowing this is what I wanted,” says the focused and meticulous actor. Having dabbled in dramatics during her school years, Aamina earned a bachelors degree in film and video from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, after which she worked at a Pakistani channel for a while. Soon afterwards she was hired for a television commercial and then in 2007 she signed up for a telefilm Gurmukh Singh Ki Wasiyat.Since then she has done a number of strong female characters that include an athlete, the would-be wife of a twice-married feudal lord and a Black-British woman providing emotional and moral succour to a young man in distress. Sheikh worked on her physiognomy and her ensemble for a week before playing the Black-British woman in Main Abdul Qadir Hoon, says director Babar Javed who is all praise for her work. “It is immensely gratifying to work with someone as professional as Sheikh who also does her homework.”
As she consolidates her position as a leading actor in the mushrooming television industry, she has become more discerning in choosing her roles, preferring characters that take her away from real life. Striving to find a balance between rehearsing and spontaneity while working in front of the camera, she also passionately advocates for the screening of telefilms. “These films are a part of our identity and should be promoted as such for maximum viewership,” she explains.
So far the petite and slender actor-cum-model is having a good year. She has a handful of serials, airing at prime time garnering positive feedback from drama aficionados. She has also just been appointed as one of the spokespersons for L’Oreal Pakistan. “My job description is to bring honesty and integrity to any role that I take up and any brand I endorse,” says Sheikh, in a recent chat with the Herald on a rare day off work, lending a behind-the-scenes view of some of her significant dramatic performances.
Bhag Amina Bhag Telefilm — 2010 Writers: Farah Usman and Noorul Huda Shah Director: Yasir Nawaz Tagline: An uplifting film inspired by Naseem Hameed, the fastest woman in South Asia
“The script of Bhag Amina Bhag was in the air for a while and when I first heard about it I was interested because I was in awe of Naseem Hameed, reading up whatever I could on her, on the Internet, in newspapers. But then Nawaz informed me that they wanted a new face and had already chosen someone. It was when that actor got injured while shooting that I was approached again if I was interested and that’s how I came onboard.
As expected, the role involved a lot of running and that too in different kinds of locales. I knew I could pull off the a schoolgirl’s role but had to get professional help for physically demanding scenes. You will not believe this but prior to doing this telefilm I had never been to a gym. With only five days to prepare, I hired a trainer and by the way the production crew had not figured out [that I may need one]. The trainer trained me rigorously for two hours everyday. I had him over on location where I made a little corner for myself and he would work out with me. Even though it was a grueling schedule of 15 days and by the end of it I was sore with cramps, it was a fantastic experience.”
Main Abdul Qadir Hoon Serial — 2010/2011 Writer: Sarwat Nazeer Director: Babar Javed Tagline: The story of a young man’s transformation helped by a woman friend
“Nell Ibrahim, the woman that I am playing in the serial, is a Black-British woman with an Indian Muslim mother. She runs into Abdul Qadir outside a pub when he is beaten by thugs. He hires Ibrahim as a maid but she used to be a call girl who now suffers from Aids. Since Ibrahim is British, I wanted to adopt an authentic accent but Javed said the audience may not get it. I got help from Raana Khan, a make-up artist who specialises in fashion shoots, and she created Ibrahim’s look by giving me thick lips, black complexion and dreadlocks. I remember going onto the set when the film was being shot. I covered myself in a chadar and everyone looked at me saying, ‘what is this coming.’ It took a while for everyone to digest my appearance because they all felt that it was as close to a black-British woman as it should get. Javed liked it but wanted me to tone it down. I agreed with his logic that my character has to be palatable for viewers who are relatively unexposed. I wanted Javed to hire Khan but the production company had budgetary constraints. Production houses hire make-up artists who do their work in bulk, charging much lower prices. Thus, I had to compromise on my look which was created using mediocre products. So occasionally I do feel helpless. But on my Facebook page, none of my fans has picked out the discrepancy in the accent and make-up. I guess viewers are more interested in the story.”
Partition Stories: Gurmukh Singh Ki Wasiyat Telefilm — 2007 Based on a short story by Saadat Hasan Manto Director: Sharjeel Baloch Tagline: A play on the trauma of Partition