Born in November 2002, Redha weighed only 650gm and had to be put in an incubator for the first six months.
She had little chances of survival when she was born immature.
Fast forward 15 years, Indian Redha Abdurahim is wasting no time chasing her dreams of stardom despite being visually impaired.
Aspiring to be a singer and an actress, Redha made her latest appearance in the recent film "Mashhad", taking the role of an Iraqi girl born blind, shortly after her house was bombed during the 2003 war that ripped her family apart.
"There's a little resemblance," her father Abdurahim Mailanchikkal said. "Both the film and Redha's story are about surviving and looking for the light in the darkness."
During the 20-minute short film, Redha, who plays the role of Fatima, is seen painting through using her sense of smell to distinguish colours resembling that she sees the world through her inner eye. Her painting that wins a national award reveals a lot about her life.
Born in November 2002, Redha weighed only 650gm and had to be put in an incubator for the first six months. After a journey of two years spent roughly in the hospital due to health complications, Redha made it through.
"We named her Redha, which means 'saved by God'," said Abdurahim, a travel manager at Roshan Telecom. The family resides in Dubai with their two daughters - Redha and her 17-year-old sister Aisha.
Noticing her interest in music during her stay at Latifa Hospital, her parents decided to teach her music as she grows. The girl plays piano and performs with notable Indian singers including KS Chitra, besides performing in front of KJ Yesudas. She won the first place in the Santhwanam Youth Festival for the differently-abled category, besides trophies at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai.
After her studies at the Special Needs Future Development Centre (SNF), Redha spends her time performing and learning Braille Quran. "I know 42 verses now," she said.
For Redha, appearing in a film for the first time revealed new horizons. "I love to sing and I've come to enjoy acting because it tells stories to people," the girl said.
Her favourite scene is when she was asked in the film how she could paint without seeing anything. She replies: "I can tell you how many steps there are in this place."
"Seeing isn't only through the eyes, but through the heart," Redha said.
The family hopes the new film reaches international audiences at festivals for the message it carries about people of determination and how some lives remain torn by war. "People can still shine in the dark times and despite their limitations," AbdulRahim said.
He added: "Everyone is born with a unique ability that we need to figure out. We have to give them the chance to express it and grow." He highlighted the important role of parents, and society, in developing determined children.
Redha's parents' priority is teaching her to become independent. While people of determination usually face challenges to go into mainstream schools, her mother Raziya said Redha had to be homeschooled until Grade 6 before enrolling her at the SNF to receive education and functional training. "We never treated her differently from her sister. She is always expected to clean her room and do her chores," said Raziya.
As for Redha, she is already looking forward to her next performing opportunity to get closer to her dream of becoming a star.