Seldom is it we get drama serials unafraid of addressing issues we as a society like to brush under the carpet. Magar yahan with Jackson Heights Vasay Chaudhry and Mehreen Jabbar have opened up a veritable Pandora’s Box. From domestic abuse, battered spouses, illegal immigrants, green card marriages, a widespread perception of a luxurious lifestyle abroad, leechar relatives happily mooching off of remittances sent in by hardworking family members, older women falling for younger men, to jalebis taking on human guises, you name it and we see it here. Nothing sugar coated, no fancy wrappings, sab kuch striped down to a gritty uncomfortable reality.
Of all that is highlighted in Jackson Heights, Salma’s domestic situation and her response to Sikander, her husband, and mother-in-law’s physical and emotional abuse has generated a lot of debate and discussion: Waisey kyon, aisey kyon nahin, hai tau kyon hai, agar nahin hai tau kyon nahin??
It was with these kinds of questions in mind that I requested Aamina Sheikh to respond to our queries. Given this was our first experiment with such a format I had no clue as to how it would all play out, but you all were fabulous in terms of asking serious thought provoking questions. For her part, Aamina responded like the superstar that she is. Not only did she consent to this hat ke interview right away, agreeing to take time out of her very busy schedule to respond to our questions, but was fabulous in terms of writing honest detailed answers. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Aamina – you are a truly a rockstar!
Tha jis ka intezaar… I realize you’ve all been waiting anxiously to read Salma’s perspective so here we go:
Aap ke Sawal aur Aamina ke Jawab!
1. Salma, why do you put up with Sikander ? For God’s sake kick him out of your life and stop fretting about emaan , she’s not your headache and I’m sure she will be fine
Your wish in this case is Salma’s command, aye aye captain, look out for what’s coming 😉
2. Why haven’t you told Bhatti sahab about your problems, he’s your friend and I think you should have confided in him .Also why do you not tell Aliya everything ? Why must you always say ke all is ok when it’s not.
Salma’s just not that kind of a girl that would harp on about her problems and let that take over whatever cherished time she has away from her troubles outside of home. Her work, her acquaintances and friendships outside of the home are her solace and by instinct and her personality she is not inclined to use that ‘away’ time thinking, talking and discussing the issues that she deals with at home on a daily basis. Not indulging and overwhelming herself and others with complications helps her to keep a clear head outside of home and helps her through the day and be calm and go with the flow of life. As time goes on, Sikander comes back and a whole new set of issues unfold on a frequent basis, Salma does end up bringing Bhatti and Alia into the loop of her problems, it does happen eventually as she naturally will turn to her closest allies, but again its not something she’s prone to doing as a habit.
3. Can you PLEASE please get a can of pepper spray and use liberally if Sikander tries to do anything next time
Sure ! Perhaps in the sequel 😉 Although it cant be shot in England, cuz I’ve heard pepper spray is banned there! I may be wrong though 😉
Dear Aamina I adore u a lot. U r my most fav actress ever. I havent seen anybody act the way u do. U r so real in wateva u play.From the tym zindagi channel has bn started in India I havent missed a single show of urs. I havent seen jackson heights so dnt knw much abt it. I admire u a lot.
Thank you Shabana! That means the world 🙂 forever grateful for your generous feedback and love !
Just wanted to ask u dat do u have any future plans ta act in Hindi movies?? U will rock the bollywood industry for sure
Thank you for the vote of confidence 🙂 I hope to go wherever great work takes me and one is never certain where the goodness will come from, so lets all hope for the best 🙂 all my love !
Hi Aamina, a big fan of urs from India, since Zindagi started airing pak shows here 🙂 and currently watching jackson heights online and absolutely in love with the show and salma 🙂 have couple of questions –
1. the Vibe I so far got from portrayal of salma in salma-bhatti saab (btw Nouman sir and aamina, u both totally rock it ) scenes is that she finds him her humdard but is not romantically inclined towards him? is it true? does salma have any romantic feelings for bhatti saab?
