Zakeeya Patel is determined to do it all. Currently presenting SABC2’s lifestyle show, Mela, she is making her soapie comeback too, writes Debashine Thangevelo
WE first experienced Zakeeya Patel’s gravitas as an actress when she was cast as Amita Khan on M-Net’s short-lived soapie, The Wild. This fresh-faced talent blew fans away with her cunning and beauty.
Thereafter, she popped up on SABC3’s High Rollers and later gave the favourite – Lalla Hirayama – serious competition in the sixth season of SABC3’s Strictly Come Dancing, which Patel won.
Being on the reality show propelled her into the hearts of the nation. And grew her fan base exponentially.
Now presenting Mela, she explains how she came to bag the role of a journalist called Samantha Sharma on SABC3’s Isidingo.
While she may be on the petite side, there is nothing small or containable about her larger-than-life personality.
She shares: “It is so funny. It feels like the universe is giving me everything I want. The problem is, I manifested everything at the same time and had to turn down some projects.”
One of those, by the way, is the second season of High Rollers.
Patel continues: “Things have been really good, though. I’m presenting for the first time (on Mela). It has been scary because you don’t know how people will respond – as they are getting to see you. There is no script. However, working on this show has highlighted how amazing South Africans are as a community. Every single time I go on a location shoot, I meet someone who blows my mind with their incredible story.”
As for her new gig on Isidingo, don’t go looking for a stereotypical Indian character. Sharma is anything but that.
Patel adds: “I feel in South Africa, the roles for Indian women are quite limited. Samantha is a razor-sharp journalist. She doesn’t have a filter at all. She says exactly what she feels – although the intention is never to be hurtful or bitchy.
“She is not like Amita either. She is not sexy or provocative. Samantha does have a quirk; she loves wearing hats. That’s her thing. It’s so not me. What I love about her wardrobe is that I would never wear anything like that together. So it’s nice to play someone so different and with a sort of bohemian dress sense.”
Since Lolly (played by Kim Engelbrecht) left, there has not been a strong female presence in the newsroom. And Sharma looks set to fill that void. She comes in as co-anchor of Hardline with Frank Xavier.
While this is the first time Patel is working with the Isidingo cast, she has received a rather hearty welcome by them. And there have been moments when she couldn’t contain her blessings at having landed this gig.
She laughs: “It was quite intimidating to go onto set with this established ‘family’ of actors. Everyone’s been so warm. The other day, while we were waiting to get paid, I, literally, shouted (in excitement): ‘I’m so happy to be here’, to two of the actors.”
In the scenes she has coming up, most of them are with Frank (Kevin Smith), Charlie Holmes (Michaella Russell) and Bradley Haines (Izak Davel).
Recalling one of her recent scenes with Brad, she notes: “Samantha asked Brad: ‘Are you stupid?’ She couldn’t believe that he didn’t know who Che Guevara was.”
Interestingly, Patel also did two local movies this year: Die Pro and The Jakes are Missing.
She reveals, “The first one is a surfing movie. I play a 17-year-old. Can you believe that? I’m 27. The two boys I’m cast with are so young and, good Lord, they are good-looking, too. And the movie has some of South Africa’s legendary Afrikaans stalwarts. In the other movie, I play a journalist. She is a complete dork, there’s nothing powerful or sexy about her. She falls hopelessly in love and ends up embarrassing herself. Basically, she is a hot mess. Mampho Brescia and Celeste Ntuli are also in that movie. She is fun to play, though.”
Looks like the TV and film gods are smiling on this feisty go-getter – and she is making the best of it.
• Zakeeya Patel debuts on Isidingo on June 16. The soap airs weekdays at 7pm on SABC3.