Zerifa Wahid, an ambassador of happiness, and an accomplished actress, producer and a lawyer, had never dreamt of getting into the field of acting. It happened to her as a sweet yet successful serendipity. And, as no one’s fate or destiny can’t be controlled, hers too was unbound. This destiny’s child who had never planned of diving into the field of acting, debuted as a child artist in Abhimaan (1990). Since then, there has been no looking back. She has studied & acted, simultaneously. Some of her prominent movies include Baandhon (which won 60th National Film Awards for Best Assamese Feature Film and Best Film - Indian Film Festival, Bengaluru, 2012); Kothanodi (which won 63rd National Film Awards for Best Assamese Feature Film); Dwaar (which won the first Filmfare Award East, 2014, for Best Actress) and more.
This Assamese food lover is also fond of reading The Last Lecture, P.S I Love You and The Alchemist. This avid reader is very particular about academics, once a topper in the Guwahati University, emphasizes that before venturing into acting, completing basic education is necessary to ace the competition. She also believes in extending a reason of happiness to as many people, in whatever possible way (be it in a small or big fashion). There is much more this dynamic woman, in this interaction.
Tell us about yourself.
My family consists of my mother, father, elder sister and me. My father retired as an officer in the Gauhati High Court and my mother used to be a business woman running her ancestral hotel business in North Lakhimpur. They are a very non-filmy set of parents. They never count the number of films I am working in. However, they want me to work in meaningful cinemas and contribute to the culture of the stage performance. I did my schooling from Nichol's High School. I pursued my graduation from the Cotton College, Guwahati and post graduation studies in History, from Delhi University. I'm also a Law graduate, from Delhi University.
You got into the acting career at a very tender age. Was it your dream to be an actress? To what extent your acting career has led you to compromise with your studies?
No, it wasn't a dream at all. I had never imagined that I will be diving into the field of acting someday. It was a co-incidence. Many years back, a film unit was looking for a child actress. They spotted me in a family get-together and that's how I was selected for the role.
I never used to compromise with my studies. I used to carry my books to the shooting location and study there as well. Even the directors I have worked with, used to cooperate a lot. Whenever I wasn't giving my shot, I used to get a separate room to study.
The entire film unit has been very supportive, especially, during my exams when I was also shooting simultaneously. This went on till graduation, studies and shooting went hand-in-hand. I topped in the Guwahati University in my subject.
“Ahir Bhairav”, is the first Assamese feature film to be entirely shot in London. How was your experience?
Ahir Bhairav was the last film of the Director, Shiva Prasad Thakur, a legendary film maker of Assam. I did not face any difficulties while shooting as he had planned everything very tactfully, meticulously and took due care while shooting. It was a nice experience to work in a beautiful city like, London. It was winter. The film wasn't a romantic one, but the whole atmosphere was so romantic that our mood never ceased to be happy. Immediately after the shoot, we used to explore different places of London. After finishing our work, we used to wonder about.
Is there any upcoming film venture in your basket?
We will be shooting a film soon, but officially, I can't declare about the movie right now. Let’s wait for the right time.
Out of all the roles that you have played, which one enjoyed the most or could connect with, and why?
Well, it's difficult to connect sometimes because the characters are so different from an “individual-you” in real life. There hasn't been any connection as characters, but yes, I could relate to the emotions of the characters. I could relate to the emotions of Radhika in Raag as she used to be a kind-hearted, compassionate and a lonely woman. But at the same time, she was also very confident of herself and tried to help people in their difficult times. I really liked the balance in her character. My co-star Adil Hussain has guided me all the time. I also want to thank Rajni Basumatary for her guidance and love. She has helped me in my work thoroughly and throughout the shoot. This memory will always stay close to my heart.
Also, I enjoyed doing the character of Manasi in the movie Dwaar, Bidyut Chakravarty's last Directorial film, which won us the Filmfare Award in the Best Actress category. The character of Manasi was also a balanced character and a perfect example of a modern woman, who balances her home and career perfectly. Manasi bought me a lot of appreciation. I'm grateful to Late Bidyut Chakravarty for choosing me to play this role.
I played a negative role in Kothanodi. It was a learning experience for me, and enjoyed it a lot.
Tell us more about the role you played in Kothanodi and which was your favorite part in the movie?