Thank you for the wonderful feedback firstly! As you have seen the development between the two; it all started from being complete strangers to a one sided perusal which annoyed Salma and kept her on her guard to her getting to know him and him lending advise and a window into his own wisdom and life lessons, then him being there for her at several occasion and becoming a confidant in the process. Aliya’s constant approval and teasing did its bit to indicate it becoming more than just a friendship. The lines definitely blurred with time and developed into a meaningful association, Salma, being the person she is, is not one to categorize and give thoughts to romantic perusal especially being in the scenario that she’s in, she wouldn’t want to complicate her life further. But feelings of fondness and care have a way of creeping in when one least expects it and when you get that feeling of warmth in an otherwise cold cold brutal atmosphere, it becomes one’s only source of solace, hope and positivity. It crept up on Salma so much so that when faced with it, she didn’t want to recognize it and label it for fear of the taboo, complication and turmoil it would most likely bring everyone’s way. Our society is the worst when it comes to this topic anyway, any human would be scared to admit that this could be love. But yes it is going in that direction, no matter how much Salma denies it to protect herself and everyone around her.
2. One advice you would give to the domestic violence victims? its a pleasure to watch salma deal with the situation in a mature and strong manner
Its hard to give advice being an outsider to any situation, however, many victims stay in an abusive situation thinking that it will change for the better somehow miraculously or it is in their fate to withstand this and that they are helpless—it is these notions that I would stand against and encourage them to take the reins of their lives into their own hands, choose to get out of a negative situation, take a stand and opt for a different life. Once you take a stand against any negativity, doors of opportunities open themselves. One has to have faith in their choice of a better life.
1. My question is what do you think of the state of Pakistani dramas right now?
I think there are always a few pearls in seasonal tides that flow in, but they shouldn’t be hard to find neither should they be rare because we have what it takes to create a necklace of pearls. At the moment there seems to be a dearth of well-knitted, unique, interesting, sensitive, remarkable, progressive scripts and therefore fewer thinking talent interested in being a part of mediocre, run of the mill work. Artists across the board need to be utilized and presented in newer and more meaningful manner, there is a lot of room for growth, improvement and new-ness so its just a matter of tapping in, taking chances and doing the needful. Mediocrity will always exist, one has to keep striving to rise above.
2. What made you say yes to JH and the character of Salma?
It was that one infrequent gem in a pool of pebbles. It being a multiple track amalgamation of immigrant stories set it apart from all else, the nuances and the drive of the character and the plot around it, margin of performance, a completely new backdrop hence different logistics, a credible and reliable production team, a fantastic combination of versatile, fresh and powerful performers along with a captain of the ship that one trusts and is fond of.
Love Jackson Heights ..portraying the true colours of desi life in North America ..Each and every character seems real except for Salma who at one end is being shown as a hard working lady supporting not only her useless husband and grumpy old saas but also her taking care of her step daughter like her own and on the other side flirting around with another married Pakistani man ..If she s stuck badly in an abusive relationship with Sikandar she should have left him already ….Shes living in US not in Pak where reporting domestic abuse is a complete no no …To me its quite hypocrite of her hiding her flirtation with Bhatti to her husband. ..Its like cheating …An abusive relationship doesn’t give any one the right to start flirting around ..As a Pakistani living abroad myself for 14 years never encounterd any Pakistani woman who flirts with another married man comfertably like Salma …and still being portrayed mazloom and bechari … she has already got a female friend Aaliya to discuss her problems including her abusive husband and his criminal past. .Why in the world she needs a “male Pakistani already married fellow” to hang out in parks and celebrates his birthday ,giving and accepting presents from him, even eating cake from his hands?? No typical Pakistani woman who is already going through enough stress and hard work have this much time to “flirt ” and yes again i will say “flirting ” around ….Totally crap character. ..
After watching Jan 9th episode absolutely no sympathy with Salma …If you opt to keep on living in an abusive household with a minor you are putting your and the minor’s life at risk by your hands .Should have gone to ask for a restrsining order immediately. …This is the legal and wise way to solve this problem and thats why there are shelters and family case workers are in US …Shame on Salma for not adopting the right step for Whatever reason ..
