By Shikha Sreenivas
Sixteen-year-old actress Zaira Wasim, who played the younger Geeta Phogat in the film Dangal, has been caught in a complex web of politics.
On Tuesday, in a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Zaira wrote: “I want to apologise to all those people who I have unintentionally hurt, and I want them to know that I understand their sentiments behind it especially considering what had happened over the past six months.” This was assumed to be a response after she met with Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday. The “last six months” could refer to violence and the banning of press that the state has faced in the last year.
She went on to explain that even as she is being projected as a role model for Kashmiri youth, she doesn’t want to be one, as she isn’t proud of what she’s doing, and that there are “real models out there, whether they be in this time or in history”.
Traditional and social media reacted to this Facebook post, assuming that it was a forced apology. Some other reports say that there is no evidence of her having been trolled at all — that these posts containing abuse and threats do not exist.
She later claimed in another Facebook post, which was also deleted, that it wasn’t meant against anyone. “Again and again I am telling people that I have not been forced into anything by anyone. This was post was not meant against anyone, just wanted to make sure that people were not hurt by what I was doing.” A spokesperson for Hurriyat told the Mumbai Mirror that they do not believe in threatening people, and that national media blames separatists all the time.
It’s evident from her first Facebook post that Zaira is a young actor in a difficult position. With Dangal she rose to recognition across the country, especially as a symbol of nationalism because of the tone of the film. But her home state Kashmir saw violent protests in 2016, post Burhan Wani’s death — curfew was then imposed in the Valley.
Zaira could simply be afraid of her political and social power as an actress (and the possibility of being considered a ‘role model’). The posts could’ve simply been just about this quandary — a conscientious actor voicing her fears and conflicts about the career path she chose.