Zaira Wasim: A rising superstar | Sunday Observer

Zaira Wasim: A rising superstar

24 April, 2022

Zaira Wasim (born on October 23, 2000) is a former Indian actress who worked in Hindi films. The recipient of numerous accolades, including a Filmfare Award and a National Film Award, Wasim was honoured with the National Child Award for Exceptional Achievement by Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, at a ceremony in New Delhi in 2017.

Wasim made her film debut with the role of young Geeta Phogat in the biographical sports film ‘Dangal’ (2016), which emerged as the highest-grossing Indian film, grossing more than ₹2,000 crore ($300 million) worldwide. She then starred as an aspiring singer in the musical drama ‘Secret Superstar’ (2017), which became the highest-grossing Indian film with a female protagonist.

Both were backed by Aamir Khan Productions and earned her numerous accolades, including the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for the former and the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress for the latter. Her latest film appearance was in ‘The Sky Is Pink’ (2019), which garnered her a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination.


In June 2015, Wasim was signed by director Nitesh Tiwari to make her film debut with the biographical sports film ‘Dangal’ (2016). Principal photography of the film began in September 2015 and she finished her part in December the same year.

The film, which narrated the story of pehlwani amateur wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan) who trains his two daughters Geeta (Wasim) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnagar) to become India’s first world class female wrestlers, received positive reviews from critics and emerged as the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, earning more than 20 billion ($300 million) worldwide.

For her performance, Wasim received positive comments as well as several awards, including the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress and a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut.

The following year, Wasim found her breakthrough role in Advait Chandan’s directorial debut Secret Superstar (2017), a musical drama about the story of Insia Malik (Wasim), a 15-year-old teenager who aspires to be a singer. Co-starring with Aamir Khan, Meher Vij, and Raj Arjun, Wasim garnered critical acclaim for her performance and the film eventually emerged as her second consecutive release to earn over ₹9 billion (US$120 million) worldwide, becoming the third highest-grossing Indian film (after Dangal and the 2015 film Bajrangi Bhaijaan) and the highest-grossing Indian film featuring a female protagonist. In addition to several other accolades for the film, Wasim won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress and received her first nomination for the Filmfare Best Actress Award. In November 2017, politician Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, honoured her with the National Child Award for Exceptional Achievement, for her performances in both Dangal and Secret Superstar.

As of March 2019, Wasim has completed shooting for her next film ‘The Sky Is Pink’, the biopic of motivational speaker Aisha Chaudhary, a 19-year-old girl who died from pulmonary fibrosis. Co-starring Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar, the film was released in India on 11 October 2019.

On 30 June 2019, Wasim announced she would cease her acting career as it conflicts with her religious beliefs and faith.

In November 2020, Wasim requested fans to take down her pictures from social media as she was trying to start a new chapter in her life.


In 2016, publicity photos of Wasim surfaced showing her with trimmed hair for her role in the film ‘Dangal’. This resulted in her being trolled online for having been “un-Islamic” by acting in a film. In January 2017, a local news organisation published the news and photos of her meeting with then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. This resulted in further criticism and Wasim receiving death threats because Mufti had described Wasim as a “Kashmiri role model”. In response, Zaira issued an apology on her Facebook and Instagram account which she deleted shortly after. But not before the message was picked up and publicised by news media which added further fuel to the controversy. Subsequently, several Indian celebrities have voiced their support for Wasim, denouncing her critics.

In January 2017, Indian sports minister Vijay Goel tweeted a message “Our daughters are breaking out of their cages and moving forward”, accompanied by a photo of him standing before a painting depicting two women – one in a hijab and another cowering in a cage.

Wasim responded to Goel requesting him not to connect her to “such a discourteous depiction” and that women in hijab were “beautiful and free”. Goel responded saying that she had misinterpreted his tweet, he appreciated Wasim’s work and meant to discourage “evil and patriarchal notions”.

In December 2017, Wasim alleged that she had been harassed mid-air on an Air Vistara flight UK981 between Delhi and Mumbai. She posted a series of messages on her Instagram profile alleging that a man sitting behind her on the flight had caressed her neck with his foot while she was asleep. She also wrote that she had tried to record what the man was doing, but failed due to dim lights.

The airline issued an apology on the issue and released a statement saying that a detailed investigation would be conducted. The accused, Vikas Sachdeva of Chandivli in Mumbai was subsequently arrested and charged under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), given Wasim was a legal minor.

The accused’s wife claimed her husband had been resting when his leg accidentally touched Wasim and that he had apologised before getting off the plane at the Mumbai airport, which the actress had acknowledged. The suspect had been placed in judicial custody pending a court hearing. There has been support for the accused in the form of a signature-campaign by his neighbours and on social pages with pages like ‘Justice for Vikas Sachdeva’.

Wasim subsequently became a target of internet trolling, which has been criticised by the Mumbai Police, stating in a tweet, “It is the Constitutional right of every victim to report sexual abuse and it is our duty to take cognizance, investigate & facilitate justice. Kindly refrain from being judgmental and #Respect the Right of a Victim of a Sexual Assault”.

In a statement included with the tweet, the Mumbai Police also stated, “Our action against the accused is backed by sufficient evidence against him and it has been under the scrutiny by the court of law.”

In January 2020, the accused was found guilty of molesting Wasim and was sentenced to three years in prison. On appeal by the accused in the Bombay High Court, the sentence was suspended until his appeal is fully heard and decided.