Now I don’t want to play Masaan’s Shaalu or Haraamkhor’s Sandhya
After the colossal Masaan, her next film Haraamkhor was premiered at the New York Indian Film Festival and later showed at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. With its recent India premiere that took place at Jio MAMI 17th Mumbai Film Festival, it seems that the response which the film has got so far has brought a gurgle of happiness in actor Shweta Tripathi’s life. She is just one film old and has already won the Best Actress award at Indian Film Festival, Los Angeles this year. Effortless actor Shweta who acts with grace and elan, gets candid with Pandolin.
Be it Masaan or Haraamkhor, the characters that you have played in these two films have one similarity, which is that the girl falls in love for the first time. What other similarities do you have in these roles?
Another similarity is that I have played them (laughs). Both the girls fall in love for the first time but still their first love is very different. Perhaps because Shaalu is older when she falls in love. She is very sure of what she wants, can take her own decision and knows exactly what she is getting into. Sandhya in Haraamkhor is the complete opposite. She doesn’t even understand what love is. She doesn’t know why she is attracted to her teacher. Which is why Shlok (Sharma, director) thinks everybody in the film is ‘haraamkhor’. She very well knows that her teacher is married and she shouldn’t be doing this, but she still goes ahead with that. But the thing is when you are 15-year-old, things like practicality and logic take a back seat. You somehow feel everything will work out. That’s exactly what happens to her. It is later when we grow and mature, we start thinking about who the guy is, what is our future going to be with him, how his family is and how the compatibility is going to be like. But when you are head over heels in love with someone you don’t think much. And especially in Sandhya’s case she is very lonely as she doesn’t have a mother and her father hardly gives her time. She has lived in different towns and then suddenly she meets someone who is like a father figure and is there for her. So she thinks that whatever questions she has – be it related to studies or generally in life, she finds comfort in him. Sandhya is a very grey character, unlike Shalu.
How did you figure out all these minute details about Sandhya’s character?
This is what I got from the script. If I had any questions I would ask Shlok because both of us were exploring the character at the same time. For Sandhya’s character, we spoke to a lot of older girls who fell in love at a younger age in a similar way. These girls were from all over. Then I spoke to my friends and then friends of friends. I also used to do a lot of theatre workshop with kids, where I use to meet a lot of children through which I interacted with many young girls. Surprisingly we saw that they were not comfortable to talk about it. This chapter of their life doesn’t have many happy memories. Out of all the people we spoke to, there was only one story which had the happy ending and the couple is together now.
While researching for your role in Haraamkhor, were there any stories that left a mark on you?
Yes! there was one story that we came across. The girl was a singer and the teacher was not married. They fell in love through music. Their family didn’t agree to this since it was not fitting into the bracket of how things should be. I’m not saying what is right or wrong. I’m just saying that love is a beautiful feeling. If that is happening anywhere without harming anyone, I think we should let it happen. Also, the teacher in Haraamkhor doesn’t really love her whereas Sandhya’s love is very innocent.
Did you meet some teachers who had a similar story?
Not really. Actually I was meeting the girls for selfish reasons to get more details for my character. To be honest, I didn’t even think about meeting the teachers. Though that would have been a great idea.
You have mentioned that Shlok feels that every character in the film is Haraamkhor. Though Sandhya’s love is pure, is she still haraamkhor?
I just came back last week from Chicago as Haraamkhor was part of Chicago South Asian Film Festival. There was this gentleman over there who said that why doesn’t Sandhya do something about it. His point was that why haven’t we given a solution in the film. And I don’t want to give a solution. If you are disturbed about something regarding the film, I am very happy because it is reality. There is no prince charming that is going to come on a horse and save you. Sometimes you have to be your own hero. There is no ending to it because the story can go anywhere from where we have left it. But there are incidents that happen which are very defining to everybody’s life of the character’s involved. Our job as an artist was to produce what we believe in.
What is the biggest compliment that you have ever received for your roles in Safar, Haraamkhor and Masaan?
There was a woman who saw the film at Cannes and was involved in the production. She told me that if I ever have a daughter, I want Shaalu to be my daughter. For me, that was the biggest thing. Also when I read Shaalu’s character, I fell in love with it and was so excited to play it. When Neeraj narrated the film to me, I knew I have to do justice to it because Shaalu is just like the red balloon in the film. When she is on screen, she should make people smile.
Are you just like Shaalu in real life?
According to Neeraj I am. There are many similarities though I think Shaalu is a better person than I am. I don’t think Shaalu would like anything dark but I as an actor would want to explore dark roles. Shaalu would run away from all negative things and so would I but when it comes to acting, I will like to explore different things. I actually got nightmares after working in Haraamkhor. Even Shlok told me that this is a difficult film, but I thought since I’m a professional actor nothing would be difficult.
Is the film dark?
It is not dark, but it has its moments. Also, the character is very grey whereas fortunately I have an amazing family. So to live a character who doesn’t have any family support and lives out on his own was the very difficult journey. I’m a kind of person who likes to think as my character and not like to draw from my personal experiences. What sorrow means to me will be different for what sorrows means to other people. And that goes for all the characters. I liked Sandhya’s character because there are no similarities between us.
Though Haraamkhor is your first film but Masaan released before that. How has life changed after Masaan?
Before the festivals began, I would step up without even wearing Kajal. Now I have learnt how to do makeup in a moving car. This is one big change that has happened. Just recently a friend of mine was getting married and she came home. She had to buy shoes and because my house is very close to Linking Road, I just went in crushed pajama and t-shirt. We were just selecting something and suddenly the store manager recognised me. And I was so embarrassed as I didn’t want him to recognise me like this. With more films and work, you just can’t walk out like this because your image matters a lot. Earlier I used to think that my talent will speak but now I have understood that it is showbiz. When people are putting money on your face or talent then you have to care about how you look.