BTW Amina Shaikh …simply love your acting in today’s episode ..Keep doing the great work …I love Ali Kazmi (Sikandar) ”s acting too ..hats off to director Mehreen Jabbar for the best characterization
Thank you for your honest feedback and telling us how you perceive the character and her actions and what they mean to you as a viewer. As for Salma, she has her own wiring regarding her family ties, which is quite common amongst desi women. It was her beloved father who married her off to his brother’s son due to certain sensitivities, which Salma kept in high regard. Therefore, Salma has not grown up in the US, she came to this foreign land after getting married only to be given complete responsibility of raising a little girl that isn’t even hers. This household was the only connect she started with on her journey in the US. Her father back in Pakistan died soon after thus leaving her no one to go back to let alone finance her in any way. She made this place her home, and this child her own as in a case like this one’s affection naturally is given where it is most needed and appreciated. Salma and Iman’s love is very mutual and when you have raised a child, even if it is not your own, I don’t imagine it to be a bond that one can just forgo without any consequences and loss. Sikander must not have just been an abusive crass individual from the very moment Salma stepped into the US, no, he wasn’t born a villain, things mustve unfolded over time, not instantly. It is over years, over many many instances that Salma mustve become aware of the actual nature of the people around her and each one’s situation. The steps that Salma did take to empower herself were several but they too mustve taken time and reconciliation on everyone’s part for example, getting a job, managing Iman with the job along with the home chores, taking a stand and reporting Sikander which is how he went to jail in the first place and the repeated stances she takes for Iman because no matter what, Salma raised her and loves her like her own. It is all these factors and the intangible complexities of emotions that makes us human, that makes each character flawed and complex, they are simply humans —- plus if Salma was empowered and equipped enough to get a restraining order the first time Sikander abused her—the play would end instantly and there would be no drama ! 😉
Secondly in response to Salma ‘flirting’ and that not being a ‘typical Pakistani woman trait’ – for starters Salma is not a typical Pakistani woman, she obviously has her own uniqueness along with some acquired societal traits. It is a generalization to assume that a typical Pakistani woman would never develop a likeness towards a man who seems to match the ideals of what a man should be when all else around her seems to be failing consistently. Again, Salma is human and not every typical Pakistani woman is in the situation that Salma is in hence no comparison will suffice. Salma and Bhatti’s interaction has been a journey that developed over time and over instances, it wasn’t the kind that instantly took off, and even when they became friends it was something that Salma could not place or categorize and had difficulty understanding what this really was — she’s a kind soul that reciprocates goodness — in her giving back the goodness she received from Bhatti — societal norms are challenged and society immediately categorizes it by calling her actions ‘flirtatious’ and Bhatti as her ‘boyfriend’ — quick to jump to conclusions and quick to attack and quick to compartmentalize and shun, it is exactly this societal reaction that the human-ness of the two characters are faced with and therein lies the drama 🙂
1. Ok I wanted to ask that all this while was just Eman the reason that was not allowing you to step out from this marriage?
For Salma, first it mustve been the innate need to workout ones own problems and have a home and family intact that kept her in her marriage. Not having parents or siblings to turn back to a huge factor that makes one insecure. When all hope failed then Iman was a very strong reason that kept her from getting out of this marriage—but the drama has not ended yet so keep watching for answers !
2. Why is it hard for salma not to share her problems with bhatti sahab but easy to trust him (the jewelery case)
Salma’s just not the kind of woman who likes to discuss her marital issues and home complexities with people in general, its not a question of trust, its just the way she is.
3. also what was the driving force that keep her moving during all those years of abuse and tanturms
Iman – taking care of her, being with her, fulfilling her needs, her happiness, nurturing her —-that was one thing that kept Salma alive, gave her a purpose and the motivation to work and have a life outside of the home front. Also Iman gave her as much love and affection in return throughout her growing up years. Such bonds are always a source of strength.
4. salma is working with Aliya from i guess the time she got married.. How come not even once she gave ear to aaliya’s voice of reason?
Salma does listen to Aaliya and absorbs her reasoning and reactions, she however doesn’t instantly act on it because of her own apprehensions and reasoning. This is not uncommon between friends, one doesn’t always follows a friends advice instantly but one does always value a friend’s opinion and it always has some influence of the other at some point in one’s journey.
5. what made salma to trust sikander this easily after he return back from jail.. I mean those sweets talks or change attitude can b one of the reason but not the only reason, so was tht love towards sikander tht she followed her heart n not used her brain k how come anyone can change just like tht
Sikander had never applied this tactic before and Salma’s priority was still to keep her family intact, so Sikander trying to become a better person was something she would want to give the benefit of the doubt to, atleast once before she loses complete hope.
