They say you should follow your passion in order to live a truly fulfilled life. For Shaykaa, acting was her true calling, and indeed, at the age of 40 she’s living her dream in the limelight and basking in front of the camera.
Shaykaa, real name Shahista Alidina, was born and raised in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro. As an only child, while in Form Three she had to drop out of school to take care of her ailing father, who is now deceased. “I started working at an early age,” Shaykaa says. Adding that she was taught to survive through life experiences.
As she diligently worked to make ends meet, her thoughts about one day being in front of the big screen had detached from her life plans. She focused on other more pertinent matters and put acting at the back of her mind. “I didn’t imagine that one day I’d be acting,” she says.
However, even though Shaykaa was living a different life from the one associated with acting, in 2019 she found herself in front of the camera.
“It’s true that acting was not a preplanned path, but I thank Nilesh Bhatt owner of Pilipili Entertainment for giving me a chance to appear on a series called ‘Uhuru na Gharama Zake’,” a grateful Shaykaa says.
For someone who hadn’t acted before, Shaykaa was handed what many would say is a ‘tough’ role to act. “My first role on the big screen involved me acting as a mentally disturbed person. It was a tough role to pull off, and I was cautioned that if I didn’t execute it well, then instead of appearing mentally disturbed I’d just look stupid,” she says.
In order to perfect her role, Shaykaa had to take acting classes. “I’d train every evening for an hour. I needed to mentally prepare myself for the character. I was taught how to induce tears, how to immerse myself into a world of mental disability, I basically had to transform my emotional state of mind,” she explains.
And the training paid off, Shaykaa’s acting on season two of ‘Uhuru na Gharama Zake’ series was lauded by many, with most noting how she embraced her character so well. “I was given this rare opportunity and so I didn’t want to let down the person who put so much trust in me,” she says.
One other thing which makes Shaykaa’s auspicious start in the world of Bongo Movies even more impressive is the fact that she is camera shy, almost to a point of considering her condition as some form of a phobia.
But that’s not the only inhibition, Shaykaa is also battling a number of illnesses which have to a certain extent curtailed her progress in the acting field. “I suffer from iron deficiency anemia and kidney problems. So, as a result, I’m required to travel to India each year for treatment and monitoring,” she explains.
Due to her scheduled travels for treatments, Shaykaa has to factor in this medical requirement whenever she books an acting gig. “I always tell the people I work with beforehand that I have a few medical conditions which might require a bit of improvisation, but I’m always dedicated and fully committed to any role I’m given and ensure I give it my best,” Shaykaa says.
The determined actress, still battling through all these obstacles but yet managing to somehow make it work wants the youth or anyone out there with a dream not to give up on their pursuit just because they are faced with a few hurdles along the way.
Shaykaa has spoken on radio shows and appeared on other media platforms advocating youth not to give up on their dreams. “I often use myself as an example. I tell people that regardless of what I’m going through in my personal life I don’t let such worries interrupt my determination to make it as an actress,” she says.
She thus uses different platforms to advance her activism which goes beyond providing encouragement for youth, but she also helps the less fortunate in society by providing them with different basic needs ranging from food to clothing. “I lobby for support from people who are able to contribute and give back to society,” Shaykaa says.
Back to her newfound acting career, Shaykaa is delighted that she has been able to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress. Even though she says that she still has a long way to go on this journey, she is appreciative of the reception that some of the people in the industry have accorded her.
“Once people got to me as a person it was easy for us to get along,” she says. Though she does point out that she’s ran into a few bad apples in Bongo Movie who’ve judged her appearance being of Asian origin. “I’ve come across people who’ve tried to take advantage of me because of how I look. Some think I’m rich so they try to ask for money from me,” she explains.
But in the end, she considers her experience as a learning process, one which will hopefully lead to more success in the future.
Her noble and affable character which has made her catch the attention of movie producers and directors further manifested itself when she once went for casting as an extra on a series called ‘Rebecca’. “Many people couldn’t believe that I went on set for a role as an extra. But I was determined to show my commitment, so I never missed a day on set, even though I knew I played a minimal role,” she says.
To date, Shaykaa has appeared on three Bongo Movie productions – Uhuru, Playboy, and Rebecca. Plans are underway for more work in the film industry as her journey has only just begun.
Shaykaa is married and a mother of two. Her husband supports her movie interests. However, out of respect to him, there are certain roles she refuses to act; these mostly include intimate roles. “Being someone’s wife I have to put a boundary to the roles I’m asked to play,” she explains.