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Zaira Wasim’s decision to quit acting triggers debate

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New Delhi, Jul 01: Kashmir-born “Dangal” actor Zaira Wasim’s decision to quit films, on grounds that her work interfered with her faith, has triggered debate in political circles with some leaders saying she is entitled to make her choice while others claimed her remarks may give “fodder to bigots”.

The National Award winning actor on Sunday announced her “disassociation” from the field of acting, saying she was not happy with the line of work as it interfered with her faith and religion.

Several politicians such as National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, Congress leader Milind Deora, and Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi weighed in on her decision and the reasons for it.

Abdullah said no one had the right to question Wasim’s decision.

“Who are any of us to question @ZairaWasimmm’s choices? It’s her life to do with as she pleases. All I will do is wish her well & hope that what ever she does makes her happy,” he said on Twitter.

Surjewala said while he respects Wasim’s decision to quit films and her creative liberty, faith has nothing to do with artistic expression.

“Such remarks give fodder to bigots on either side of the divide to misconceive & mislead,” he said on Twitter.

In a detailed post on her Facebook page on Sunday, the 18-year-old actor said she had completed five years in the profession and wanted to confess that she was not “truly happy with this identity”, that is her line of work.

“Phoneys suddenly lecturing on #ZairaWaseem & #NusratJahan. I have Hindu & Jain friends right here in SoBo who renounced cushy careers for their gurus & faith. You can choose whether religion determines your career or love life. Unless minors, let others decide for themselves,” tweeted Deora.

He also made a reference to newly married and newly elected Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan who has been criticised by hardline Muslim clerics for wearing ‘sindoor’ and the ‘mangalsutra’ and refuses to toe their line.

Taking a different tack, Shiv Sena’s Chaturvedi said in a series of posts that while everyone had the right to practise their faith, it “should not be used sound intolerant to career choices, which it clearly isn’t”.

“This actually does a huge disservice to her religion & reinforces the narrative about Islam being intolerant.

“Hindi cinema has seen many success stories of people from the same faith, does her reason imply that all these stalwarts didn’t know their religion? Some equate her decision to that of Vinod Khanna, did he say his religion says that his choice of career blocks his faith?” she said.

Wasim said in her post, which she later shared on other social media platforms, that she felt like she had struggled to become someone else for a very long time.

The actor, who was in her early teens when she appeared in “Dangal”, went on to play the title role in Aamir Khan’s “Secret Superstar”.

“As I had just started to explore and make sense of the things to which I dedicated my time, efforts and emotions and tried to grab hold of a new lifestyle, it was only for me to realise that though I may fit here perfectly, I do not belong here.

“This field indeed brought a lot of love, support, and applause my way, but what it also did was to lead me to a path of ignorance, as I silently and unconsciously transitioned out of ‘imaan’ (faith). While I continued to work in an environment that consistently interfered with my ‘imaan’, my relationship with my religion was threatened,” she said.

With Wasim announcing her decision to quit movies, her upcoming project “The Sky is Pink”, which also stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar, could be her last outing in the movie world. The film completed shooting in March.

Actor Raveena Tandon did not take Wasim’s name but criticised her “regressive views”.

“Doesn’t matter if two film olds are ungrateful to the industry that have given them all. Just wish they’d exit gracefully and keep their regressive views to themselves,” she said.

Veteran actor Anupam Kher said while he respected Zaira’s decision to choose, he thought the 18-year-old quitting films is a “tragedy”.

“The fact that she has gone all out to say that ‘I am doing it for religion’ or something like that, there is a certain amount of tilt that has gone into it. But she is most welcome to take her decision,” Kher told reporters in New Delhi.

TV actor Iqbal Khan said Zaira’s decision should not be viewed through the religious prism.

Stand-up comedian Abijit Ganguly pointed out the irony in Wasim’s decision to quit films because of religion.

“I was thinking Zaira Wasim should see this beautiful movie highlighting how no religion or family pressure should stop a child from doing what makes them creatively happy. What was the name of that movie. Arre Haan, ‘Secret Superstar’. Oh wait, who was in that movie again?” he said.

Filmmaker Onir said while he respected Wasim’s decision, he wished it did not come along with a lecture on “good way of life”.

Soon after the release of “Dangal” in 2016, Wasim came under attack for sporting short hair in her role as the younger version champion wrestler Geeta Phogat.

Meanwhile Zaira Wasim’s sudden “dissociation” from films made many Internet users wonder whether the young artiste’s social media accounts were hacked. But on Monday she rejected the claims, reiterating her decision to quit acting.

Wasim also requested people to not make assumptions as she personally handles her social media accounts.

“This to clarify that none of my social media accounts were or are hacked and are being handled by me personally. Kindly refrain from believing or sharing claims that state otherwise. Thanks,” the 18-year-old actor wrote on Twitter.

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