'It's a fallacy that actors get typecast on Indian television': Shama Sikander

Until yesterday, she was struggling real hard to make her presence felt in the tinsel town. Even shaking a leg with Fardeen Khan in Prem Aggan and Aamir Khan in Mann didn't do any good for her flagging career.

Somewhere down the line, there was a lead role opposite star brother Faisal Khan, which did not have any takers. The film based on the sensitive Godhra riots, did not see the light of the day. Yet the determined Rajasthani dame refused to give up.

But that's all ancient news now. Although Sony Entertainment Television's Yeh Meri Life Hai may not boast of big TRPs at least for now, but the show has done fairly well for this simple yet attractive girl.

Meet Shama Sikander aka Pooja of YMLH in a chat with's Vickey Lalwani.


How did films happen?

I have literally grown watching films! I remember we shifted to Bombay because all my dad's clientele was based here. Dad had a marble business and his main clients were film stars. We started interacting with them, saw their lifestyle and were bowled over by glamour et al. It was then that my dad decided that he wanted me in films.

I was too young then. I merely nodded in agreement and but that planted a seed in my head.


I am surprised. Didn't you guys know the old saying 'Bollywood is a big, bad world'?

We didn't know about it until we started our struggle. There is a big difference between looking at it from distance and actually feeling it. But honestly speaking, I've really been very lucky.

Since my family was there with me all the time, I was not really insecure and desperate to make it big. So, I didn't go through tough and 'dark' routes. My parents always used to go with me to every producer's office (pauses and looks at her nails).


Go on....

Maybe, that's why I didn't get too many films.


Hmmm? disappointed, eh?

Not really. My dad taught me to never ever give up and always said that people will know me one day.


Considering that you first film came long time ago, didn't you ever get tempted to give in and make it to the top?

(Interrupts) Never. Nothing is bigger to me than my family and my culture.


How did 'Yeh Meri Life Hai' happen?

I was getting a few film offers, while I was contemplating on those, Vipul D Shah came up with this serial and narrated the story to me. I liked it and decided to try my hand at television.

I knew Vipul D Shah since long. He had been offering me roles but I had been turning them down. I always thought that once you get into television, you need to dedicate all your time. I wasn't very comfortable with that. But, thankfully, I looked at it from a different perspective when he came to me with YMLH. It was then that I actually looked at what was offered to me. Plus there would be no homework since I just had to play myself. What I needed to add to my act was a bit of Gujju (Gujrati) accent.

'Even 'Sholay' and 'Gaddar' were written off by critics, but we all know what happened after that!'

You are not a Gujju. So, how did you go about adopting the accent?

The accent came naturally to me. Most of the YMLH unit is Gujarati and I know many Gujarati on personal front as well. All I had to do was to observe them.

Also, I have also studied Gujarati for a year in school. So I can read and speak Gujarati. My grandfather used to go to Gujarat, dad had lots of friends there. It wasn't difficult...


But isn't the accent a bit jarring? I mean, we don't see Gujrati college girls (Brought up in Mumbai) speaking with such a prominent accent?

(Interrupts) I don't agree with you at all. I know of Gujju girls in Mumbai, who have studied in English medium schools, and yet speak in a Gujju accent. And don't forget, Pooja (my character) is from a Gujrati medium school.


Do you think 'YMLH' has "really" worked?

Its early days, so you cannot really pass a judgment. Serials need to be given some time before deciding if they are working or not. Personally I think YMLH has "really" worked. So far, so good.

Even Sholay and Gaddar were written off by critics, but we all know what happened after that! Mark my word, YMLH will pick up. Interestingly, till date, not a single person has come up to me and told me that they dislike the show. They just love the show! I expect the TRPs to really shoot up in the future.

'Our ('YMLH') protagonists are so human; they make mistakes but are brave enough to correct them'

Don't you think it's going too linear. There are hardly any twists and turns, there hardly any 'what's next?'

I don't think so.

Plus Sony's programming has been linear- both these shows and even 'Kkehna Hai Kuch Mujhko (now off air) are about a women, who wants to pursue some career, marriage is not the be-all and end-all of life, blah, blah, blah?

Sorry, but I disagree again. All these shows are different. KHKM was about a married woman, who faced problems with her family. Jassi is an ugly duckling concept; she is of the one in a million kind. But Pooja is a normal simple girl, she could be anybody, she could be in every girl, I see so many Pooja Mehtas.

As a viewer and even as an actor, how much does a channel matter. Would 'YMLH' have done better had it been on Star?

I wouldn't like to comment on this. Star is a different channel altogether. The shows that are ruling the TRPs have been on air since three-four years, our serial has just entered the foray and is already generating viewer ship.

A daily soap's growth is gradual. And I have seen so many people shift from Star to Sony because of our show. They say it is fresh, not like the same old saas bahu stuff. It is a very realistic show, there "are" girls like Annie, who harass people for no reason, there "are" girls like Pooja, there "are" fathers like Rasiklal Mehta. Other serials seem like dreams. Our protagonists are so human; they make mistakes but are brave enough to correct them.

Films are a different media where you do just a few scenes in a day. Do you have problems with memorizing lines for so many scenes every day?

No problems with lines.

Wouldn't you prefer if you are given your dialogues before hand?

Who wouldn't? But it's okay. I don't know the dialogues in advance, but the changes in the screenplay for the next 20-30 episodes are told to me. I know the graph- what route the serial will be charting in the future.


Does 'YMLH' have a definite length or is it one of those never-ending types?

It depends on how people react to it as the days roll by.

Why don't you take up some other serial as well?

I don't want to do more than one serial at a time. I want do good work and take adequate rest. I don't want strain myself for 30 days in a month and start looking haggard. I am already shooting for 20-25 days in a month. Plus I am contracted to Sony.

Are you a method actor?

Do I seem so? (smiles) No. I believe that acting has to be spontaneous; I can never do methodical acting. I can't be very dramatic. I hate making faces, shrieking, et al.

I associate with YMLH and can easily get into the skin of the character. When it comes to doing roles where I won't be able to associate myself to real life situations, I'll see what is to be done.

'Ladies come up to me and say that they want their daughter to be like me'

Do you fear that you may be now typecast in similar plain roles?

I don't think so. It's a fallacy that actors get typecast on Indian television. In fact, it has not been proved as yet. The media continues to speculate that such and such actor will not be able to do any other role.

If the actor is good and he/she gets an opportunity, he/she can definitely excel. It's just that the shows go on for a long time and that leaves an actor with very little time to do more shows.


Are you open to movies now, I mean, after 'YMLH'?

I am, but only if it's really exciting. I have become really choosy, the set up should be comfortable, the role should be good.

Everybody says the same. All I am saying is that will you be comfortable doing the kind of roles that today's Meghnas, Nehas and Mallikas are doing?

(Smiles) That's precisely the reason why I am very choosy. In films, I want to do something meaningful nice and decent.

Post YMLH, people have started relating to me. Several ladies come up to me and say that they want their daughter to be like me, even young girls come to me saying they want be like me. It's such a victory, especially if and when it happens in metros.
Future plans?

Any amount of space would not be enough to pen them. I dream big, I have the whole world in front of me (smiles).

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