1. What do you find common in Salma and Amina ?
Simplicity, adaptable, not materialistic, good with basics, hardworking, sincere, can talk back and put people in their place when pushed to do so.
2. Eiman is not your real daughter but Salma adores her;don’t you think it is unusual. I mean loving your husband’s children is other thing and bearing all the abuse’work really hard for them is another thing?
Its not unusual to love a child that you’ve raised like your own. Remember that Iman was completely Salma’s responsibility as a child and it was under her love and guardianship that Iman grew up in. Its not just a one way love there either—Iman reciprocated Salma’s love and nurturing and looks up to her as her mother—they developed a bond over the years which any guardian would full feel strongly for. Regardless of Sikander and the surroundings, Salma & Iman have their own relationship whose strength and sincerity cannot be denied.
1. Overall the story is good and different. but why salma gives too much importance to her step daughter although her husband didn’t consider her as her mother and always think what he is doing for her daughter is best?
Same answer as above.
1. Is it frustrating that most people are criticizing your character for staying in an abusive relationship rather than discussing that domestic violence is wrong?
🙂 no I think there’s a good balance of the two, I’ve actually gotten less of the criticism so I may not be aware of it…but as long as there is a debate, that’s what matters.
2. If not Salma and you had the chance to play another character in JH (regardless of gender) who would you choose?
Bhatti Saab !
3. It has been said female characters in the past have been categorized as “mad bad or sad” do you think Pakistani dramas as a WHOLE are still living in that time-frame?
It’ll be far-fetched to think we’ll get into any bionic futuristic themed drama serial or a desi game of thrones any time soon so yes the mad, bad, sad formula very much prevails as the crux of the plots these days with some very rare and very few exceptions—I think cinema is where we’ll be able to explore beyond such set formulas 🙂
4. In recent times, who’s performance has just blown you away?
Cate Blanchett blows me away. Each time. Period.
5. Is there any actress that you look at and think “thats the level I need/want to be at” or I aspire to be?
6. Whats the best/worst advice you have been given in terms of acting?
Worst: ‘Aankhon ko right left right left gol gol ghumayain zara’— a spontaneous direction someone gave me during a scene.
Best: The sincerity of your performance should come through even on mute !
7. What are New Years resolution? (Please don’t say New Year, New Me! 😉 )
Honestly. I haven’t formally made any !
1 [Loved u and Adeel in Daam n Mora Piya] Any chance of seeing you together here? Salma bumping into Jamshed either in Central Park or at the diner?.. perhaps at Michelle/Jamshed wedding?
Haha those are great ideas ! we had a one second cross over at the salon when Bhatti brings Jamshed over for a haircut, which we thoroughly enjoyed and tried to do in real-time slow motion LOL ! but sadly that is the extent of it.
2. Why didn’t Salma warn Bhatti Sahab about her husband? Surely that would have made things easier for her. I was particularly concerned about her reaction when she was in the park with Sikander and Iman, and Bhatti Sahab turned up. Why did she hide from him that she was with her husband, when they had already decided there was no point meeting each other’s partners?
People do silly things during awkward times. It was just one of those moments when your mind is grappling with the situation but your body needs to take some action instantly and it’s all a jumbled ball of blah. Which in hindsight wasn’t the ideal way to handle it. It happens with all of us, does it not?
3. [Re: ep 17 and Sikander beating up Salma] My question is: did it hurt physically? (because it just looked so soooo real!) & How do scenes like these affect the actor psychologically
Thank you for your concern 🙂 Ali is also my school friend who I was meeting after a decade on this set. He was dreading the beating up scenes and kept saying sorry to me every time he had to act it out and that he couldn’t believe that we were meeting after all this time to act in a physically abusive relationship together ! It was funny also but once we were in it, it had to be done. Ali was very careful and wanted to perform using cheat tactics initially so as not to hurt me but then sadly he had to give me some real ones to fit the bill. Regardless, no animals nor humans were actually hurt or abused throughout the shooting of this serial ! Rest assured all went well 🙂
4. let me be very specific and ask bluntly.. how many bruises did u get? Honestly the way AK had your face in his fist.. uffff!
None ! would you believe it. Ali was very careful and gentle unlike Sikander as you see him !
