There are a few prominent names in the Assamese film scenario whose name is synonymous with the entire industry and Zerifa Wahid is one such name. She has innumerable movies to her credit, many of which have claimed national recognition.
Team VibesMojo had a chance to interact with her and here are the edited excerpts of the interview :
VM: At the very outset we would like to know, did you ever think that you’d take acting as your career?
ZW: Not at all though I joined the film industry when I was a child. I was in school and I didn’t have any idea about cinema or acting. It was at a family get together that some people from the Assamese film industry spotted me and the next thing I know, I was acting in films as a child actor, so it wasn’t at all a planned move from my side.
VM: You have worked in several films. Have you ever come across a situation when a character for your next film sounded just the same like the one you had just finished playing in the earlier movie?
ZW: Yeah, it happens. It has happened in my initial days, but as young actors you do not pretty much realise such things. You tend to be ignorant. We never used to be aware that you need to give different colors and shades to different characters or emote differently while enacting similar characters which you have already played in an earlier movie. So, that was ignorance and ignorance is not always a bliss (and she laughs). But, I think from 2007 onward, when I started with this film called Ahir Bhairav, where I was playing the role of a schizophrenic person that Bidyut Chakraborty, the associate director of the movie told me, Zerifa you have to internalise the character. If I do not do that then the audience would see the character as some insane person or a person with some mental disability. The movie was directed by the very popular director, Siva Prasad Thakur and it was a great learning experience. From then onward, I started realising that yes, every character has nuances, every character needs to be treated differently because every character is a different person altogether. So two people might look similar or might appear to be similar, but both the characters will have different kind of shades attached to it. So now I try my level best not to repeat characters. Like recently, Bhoga Khirikee, which is directed by Padma Bhushan awardee Jahnu Barua, I played a role in the movie and soon after that I got an offer from a fresh young director to act in his movie. And the character he was offering me sounded very similar to the role I played in Bhoga Khirikee. Finally I had to tell the director that I am sorry I will not be able to play the role. Nowadays, I try my best not to play similar characters.
VM: Talking about Bhoga Khirikee, can you share some interesting tidbits, some behind the scene moments.
ZW: First of all, it was a lot fun. There was a lot of discipline during the shooting period, great production, its obvious because Jahnu Barua Sir was there. And you know, he’s always smiling. He’s a sweet person, you’ll just see him smiling and welcoming everyone on the set. He is not the kind of person who will give you tension. He will never throw his weight around or show off that he is a very senior director or a very serious person and so everyone be very serious. You do your homework properly, you do your work properly on the set, and everything is fine and you can have a lot of fun, especially when actors like Seema Biswas is there. She was always cooking for us. Whenever she used to get some time, she used to just cook. We had a vegetable garden for the crew and production team. When shooting got over, all the vegetables were there, and we had to consume all. Seema was always inside the vegetable garden, plucking out herbs and vegetables, and she would make nice salads for us. There was another funny part during the shooting. We had a lot of lip-locking scenes, so it was very funny because you know Joy Kashyap, my co-star in the movie, used to get very nervous and he was unable to perform the scene. When asked why he used to tell me that he respects me a lot so he cannot do such kissing scenes. I used to complain to Jahnu Da that Joy is not doing it properly. So it appeared like as if I was very desperate, desperate to kiss the actor while actually, it wasn’t like that at all. It was so much fun and we did everything quite convincingly and I hope the audience found our performance convincing enough.
VM: Talking about your future projects, what’s in your pipeline?
ZW: I have three very important projects coming up. Two of them are going to hit the floor very soon, but one after the other. One I’m targeting somewhere in April or May, one in September, and the next one is somebody else’s, so I can’t say the date. But before that, I want to do my play, because we do one stage production every year. I have to continue with the tradition of launching one stage production every year. We do one play and repeat it as much as we can. So that will be the new production for 2020. The theatre production banner is under my name, its called Zerifa Wahid Production, I feel so shy to take my name (giggles away). I feel very shy. But anyway, so we are like almost 10 to 11 years old now and we have been doing one production every year. So that is one important thing which is coming in 2020.
VM: What advice would you give to yourself if you were young?
ZW: Okay, I should have been more careful when I was doing all the nice blockbusters where I used to be little plump and I was too young to even know what is plump and what is not. And yeah, I should have been with better costumes and less of makeup. I had a lot of bad makeup days when I had a lot of eye shadows. I see these in my earlier films. I’m saying sorry to my audience for the bad make-up that I did. And yeah, I had a wish — if I could go back in time I wish I could have been slimmer. Another thing I would have told my younger self is less makeup or absolutely no makeup because we had lovely skin and we didn’t give importance to that. So the young people, you have lovely skin, and please do not use too much makeup. Drink a lot of water, go to the set, do a lot of physical exercises, you know everything will look so fine. I was a good student who used to study a lot during exams. And my dad used to always complain that the whole year I never used to study but just before the exams I would stay up till 4 am and study. So I would like to tell our younger generation that study throughout the year so that you do not have to miss on your sleep and study whole night just ahead of exams.
Zerifa debuted as a child actor in the Assamese feature film Abhimaan in 1990. Since then, Zerifa has come a long way. She is the first actor from Assam to win best actress in Filmfare Awards East 2014 for her role in Dwaar. For the movie Agnisakshi she bagged the Best Actor in a leading Role Female title in The State Film Awards.
She has made her mark in the world of theatre. Zerifa has acted and produced well-known stage plays like Girish Karnad’s The Fire And The Rain, the Assamese version of which was named Agnibrishti, British dramatist’s Peter Shaffer’s Five Finger Exercise, the Assamese adaptation of which was named Pancharatna, Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala etc. Nagamandala was selected in the Mahrindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2012 with ten nominations and was staged in Delhi in 2012.