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Actor, model and voice-over artist Aisha Ahmed is no longer a stranger to fame. In the last few years, she has carved her niche in an industry that is difficult to break through. Whether it’s her character Nikhat Rizvi in Adulting or Amreen Mirza in Chhaju Ke Dahi Bhalle, what strikes you is her earnestness and the honesty with which she approaches every role. That’s a quality that shines through, even while having a conversation with her.
In an industry that often puts undue pressure on celebrities to be a certain way, Aisha is like a breath of fresh air. There’s no pretense or superficiality, and even during uncomfortable conversations, she doesn’t try to put across a different picture.
In a no holds barred conversation with Health Shots, Aisha opens up about being brought up by a single parent and how being surrounded by strong women has shaped her identity. She also has a pertinent piece of advice for women and young girls!
Aisha is the daughter of actor Rukhsar Rehman, who has appeared in films opposite Aditya Pancholi and Rishi Kapoor. She has also featured in critically-acclaimed films like Sarkar, PK and Shaitan. Being a single mother, Rukhsar had to take care of Aisha, and spent most of her time looking for work in Mumbai.
At that point, Aisha was in Rampur under the care of her grandparents.
“I think that was the best decision my mother took, and I will always be grateful for that. I was on a 365-day vacation, because you know how grandparents are — they spoil you to the hilt! So, my nani played my mother. I would literally complain about my nani to my mom. I think as a child and even now, I have had no regrets, because my nani and my mother were always transparent with me about what happened with my father and their side of the family. My mother always treated me like a grown-up individual. If I had issues, I would always discuss it with my mother. Yes, she wasn’t physically around me, but we would speak every day, and she would make everything so simple for me,” she adds.
Aisha recalls an instance that had left her mortified, sometime when she was back in boarding school. It was her mother’s reaction that helped her understand the bigger picture, and until today, she follows the same approach.
“After my nani passed away, I was in a boarding school. I still remember someone in the boy’s toilet wrote, “Save water, have a shower with Rukhsar’s daughter”. I was a child, and it affected me so much. At that point, I didn’t really know how to handle this kind of bullying between girls and boys. I remember calling up my mother, and she asked me to explain to her what exactly happened. When I did, she started laughing, and just listening to her laugh made me realise that it’s such a silly thing. It’s not the end of the world,” says Aisha.
Aisha believes because her mother has always struck the right balance in her parenting that she never felt the absence of a male entity in her life.
“I have been around women all my life. When I was growing up in Rampur, I hung out with older girls and women in the mohalla, we would not pick and choose who we would speak with. On certain days, I would be sitting with my nani and her 50-year-old friends discussing how their life is so difficult, on another day I was with a 16-year-old, when I was only 10. I would also find myself being around my mom and her friends, and hearing their issues. I think all that has had a huge impact on me,” admits Aisha.
She believes that even today, it is some of the strongest women in her life — her mom, her nani and even her aunt — who have helped shape her identity.
“They have done everything for themselves, they have earned for themselves, they have made a beautiful home for themselves, it truly is a blessing. Women do know how to handle emotions and way of life very easily; that balance is there. I have that in me, when I am going through something, I like to solve it myself, I want to earn for myself and my family, which came at a very young age, because of the women I was surrounded with always,” adds Aisha.
Aisha had no plans to become an actor, because in her own words, she was never a filmy child.
“I was never that child who would sit in front of the TV and imitate actresses, I would never know anything about what films are releasing, nothing at all. Even after my boarding school, I came back to Bombay, started going to college at Mithibai, and my family wanted to figure out what I was more inclined towards,” she reveals.
It was then that her step-dad advised her to join an acting workshop, and if not anything else, meet people. During the acting workshop, Aisha realised how much she enjoyed it, and how acting came to her “naturally.”
“My mom said this is a decision you are making for yourself, it is a very difficult field, and at no point do I want you to turn around and say you never warned me. I thought kitna hi difficult hoga, and when I turned 20-21, got into the industry, and that’s when I realised this is what she meant. But by that time, I started enjoying it. I think at this point, I am just so happy it happened to me,” says Aisha.
“I am so against the fact that social media has given access to your favourite celebrities. I like how it was in earlier times, you like celebrities from afar, you like them for their work and I think that was beautiful. It was also much better for those celebrities to turn into different characters in every film they would be a part of. Now, people think a person is like this in real life also, so let’s ask them for something similar in reel life. That being said, my presence is on social media and that’s how I made my career,” says Aisha.
Growing access to celebrities today has also led to widespread trolling and hate comments. Aisha feels it doesn’t trouble her much, except for times when people write “disturbing comments” about her mother.
“I see a lot of negativity around me. There are some female creators and actresses who get really bad comments, and they get affected by it, but it has never affected me. Going back to the memory when that comment was written in the boy’s toilet and my mom laughed it off, I think I have learnt most of that from my mother. She says that if someone says something, it doesn’t mean it is right, and people will always say things. All the women I know in my life and have grown up with have always done something unconventional, all of them have been fighters, either single parents or single women after their divorces, so I have seen those women standing up for themselves and building a life. So, I feel I face nothing,” she adds.
“I want to tell all the young girls, something that I have learnt very recently is that the world will change, the people around you are going to change, and people will tell you what girls should do or shouldn’t, but girls must remember that their body is very important. We overlook the fact that we need to visit a gynae very regularly, but we need it to keep our health in check. I have learnt it the hard way, with PCOD. A woman’s anatomy is a little more complicated than a man. I want to urge everyone to take care of their health more seriously than anything else,” says Aisha, signing off.