The Press Club of Mumbai is very similar to the Press Club back in Karachi. It all just feels like home!" opens Aamina Sheikh, a well-admired actor and model from Pakistan. Aamina is the protagonist of the only Pakistani film that was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival, Josh (Against The Grain), and that meant Aamina had to be in India and she made it after all the visa wrangling.
Her first visit to the country ever, the excitement is palpable in her voice when she recalls her first evening in Mumbai, "The first event I attended was the opening ceremony of the Mumbai Film Festival and I got to meet notable people from the industry like Anupam Kher, Kirron Kher, Manisha Koirala and Sridevi." She sounds suitably mellow talking of how the screening of her film (which was held on October 22) didn't see many actors turning up owing to Yash Chopra's passing away. "It was morose. Not many notables from the industry turned up especially considering Yashji was one of the trustees of MAMI." But then she cheers up and says, "Despite that the movie saw about 60% to 75% of the expected audience turning up for the screening." And the praises that followed the screening made it all worth it.
"Generally, when a film's screened at a film festival, you get asked a lot of questions during the discussion that follows, about why the movie was made and the like, but this time around we had people thanking us for making the film. We had people telling us, "Thank you for showing us a side of Pakistan that we didn't know about." And that reaction, Aamina reveals, was part of the motive of making Josh. "We wanted to shed the stereotype that people have about Pakistan. We wanted to show them the life that we have lead there and how similar it really is."
Focussing on the film now, she chooses to talk about what attracted her to the film. "Iram (the director of the film) had worked on the script for three years before she went about looking for the cast. When she explained the role of Fatima to me, it appealed to me for a couple of reasons. For one, my character is the backbone of the film. So, though the film has an ensemble cast, the characters are connected through Fatima. Besides that, I took up the movie because the story is relevant to Pakistan and I knew that in Iram's hands it would be treated well and not be made into an artsy or indie film."
Recalling the shooting experience, she says, "It was a difficult experience but more than ourselves, we (the cast and crew) were more worried for Iram. It was the first time she was shooting a feature film in Pakistan and so we were guiding her and looking out for her."
Sitting in Mumbai, Aamina talks about growing up on Bollywood films. So, naturally, we quiz her if she'd be open to doing a Bollywood film. "Absolutely," she says unflinchingly and adds, "What is important for me is that the story has to hit me in my soul. If it feels right by my instinct, I'll do it." But then she ponders a little more and wisely states, "As actors, we have to rise above boundaries and geographical locations. We should be international actors. For me, whether the film is from Zimbabwe, Hollywood or Bollywood, it doesn't matter. As long as it helps me reach out to people, I am open to any opportunity."