So are you like that balloon from Masaan who is really happy?
After Masaan, I’m just hungry and greedy to do more work. And I’m choosy which I think is good and bad at the same time. There are days when I’m thinking that why am I not shooting. Acting makes me the happiest and being in front of the camera is heaven for me.
Through the films that you have done so far, you have got an opportunity to travel to the festive circuit, how nourishing was that?
The best ten days of my life were at Cannes. It was so beautiful because our team is amazing – from Varun Grover to Neeraj Ghaywan, Vicky Kaushal to Richa Chadda and Avinash Arun. I love all of them and to travel with them was a great feeling. It is a very talented bunch. If you have a good script, the people involved will be great as the script will attract that. During the red carpet, there was a moment when we had to walk up the stairs and I was wearing a lehnga and simultaneously Mann Kasturi was being played. When you are in a foreign land and people are looking at you and when a Hindi song plays, it just feels so good. During that standing ovation, we didn’t even understand what is happening and what are we supposed to do as it was so overwhelming. Neeraj and Richa had tears in their eyes. For the second screening of Masaan there was a long line which went on to the road. I’m sure we did something right in life that we got so much love.
When you shoot a feature in just 16 days, which is the case with Haraamkhor, how easy, difficult or what kind of a learning experience it becomes?
Haraamkhor actually has been such a massive learning experience for me because of Nawazuddin Siddique. He is the best co-actor anybody can have as there is so much to learn from his experiences in life. There were so many things that he would casually speak but had so much depth, which stayed with me throughout. For instance, he said some actors should be choosy which has stayed with me. When Haraamkhor took time for festivals, he just saw me and said, “Shweta, it takes time, but nothing can suppress talent.” And I realized that talent will eventually outshine. He is such a senior actor and yet so humble.
What was your reaction when you got to know that you’ll act with him in your debut film?
Firstly I didn’t believe that I’m doing a role opposite him. When I was told I thought it is a joke as how can someone cast me opposite Nawazuddin in my first film. Even when the shoot started I didn’t believe the fact that I was opposite him. Then he used to discuss all the scenes with me. Not that Shlok asked him to do, but that’s how he works. I became so much confident as an actor and person while working with him. I would love to work with him again and again because I know I will keep learning and growing while working with him.
Shlok offered you Sandhya’s role after getting impressed with your acting in Sujata (Shlok’s short film) and Neeraj wrote Shalu’s character keeping you in mind. According to you what is it about your acting that helped you get such immense appreciation?
I asked Neeraj that had he seen Haraamkhor before signing me and what he said was just the opposite. He said that he has actually seen me in real life as we are from the Anurag Kashyap camp. He has seen me around and we knew of each other. I think it is my honesty that made them choose me for those roles. I would only pick up a script if it really excited me. Even if I’m two minds about a script I won’t do it. Also, it has not been an easy ride because it took time for these roles to come my way. I’m shooting my next film one year after Masaan. I came to Mumbai nine years back to do an internship in Femina magazine, followed by being the photo editor of the magazine and then joining a production house. After that, I got a show with Disney called Kya Mast Hai Life which got me full-time into acting. Thanks to Disney because that made me financially sound to take this jump. Even if your family is supportive, you want to make your own name. Being patient is not easy. There are certain thoughts that come to your mind and bog you down. But then this is what you love doing.
Though you look much younger in Haraamkhor’s look but that’s not your actual age in real life. In such a case, what all did you learn and unlearn to fit into a 15-year old’s role?
When you are 15-year-old, you can’t be reasoning so much. You don’t think about the bigger questions in life. This is all that you need to unlearn. Thankfully I didn’t shoot in Mumbai because that helps you to disconnect. This is something I often follow. You just have to start thinking about the character. For films, you have to do your homework before. When you are into it, then it is a magical process.
What is the process or method you use while preparing for your role?
I just try to get references if possible. I don’t even like to think too deeply because when you are doing anything then you are not thinking so much. You are very instinctive. The characters I have done so far are full of life. They are full of conversations so you don’t make conversations dramatic. I like to go with my instinct a lot. But I’m sure there will be characters in future for which I’ll have to prepare a lot.
Do you have any dream role sorts?
I would love to be a mafia queen. Something really dark excites me because that’s not what I’m in real life. So I want to play characters that are much exaggerated. Now I don’t want to play Shalu or Sandhya. Those characters are done. And thankfully such roles are not even coming my way because I was scared that maybe after Masaan, people will offer me similar roles.
It seems that acting for you is a chance to explore different lives that don’t relate to your real life. Isn’t it?
That is true actually. In real life, I’m a very happy and a positive person. If I have to play myself then it will be boring. I like to explore characters that are not like me because it is only as an actor that you get to live a life which is not yours. I would love to do to an action film because I know in real life I won’t be able to do that.
So what are your forthcoming projects?
The next film is called Good Morning, Sunshine by a national award winning director Sanjoy Naag. My character in the film is a live wire. She always speaks non-stop and is a run-away bride. She runs away from the village she is married to because there are no toilets in the village. And she tells the boy that till the time he doesn’t get a toilet made, she won’t come back. The other actors in the film are Revathi, Tejaswini Kolhapure and a Bengali actress Rituparna Sengupta.
What do you expect from Haraamkhor?
I just want people to come and watch it. They should not judge it because we tend to do that. Cricket and movies are two things that everybody has a view about. It should actually get me more work. My dream directors should watch it and sign me.
Who are your dream directors?
Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Joya Akhtar etc. But I would love to work with new directors as Neeraj and Shlok’s debut projects are two important films of my life. I got my first best actress award for Haraamkhor.