“But being a protagonist does,” she adds. The actress shot to instant fame and recognition with her very first theatrical release, Neeraj Ghaywan’s multi-award winning film Masaan, and since then, there’s been no looking back for her. The actress quickly followed it up by equally powerful performances in some of the most unconventional roles that continue to win her critical acclaim. With films like Masaan, Haraamkhor, The Illegal, Gone Kesh, Mehandi Circus (Tamil) and web-series including Mirzapur, Made in Heaven, and Laakhon Mein Ek to her credit, the vibrant actress is consistently carving a niche in the industry. In this exclusive interview, Shweta Tripathi talks about her journey, her knack for unconventional roles and redefining bold!
Q: Did you always want to become an actress?
A: The want and the keeda to act has always been there and my idea of acting was always a Yash Chopra heroine in a chiffon saree in a yellow mustard field. But I didn’t know how I would go about it because no one I knew was even remotely associated to the film industry. Thanks to my parents however, I had a lot of exposure to theatre and they always encouraged me to watch plays. That helped me understand acting better. So, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking out for as an actor back then, I only knew that I wanted to see myself on the screen. Not like in a looking glamorous kind of way, but I wanted to see myself act and perform. In hindsight, I feel that because of my exposure to theatre, I subconsciously gravitated towards films that had substance.
Q: Tell us about your journey from Masaan to Mirzapur…
A: Well, the journey has been exciting because through my work I have found my calling. Masaan was my first theatrical release. It gave me validation as an actor and put me on the radar of a lot of filmmakers. I got Laakhon Mein Ek and Gone Kesh because of it! Even today I’m basking in its laurels and till date I thank Neeraj for it. More than just the roles coming my way, I feel blessed to have gotten a chance to work with filmmakers who are also amazing human beings like Neeraj or Danish Renzu (director, The Illegal). So, it’s like with every role I have evolved as an actor, but also as a person.
Q: Your choice of roles has been rather unconventional…
A: Yes, being a heroine doesn’t excite me, being a protagonist does. I happily exchanged my dreams of chiffon sarees and traded them with scars and no make-up looks to play more realistic characters (laughs). I would rather do a Haraam Khor and a Laakhon Mein Ek or a Golu Gupta from Mirzapur over any commercial film that offers me a conventional role of a one-dimensional heroine. I like a role that has layers and is progressive. The length, screen time doesn’t matter. I just want to be a part of stories that move you, that people hold in their hearts and it makes them think.
Q: What do you have to say about the web platform as a medium for the actors?
A: As artistes, we run away from stereotypes and the web platform has helped us do that. It lets us experiment than play safe and for me that’s a huge draw. A balance between the mediums is also important. But at the end of the day, the idea is to be able to do projects that create excitement for the audience, where they look forward to see what I have done.
Q: Your opening scene in Mirzapur is quite bold!
A: Yes, a lot of people found it bold, but I don’t think it was bold. The word is so misused! For me being bold is Jhansi Ki Rani, what she did was brave and bold.
Q: Do you have any parameters about how far you are willing to go as an actor when it comes to onscreen intimacy?
A: The only parameter I have set for myself is that I won’t do anything that my parents would be embarrassed to watch. Having said that, I trust my parents and their sensibilities too. It’s the bigger picture that matters and they can distinguish between a – as cliched as it may sound, if the script requires me to do it – or if it’s only meant to titillate. So yes, I do have a problem with skin-show, but say if I were to play a commercial sex-worker, then I might consider it depending on the character’s portrayal.
Q: So what are your upcoming projects?
A: To begin with there’s Mirzapur 2, then there’s also my first sci-fi film Cargo.