Kothanodi is a movie based on the short stories, Burhi Aair Xadhu, written by the Assamese literary legend, Lakshminath Bezbaruah. I played the role of Tezimola's step mother, who was very wicked and of evil-nature. I didn't try to look ugly or do a lot of physical activities to show my wickedness in the film. All I did was trying hard to play the character by internalizing it (feeling from within). For example, some people are quiet and calm, but are evil within. They have a beautiful face, but the beauty doesn't reflect in a true sense.
My favorite part of the movie was when I killed Tezimola (my step-daughter). It was very difficult for me as we shot the entire scene in 4 days. It was shivering cold in Majuli at that time.
We started shooting at night & continued till 4 am. Physically, the scenes were difficult. However, the scene turned out so beautifully that one will not feel that it was shot over a period of 4 days. I admire the way Kasavi, a child actress who played the step-daughter. She was amazing & very supportive.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
In the coming three years, I want to work more as an actor because I have started understanding acting better and more. All the films that I have done like Baandhon, directed by Jahnu Barua and others have been very different, which gave me ample opportunity to explore my acting abilities. I want to grow or become mature as an actor. I have accepted some good offers recently. Three years down the line, you will see me in the path-breaking movies for sure. Also, I want to focus my efforts on film production works concurrently. And, I'm quite serious about it. Therefore, you will also get to see me producing some good films in this period.
Given a chance to work in Bollywood, what genre of movies would you like to work in and with whom?
I would definitely love to work with Aamir Khan and Nawazuddin Siddique. I want to do some reality-based movies, like Kahaani of Vidya Balan (where the women's character portrayal is strong and engrossing); English Vinglish of Sreedevi. Though I am still not that mature to play the character of Sreedevi, however, if given a chance, I would love to try & work in inspiring films.
Of all the directors you have worked with, who is your favorite one?
Fortunately, every director I have worked with, has loved & pampered me a lot, and I will always appreciate this gesture.
However, my favourite director has always been Late Bidyut Chakravarty because he was like a fatherly figure, mentor, in fact, he was everything for me. He has shared all his secrets of good acting skills with me. I just love him from the bottom of my heart. His advices and lessons are something to treasure and adhere. I will always follow his footsteps in my life.
Also, it goes without saying that the directors like Rajni Basumatary, Bhaskar Hazarika, Manju Bora who love me a lot make me wish to work with them again and again.
Share a few words for those aspiring to make a foray into the genre of acting.
Firstly (and most importantly), I would suggest them to complete their basic education, which is immensely important. Now, the world has become more competitive, therefore, one must know the level of maturity required to get into the acting profession as it is a creative world after all.
Also, I will advise the acting aspirants to follow their heart before diving into this career. If you feel that you are good at acting, then first set the criteria right. If you aren't ready for it, don't jump into it. Your basic education combined with the maturity to take decisions will have better impact. Your academic background will get reflected whenever you will facing any difficulty.
. Favourite Assamese Actor/ Actress: I love Mridula Baruah, Vidya Rao, Biju Phukan, and Dr. Hadi Alom Bora
. Favourite Food: Traditional Assamese and continental cuisines
. Favourite Book: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch P.S I Love You, and The Alchemist
. Motto in life: Work till you achieve something higher and meaningful in life
Any message for your readers?
We should try to make the world a better place to live in, without being a troublemaker. Even small gestures matter, like helping someone cross the road, which is a big gesture in today's busy world; try to bring a little bit of a smile to everybody's face and more.
In fact, we should make it our mission to make others happy in whatever way we can. In a nutshell, be a person who would add on to the happiness rather than doing something negative.
Your life and achievements pose an example for many. Please share a few words for the women.
Women should believe in God, and themselves, and stay connected with the spiritual self. Once you are strong within, nothing on this planet can destroy or discourage you from achieving what you aspire for.
If your effort is right and worthwhile, you will automatically connect with the God and oneself, because you are not lying to yourself then.
I am also a lawyer by profession, but sometimes this profession takes a back seat when I am producing a play or acting in a film. But I try my best to fulfill the efforts required in both the professions. Instead of telling the world that you are doing something good, respect or accept me, you need to accept yourselves first. Whatever we do, in our respective profession should have some kind of positive influence on the society.