5. Salma, iitne saal ho gaye shadi ko, why haven’t you got a child of your own? .. I love your relationship with Iman and you have raised her like your own, but apni aulad kion nahin? medical complexities, sikander was never around, sikander didnt want one, or perhaps you didnt want to bring another life into these circumstances.. akhir kion?
All of the above. Salma was the only earning member of the family too and she was trying to make ends meet already. All the factors together contributed to neither of them attempting or expressing any desire for another baby in the house. Good question though because typically it would come up !
1. Aap salma k character say kis hud tak relate kerti hain?…kis hud tak aap oos ko sahi samajhti hain apnay actions / reactions aur decisions mein?
Salma ki saadgi, mehnti hona, insaaf pasad, aur aman pasand tabeeyat say relate karsaktee houn. Jahan tak sahi aur galat ki baat hai, har koi apnay nazarye say sochta aur actions laita hai, Salma ki soorat-e-haal kaafi complicated hai jahan aik aurat shayad America kay qanoon ka support lay kar nijaat haasil karlay lekin Salma kay kuch jazbaati aur muaashratee asar ki waja se who yeh qadam pooray tor par utha nahin paati ya phir us ko aik mazboot hal ki taraf barhnay main kafi soch aur waqt ki zaroorat hai.
2. Bohat say viewers kaa kehna hai Salma kaa character unrealistic hai?. .aap iss per kia kahen gi?
Hur drama, film aur kahani dramatic license laiti hai kahani ko aur interesting karnay kay liye, halan kay hamaray haan is kay baawajood stories haqeeqat se bohot qareeb hoti hain. Jackson Heights kay baaray main bhi main yehi samajhti houn kay realistic hai lekin jaga jaga par dramatic license bhi liya gaya hai.
3. Salma aur Sikendar k relation kaa future kia hai?…kia hum ek logical ending ki terf jaa rahay hain jis mein salma apnay rights k liay struggle kray fight kray yaa phir hamesha ki tra ek sudden dramatic twist k zeriay sikendar salma ki life say hamesha k liay nikal jye gaa?.. aap kis ko prefer kren gi?
Mujhay to ending ka pata hai 🙂 aur aap bhi conclusion ki taraf har hafta barhtay chalay ja rahay hain, sawaal to mujhay yeh aap se poochna chahiye ap ka kiya khayal hai kay kiya ho ga? Aur doosra yeh kay ap kiya chahtay hain kay kiya ho? 🙂
1. Why doesn’t Salma legally adopt Iman?
Because the writer didn’t think of this one! Also I’m not sure about adoption laws being in Salma’s favor when Iman’s biological father and guardian is still alive and Salma being a step-mother. Either way this would be a good thing for concerned viewers to look into for knowledge’s sake. Raises a good point.
1. At what point did you make the decision to play Salma? Was it at some point whilst reading through the script?
After reading the script and discussing with the director and producer, I made the decision to play Salma.
2. What was the toughest part of playing Salma? And what was the toughest scene?
Salma’s scenes with Bhatti needed to be dealt with very sensitively from Salma’s side especially because the development of their relationship was walking a line which became finer and finer as the episodes progressed and it was important to maintain each character’s integrity and at the same time explain the developments and the underlying fondness developing between the two.
The toughest were the beating up scenes as always as its not only performance wise but also technically challenging to get it right.
3. How easy/hard did you find it to come out of the role after shooting
Im pretty good at cutting that character at the ‘CUT’ call of the director. Some characters are more physically and emotionally draining than others but I am very aware of it being a ‘role’ that I’m ‘playing.’ I’m not one of those who get swept away and overwhelmed by their roles so much so that it affects their personal life and blurs the lines of reality. One has to stay true and sincere to their acts when working but once it’s a wrap its back to one’s own reality!
4. What is the one thing you’ve learnt from playing the role of Salma?
One is to not judge people from the outside and second is that there is always a way out, its about what you choose.
5. What do you think Salma’s view would be on finding out that an older lady (Michelle) from her community is married to a younger man (Jamshed)? Seeing as she’s always with Bhatti Saab, (although I cant tell if Salma loves him yet) even though there is a significant age gap between them?
I think Salma has her plate too full to make any judgement call on any one else. Her mind wouldn’t wander that far I don’t think.
