Thursday, February 22, 2024

‘Shah Rukh Khan taught me to use my self-doubt as fuel to get better’

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Actress Aaliyah Qureishi, who’s already making waves for sharing screen with King Khan himself in Jawan, gets candid with The Pioneer sharing about getting on board for the project, working with the biggest stars of the industry, desire to work down South, and more.

Tejal Sinha

Who wouldn’t have dreamt for once in their lives of getting ‘just one jhalak’ of the KING KHAN? So did Aaliyah Qureishi, too. But hey, guess what? Her dream turned out to be much in sooth that she got to share the screen with Shah Rukh Khan himself. Doesn’t that make you feel like, ‘Damnnn girl what luck!!!!’ Well, for her, it felt like a weird dream of not only doing an SRK film but also the highest single-day grossing film of all time.

Wondered how she got in to be a part of Jawan’s girl squad? Here you go, the budding star who plays the character of Janvi recalls, “I was looking for work around that time, so, among other people, I rang a call to a casting agent from the Mukesh Chabbra Casting and asked if there were any projects I could test for. He informed me about a role in a Red Chillies film for which I could audition. I prepared the scene and went in (the scene isn’t even actually in the movie, Atlee sir wrote it to audition the girls in the squad) and it ended up being a really powerful scene. A week later I got a call that the director wants to meet me so I went to the Red Chillies office and met Atlee sir and his wife Priya.” As she met the director, he asked her a He asked me a few questions like if she had earlier done any sort of fighting training(she did do boxing for a year), or if she was willing to drastically change her hairstyle. And then, after a few days, she got a call from the casting that she was locked, and indeed Aaliyah had the best moment of her life.

Apart from his charm, one thing everyone adores about him is his work ethic, and so did she, which inspires her to be better at her craft every day. Being a part of such a massive movie-A surreal experience indeed! “I’m still not entirely sure what’s happening but I’m trying to stay present and enjoy the ride. You only get your first release once and I want to savor every moment,” shares the beauty. Another thing that not just his fans but the whole film fraternity as a whole idolise is the way he approaches his work with humility and authenticity. Even though he’s the biggest superstar, Aaliyah shares how he always bows to his director’s vision and the film’s requirements and manages to stay calm in the middle of a storm. In fact, every time that she felt scared to perform a stunt in the film, she says she would just look at him doing it so well at his age and get inspired to push herself.

Working with such an ensemble cast was surely like a cherry on the cake experience for her. And so going ahead, she recalls the learnings she got to garner from the Baadshah, Vijay Sethupathi, Atlee, and the very talented Nayantara. Beginning with she says, “Shah Rukh sir once told me “I’m never happy with my performance because it pushes me to be better and better. If I ever become happy with my acting it will become boring.” He likened it to dealing cards and taught me to use my self-doubt as fuel to get better. From Vijay Sethupati sir, I learned how to command a certain power while acting. Every time I had a scene with him I would get chills because his naturalism and gravitas is magical. He is also so humble about his craft, and would sometimes get an acting coach on set to help him approach the scene in a new way. Even though everyone else thought he was brilliant he always wanted to give a better or different take.”

She further continues, “From Atlee Sir, I have learned how to overcome challenges and only let them make you stronger. He had such a heavy burden to bear as he was the captain of this massive ship, and at times I could tell he was overwhelmed and he wasn’t sleeping much. But he used all of the challenges he faced and made it into something beautiful. And talking of Nayantara, I learned how to be strong and stand your ground. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, she must have had to face a lot but she came out of it strong and graceful and with her morals, about which she is uncompromising.”

SRK’s girl squad did not only share a great bond on-screen but also off-screen. So much so that they got along since the first schedule and made a WhatsApp group called Good to go Chief!!, which to date is active with the funniest memes, inside jokes, and stickers. Not only does she feel grateful to have them on set, but also shares how Sanya, Priya Mani, and Girija never made the newbies feel like they were above. Going ahead in the convo, Aaliyah reveals writing out a backstory for her character Janvi. And for her, doing her character work helps her to connect to the character on a deeper level and know what she’s fighting for when in a scene. She also went on to credit the director stating that how Atlee is a visionary, and once she understood his vision, it was fun for her to deliver the style of acting he wanted.

The filmmaker and the cast including the best of the best South actors; how could the ‘South Prajalu’ be calm? Major Major Super Major buzz the film had indeed! And thus, with great zeal, she enthuses, “All the south actors I worked with on this film have been awesome. Vijay, Sethupati sir, Priya Mani, Nayantara, and Yogi Babu were all brilliant and it was great fun working with them. I would love to do another South film. When I was recently in Chennai for Jawan promotions, I loved the vibe of the crowd. They are such a warm and passionate audience, and I am grateful for their love.”

Jawan is not just about actions and fights, but equally brings major light on women empowerment as its core. In fact, SRK shared in his #AskSRK session that ‘Jawan’ is about empowering women and fighting for their rights. “He really respects women and I think that comes through beautifully in this film. I think it is the first action film in this country that has so many women doing such awesome action. It shows women in a strong light – as fighters- as well as in a soft light – as mothers, daughters, lovers. Essentially it shows us that women are already powerful – we just have to step into our power and take what’s ours,” enthuses the blossoming beauty, who, being a professional musician recently released her song Don’t Come Back, is also working on an OTT show which is set for a year-end release.

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