Jennifer Shaheen Hussain
Whether it is in Guru Randhawa’s ‘Tere Te’ or in the remake of the iconic song ‘Is Tarah Aashiqui Ka’, grooves, moves, and the character essayed by Zaara Yesmin leaves a mesmerising impact on the viewers. Her on-screen presence, dance, and layers she packs each of her music videos prove her mettle as an upcoming actor in B-town.
But, while, Zaara is content with her multi-faceted journey from Assam to Mumbai, she does miss her roots in Nagaon, as that is where her journey began.
In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Pratidin Time, the glamour girl talks about her childhood, career, pandemic experiences, and what keeps her going.
Your roots are from Assam and your journey into the glamour and entertainment industry began once you left for Delhi for pursuing your higher education, how did the journey begin?
Yes, my roots are based in Assam. I hail from Nagaon. I was born in Nagaon and up until high school, I lived there. As I am based in Mumbai, and I work primarily there and in Mumbai, many aren’t aware I am from Assam. I keep coming home at least once a year and my family still lives there. It is my native place.
I left for Delhi to pursue engineering and while I was studying my career in modelling had started. I was treated well as a newcomer and teenage model. I got a lot of offers for different brands. However, I also ensured that I completed my degree in engineering.
That is how it all began and there was no looking back. By the time I completed my studies, I was an established model in Delhi but I decided to shift my base to Mumbai in 2016 to pursue acting full-time. I did my first commercial for Ayur Herbals in 2011.
I got my major breakthrough in 2018 after I was featured in Guru Randhawa’s ‘Tere Te’. I had appeared in a lot of videos earlier to ‘Tere Te’, but I gained a lot of recognition from this song. Also, I prefer quality to quantity, so I have always tried working with the best singers and banners, where my audience globally has access to the best content.
What drove you to get into acting? Engineering and entertainment industries are poles apart and you even completed your studies? What was the entire process like in choosing what you wanted to pursue?
As growing up in Assam, there was always this serious ambiance when it came to children pursuing academics. It has always been competitive and I was very studious. I have always believed one should complete their education even if they have other interests because education is add on value and enhances your personality.
I own two companies besides being engaged in this industry and I owe it to the education that I have.
I was inspired to join the glamour and entertainment industry when I was crowned by Salman Khurshid as ‘Diva of the Year’ during a college fest. I gained prominence and I started getting offers in the glamour industry in Delhi. Every third day I kept shooting. But engineering was a difficult programme, and it was certainly not easy to balance. I wanted to make my parents proud and so I did finish it.
Initially, I started with Punjabi music videos and the reception was well, and gradually I decided to go to Mumbai and I was also called there to expand my career.
You are also an entrepreneur. What are the enterprises that you run?
I have two companies. One is a software development company where we develop applications on restaurant systems. My partners and I developed the company in 2015. I also have my clothing line and I run two boutiques in Assam and as well in Mumbai.
Moreover, last year, I launched my production house, and my song ‘Kandhe ka woh til’ was produced by the same production house.
In a span of ten years, you started off as a model, went to become an actor, you’re a dancer and an entrepreneur. As much as the journey is diverse, there might have been several challenges to arrive at what you have become today. What were those obstacles and what kept you going?
Nothing comes easily and in the small city I came from I was cut off from the industry. But you need to keep working on yourself. So here, consistency and perseverance matter a lot. No matter where you come from if you’re focused on what you want and you work towards it then it should transpire. I never let go of my enthusiasm.
Many challenges have come my way. I had no one to guide me. I had to learn everything from zero, try out things and decide for myself if I should go ahead with a certain project or not. But, I was fortunate everything also turned out good for me.
There was initial resistance from the family too. It was slightly difficult to convince and persuade them but once my career took off, they understood my goals and have supported me ever since.
What are your upcoming projects?
There is a couple of Bollywood projects lined up, however, due to the unprecedented Covid-19 situation pretty much everything is on hold. A Kannada film is underway. It would be my debut in the South Indian industry.
How has Covid-19 affected the entertainment industry and did it create any obstacles for you?
It was unprecedented, unplanned, and unexpected. In my industry, primarily the technicians have been severely affected as they work based on daily wages, which also has bothered me a lot and makes me sad and empathetic. So sustaining on an everyday salary, if your work is paused not just for weeks but for almost two years now, and considering Mumbai is such an expensive city to survive in, then it is quite challenging. Also, businesses have been affected. Films cannot hit the big screen and we are moving towards OTT, then obviously everyone is affected in a way.
What do you miss about Assam?
I miss the simplicity of the people the most and I am glad I carry it within me. We have been raised amid that simplicity. When I come to Assam it is rejuvenating for me. The world out there is running at a fast pace, so Assam calms and soothes me.
There is a persona you need to carry on-screen and professionally, but who is Zaara Yesmin the person off-screen?
She is a regular girl. I always try to keep it simple and natural inside out. I have the same amount of emotions and feelings. I love to hang out and enjoy food.
The industry is so demanding, how do you balance career, home, and having your private life and a message you would like to give for the budding actor and performers especially from the Northeast
It is time we have to dismiss the idea that men come first and then as women we follow. As women, we should polish our attributes more and I believe we have more or equal capacities both emotionally and mentally to tackle obstacles. We have to create a balance and inspire ourselves every day.
And everything is achievable, and we can change anything we want. We should have that attitude no matter what that we can do it.
One has to understand that this industry runs on demand and it is a business. It will be futile if you just keep running after your passion without understanding what exactly that you require to flourish in this industry. It is a business where the producer is selling a product to the consumer and you as an actor will have to then decide do you fit the criteria, then work for it, give it your all.
However, if you doubt yourself, then I would suggest then reconsider your options. In that case, there are high chances of being devastated and disappointed.
When I started pursuing a career in acting, I invested my time. I learned dancing and acting skills. So there is hard work put in for the desired results to come out.
Your song Iss Tarah Who Ashiqui has been launched recently, and has over 22 million views, how do you feel about it?
I have always performed and acted in original videos, but this song was a remake of an iconic 90s number. While growing up, I heard everyone listening to it. I love this song. So when Tips offered me this classic song I agreed instantaneously and I am so grateful. There is already a positive response towards the song and the youth love it. I hope the song continues to grow among a wider audience.