6. Which was your favourite episode and favourite scene to shoot?
My favorite scene is yet to come, it is towards the end of the serial when Bhatti comes to Salma’s salon for services. I cant give out the details ! Favorite episode? That’s hard to say—I particularly enjoyed episodes that pushed the plot fiercely forward like a) Sikander’s introduction and revealing his relation to Salma, b) Iman’s introduction and revealing her association with Salma through Bhatti’s surprise! c) the unexpected lashing out of Sikander on Salma, d) Bhatti wiggling his way into Salma’s business and life and many more such unexpected twists and turns in the entire story.
7. Who is your favourite character from Jackson Heights? Apart from yourself lol
1. Hamesha ki tarha Different Role, Outstanding Acting, Zabardast Expressions,,,, Aap ki acting k yehi RANG har CHARACTER ko yun SAJA dety hain, k jessy role bana hi AAP k liye hy,,, iss mei raaz hy kya???
😀 is ka raaz aap hain jo itni mohabbat karti hain aur itni baareeqi se, dil se daikhti hain. Thank you for all your love !
2. Salma mature hoty hoey b (jewelry k liye) achanak sy Sikandar ko change hota dekh k Sikandar ki baaton mei kesy aa gai? Jab k jewelry sy pehly aik baar Sikandar Salma ko maar b chukka hy. Kya aik wife itni foolish hoti hy, k wo Sikandar jesy Husband ki baaton mei itni jaldi aa jaey?
Mujhay lagta hai kay jo ander ka insaan jis par beet rahi hoti hai who logic aur practicality jaantay hoay bhi, emotions aur umeed ko zyaada tarjeeh daita hai kyun kay un ki ander ki chahat yahee hoti hai kay sab theek hojaye aur ghar aur itnay saray rishtay tootay na—haalankay dour bethay banday ko jo bahar say daikh raha hota hai us ko haqeeqat saaf nazar arahi hoti hai. Faraq yeh hai kay dour walay bunday ki koi emotional attachment nahin hoti, us nay apnay saal aur apnay efforts uss relationship main nahin gawaaye hotay, uss ko tootnay ka dukh aur ehsas ki shiddat mehsoos nahin ho sakti jitni us insaan ko jis par beet rahi hoti hai. This is why Salma decides give it a chance because she gave preference to ‘hoping’ for a better change than destroying these ties completely.
3. Salma ko apni job sy hi life aur ghar chalana hy, to phir Salma iss mahool sy alag Q nahi ho jati? America jesi country mei rehty hoey b, apni life ko Q aik Pakistani Aurat jesi life guzar rahi hy? Jis k paas Susral mei rehny k elawa aur koi choice hi nahi….
Salma hai to Pakistan say hee, she grew up in Pakistan, with these cultural and social norms that she is applying in her married life. She went to the US after getting married and it is a fact that because of her father’s death she has no one to come back to in Pakistan and neither does she have any relatives in American. Sikander’s is her family as she was married into her chacha’s house.
So I must say that Salma is not a sympathetic character for me. Several reasons why I find this situation difficult to stomach:
She lives in a place where cops are at the door in minutes and are trained to evaluate domestic violence situations; — yes she lives in that plays but she’s not one of them. She came to the US after her marriage and has grown up in Pakistan where it is not the norm to report anything to the police. She’s not wired as an American as yet.
She’s the earning member of this family and yet has relinquished her self-respect. At least studies indicate that economic status/ability for women helps balance the scales in family power structures;
Are these studies of desi communities? And that too inter-family marriages where the husband is a petty criminal and the mother in law lives with them? I doubt it.
Episodes where it is SHE who raises the jewellery issue (I cringed) when she has lived with Sikander for years and he has returned from jail make Salma look plain stupid.
Wouldn’t it be more painful if she didn’t raise any issue at all and was like a silent sheep of the family? We wouldn’t have a drama in our hands then.
Eimaan is now becoming vocal about this situation. So we are seeing a dysfunctional relationship where the child is assuming the role of the caretaker for the adult.
It is a dysfunctional family. She is playing her part as a product of a dysfunctional relationship. That is what’s being portrayed.
1. So here’s my question: If Salma’s qurbani i.e. enduring the violence, is because of her love for Eimaan, how does she reconcile the fact that this situation and her role in it only gives Eimaan a sad and very likely debilitating example for her own future?
