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“I come from an orthodox Kashmiri family where becoming an actor was never an option

“I come from an orthodox Kashmiri family where becoming an actor was never an option. My parents were even hesitant to send me to Delhi for college but somehow, I convinced Papa. So, when a friend suggested auditioning for a serial, I said no. 

Upon insistence, I gave it a go & the casting directors loved me! The next day, I was selected for the lead role!

I moved to Bombay without telling my parents I was 20. The production people helped me find a place. It took me weeks to tell Papa. He was livid. Mom’s friends & relatives cut ties with us. 

But by then, my serial had gained popularity. After weeks of cajoling, Papa said, ‘you can continue only if you complete your studies.’ Then, my parents moved to Mumbai.

I’d shoot all night, study in the breaks, then fly to Delhi to give my exams. The family stress was constantly looming–I told Mom to not bother, but it wasn’t easy. We’d argue a lot. But every year, my serial was the number 1 show I fell in love with the camera.

After 8 years, Big Boss came my way. Initially, I had a ‘no shorts, no steamy scenes’ policy but over time, I decided to make my own rules. 

And just when my parents had gotten used to me being an actor, I told them I was seeing Rocky. It came as a shock everybody in our family has had arranged marriages. But I gave them time & now, they love him more than me! 

After, TV offers poured in, but I took a risk & quit TV to do movies. I was thrilled when I debuted at the Cannes film festival last year I felt so proud to represent India abroad. The way the entire film & TV industry came to my support, humbled me. 

This year, I moved onto OTT platforms–the script demanded a kissing scene, so I spoke to my parents. I said ‘yes’ only after they understood it was needed for the role my movie became one of the most watched films on the platform. 

It’s been 11 years since I first faced the camera–the little girl growing up in Srinagar would’ve never imagined walking Cannes. But a series of difficult choices have gotten me here. From Srinagar to Bombay, from being the first actor in my family to dating someone out of the community to giving up easy money at m


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