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Interview English Hindi

I would choose The Illegal, Masaan, Mirzapur over and over again, says Shweta Tripathi

Actress Shweta Tripathi shares her experience of working in cinema for more than a decade and how much she has learnt from co-stars like Adil Hussain and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

File photo

Keyur Seta

Shweta Tripathi is a young Indian actress, one of perhaps hundreds in Indian cinema. But what sets her apart is that unlike many ‘heroines’, she chose to be an actress and took the road not often taken. And this is reflected in her filmography. Starting off more than a decade ago with the television serial Kya Mast Hai Life, Tripathi pursued a few other projects until gaining wide recognition with Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan (2015).

Tripathi kept switching between films like Haraamkhor (2017) and web-series like Mirzapur and Laakhon Mein Ek and has now bagged an international film in the form of Danish Renzu’s English-Hindi feature The Illegal, his next after Half Widow (2019). The film sees Tripathi playing Mahi, elder sister of the character Hassan played by Suraj Sharma, who goes to the US to study filmmaking. Mahi plays Hassan's support system while living thousands of miles away.

Much the same way, Tripathi formed a bond with Sharma despite them not having any scene together in the film, the actress told Cinestaan.com in an exclusive interview. Tripathi also spoke of the experience of working in The Illegal and looked back at her journey so far. Excerpts:

What excited you about The Illegal?

I am a big believer in the vibes from people, more than whether it’s a first-time director or someone who has made blockbusters. For artistes, faith and trust matter a lot. Script can undergo changes; sometimes even on the sets. But the most important part is to trust the director. Their vision is followed by the entire team.

I had met Danish for the first time at a film festival and I got positive vibes. After reading the story, I felt he has written from his heart. Such stories are easy to relate with for the audience.

What I liked the most with my character is the brother-sister bonding. I never had a real brother. Before this film, I had never played sister to a brother. But I never had scenes with Suraj [they speak on phone in the film]. At times when we were shooting he was behind the camera. So I had to show a relationship with a co-actor whom you have never met. This was the exciting part. I and Suraj had conversations through email just to understand ourselves better. He is a lovely human being.

You got positive vibes after meeting Danish Renzu. How was it being directed by him?

His empathy is very high. He makes us understand like how you do with kids with a lot of affection. It is the director that sets the tone for the shoot and the entire project. He has such clarity.

Adil Hussain is one of the finest actors we have. You had scenes with him. How was the experience?

I had a good time with Adilji. He is so learned. He also has theatre experience. You look up to your seniors, like you wish to float along the river. The same was the case in Haraamkhor with Nawazbhai [Nawazuddin Siddiqui]. You know you are in safe hands, that you just can’t do anything wrong. Off screen if you are working with such people you get to learn so much that you evolve not only as an artiste but also as a human being. That’s why I feel it is important to choose your projects properly. Every project will shape you. Be it The Illegal, Gone Kesh (2019) or Mirzapur, I prefer working with a team where I get to learn a lot and better myself.

How much do you think about the box-office prospects of a project before agreeing to do it? Surely that also holds importance?

It definitely holds a lot of importance. For instance, you said you liked The Illegal. When you work hard so much not just physically and mentally but also emotionally, because we are recreating emotions, in terms of the box office I want this to be appreciated. Like I want people to buy tickets and see our work. Now whether they like our work or not is a different story. 

For small films it is a lot of hard work to get the funding, approvals, dates and then compete with big- and medium-budget films. So the box office does hold a lot of importance. But I don’t want to live in its fear. There should just be hope. Now if the examiner has had a fight at home before checking your papers, it’s not in your hands. So also box-office success is not in your hands, but it’s really important.

How do you prepare for each role?

It differs for every character and project. For Masaan, I had read a lot of shayari [Urdu poetry]. Neeraj [Ghaywan] had given a list of films to us like Nadiya Ke Paar (1982). He gave different films to different actors. So, the films which Vicky saw, I hadn’t seen, and vice versa. The same was with Richa [Chadha].

In Haraamkhor I was playing a character who was 10 years younger than my actual age. So you need to open up your mind in such situations and think how the character will think. Your character might think in a way much different to you personally. There will be times when you won’t agree with how your character behaves. For example, if I was sent into the scenario of Mirzapur, I don’t think I would have been comfortable to just pick up a gun [like her character did]. Hopefully such a situation won’t arrive in real life (laughs).

I spoke with quite a few girls for Gone Kesh. My character has alopecia in it. I never knew such a condition exists. For Laakhon Mein Ek, I learnt how a doctor operates while wearing gloves, or checks someone’s BP [blood pressure].

You started off with television in the serial Kya Mast Hai Life. Now, after more than 10 years, you have The Illegal. How do you look back on your journey?

The journey also reflects my real life. I wanted to act. But I knew I didn’t want to do daily soaps or things I don’t relate with. I knew I won’t do the kind of shows I would never want to watch as an audience. During my younger days I did shows with Disney where there was fun and the target audience was also different. Our generation of actors used to dream of Yash Raj. We grew up seeing ourselves in yellow salwar and clothes and going through those yellow fields.

But now if I have a chance, I will pick Masaan, The Illegal, Gone Kesh, Laakhon Mein Ek and Mirzapur over and over again. I think an artiste has a power. If you can tell a story, you should choose and tell. I feel every project changes you a little. Artistes have to be responsible for what they are putting out. I consider myself blessed and lucky that all these projects came my way.

With Vicky Kaushal in Masaan

You always wanted to be an actor?

My dad is a retired IAS [Indian Administrative Service] officer and mom is a retired teacher. So I never thought acting could be a choice. I used to act on stage since I was a kid. My parents are also culturally inclined. We were staying in Delhi, but we still used to attend the Prithvi Festival [in Mumbai] as my mom, dad and sister used to like it. We also used to watch Hema Malini’s dance performances and some musical performances. So the exposure and opportunities were always there since childhood. But I never thought acting could be a professional choice for me.

But inside I did feel about it since I used to enjoy it. Thankfully, the little seed didn’t go anywhere and kept growing. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else!

What kind of roles are you looking forward to playing?

There is a long list. I never thought I would play a doctor [in Laakhon Mein Ek]. That was very exciting. I have always wanted to play a mafia queen. Eventually you should enjoy a character. I definitely wish to do an innocent love story. Not like the ones made these days. Like the one captured in Masaan where the guy proposes with a red balloon. I somehow miss these things in our love stories. Films that make you smile and make you happy.

Also I feel right now the world needs a lot of love. Earlier I was very much interested in doing dark films. I was told by some people that someone with an innocent face like mine would give a shock to the audience if I did something dark.