You will see how she reconciles in the conclusion of the serial. And this is a point that Aaliya makes to Salma too.
1. What did you as an actor add to the character, as in what quirks/characteristics/nuances did you give to Salma that would be uniquely yours… something another actress playing Salma wouldn’t necessarily have thought of adding to this character…
I cant say whether another actor would add the same nuances, perhaps more or better ones too—each actor has their own process with their characters and so every one is unique in their execution of it. Only the viewers would be able to assess that. As far as I’m concerned I start by indulging in the character’s general aura, general energy and stance in life, her pace, her body language, her vocal pitch—to what extent would it go to, what extend would she drop to, is she in control of herself or not, how fragile is she. Then I take time to work out her look, her wardrobe, her accessories—is she the kind who would wear the same accessories every day of her life as if that’s all she has and its now an extension of herself. Her hair her clothes, her walk, her demeanor — all of it is thought out and one is mindful of every bit of it when in character.
2. How much freedom or leeway do you as actor have to make or request changes to the script you are handed … are directors open to suggestions from their actors or are you guys supposed to stick to the written word no matter what. So suppose that you know that some stuff that Salma is doing is totally bogus and nobody in their right mind would do what she is being made to do … how then would you deal with such a situation?
It depends on the scriptwriter and the director. Each project is dealt differently. There are writers who will not let you shift a single preposition but then there are those that work around the actor that is cast. In the case of Jackson Heights, the writer Vasay Chaudhry and our director Mehreen Jabbar were all open to the actor’s suggestions and input although we were careful to keep the parameters of the characters in tact and suggest things or tweak things that would enhance the objectives of the scene or if something was just too crass or seemed to be crossing a line or making the vibe uncomfortable we would discuss and come to an agreement on how to make it more appealing and sensitive. In that way Jackson Heights was truly a team effort.
3. I asked you earlier what did Aamina bring to Salma, so now if we were to flip it, what if anything did Salma give/teach Aamina?
No story, no situation is real unless its your own. Its so easy to judge from the outside, but when you’re in it, it’s a whole different ball game. I salute women who manage to free themselves of such situations and start over a new progressive life, there’s nothing in the world like it to fight such a battle and come out as a winner but I also can see how some forgo themselves and submit to their situations thinking that their submission will lead to a better life for their associated loved ones and that they wont be an outcast or misfit in this society – I can see how that in their eyes is more heroic to them and gives them more solace. Salma showed me both sides of the story as she walked that fine line between the two choices and although me, myself as Aamina would always stand up for the former, to take the reigns of life in your own hands and to not stand for any wrongdoings but being Salma taught me how the lines get so grey when you’re the inside person when you are the one at the center of the situation, when it is happening to you — how complex it is, how brave, strong and incredible one needs to be to deal with it all.
4. One last question that many have been wondering about: Chalo Salma tau is abused and battered and a desi woman so lets give her a free pass, but why hasn’t Iman called 911 as yet? Kids in the US are taught from day one to call 911 in case of any emergency, and idhar tau poor Salma keeps getting beaten up but Iman does/says nothing… in the last episode she dialed and even started talking to them but then hung up .. why was there no follow up from the cops or something like that … should we chalk that up to dramatic license or did the writer n director have a well thought out reason for her not calling 911 and no official followup to her botched call ..
Iman keeps expressing how she will call up 911 the next time anything happens and its Salma who discourages her and insists to not do so for their own sake. In the last beat up, Iman does call 911 and its her interference that forces Kash to restrain Sikander—the scene ended right then indicating that Sikander pulled back and Salma fell grasping for breath. A cop’s followup in this situation would not have met any conclusion as things were restrained by the players of the scene themselves and could make any excuse.
And that, my friends, was our interview with Aamina Sheikh, responding to questions about her character Salma. I trust you all must’ve enjoyed reading these very thoughtful answers and appreciated the amount of time and effort she put into her responses. Lets hear it for Aamina Sheikh! Thank you for being such a fab sport!
Compiled and edited by SZ~
Jackson Heights BTS photos by Asim Farooki.
P.S. Many had requested that Aamina make a video as well to go with this post, so for those who were looking for one here, rest assured Aamina is working on it. I will add it here as soon as I receive it.