Shefali: No one had the guts to cast me in a central role before
It's an unusual tale -- a housewife, angry that her husband and kids have forgotten her birthday, decides to spend the whole day with a stranger. The twist in the tale? He turns out to be a criminal and she falls in love with him.
Patcy N speaks to Shefali Shah, who plays the frustrated housewife, Madhu, in Kucch Luv Jaisaa to find out what she's been up to in real life.
Read on to know more.
Is it true you spent a day with a criminal in jail to help you play the character of Madhu better?
Yes, it is. At the end of day, when you are working in a film, you are working with a co-actor and you are in a safe zone. We live a secure and protected life and have never really gone out of our comfort zone.
I wanted to know what it felt like to be with a person who completely unnerves and intimidates you, who has a completely different point of view.
It is easy to watch television and express shock at the tsunami that happened in Japan, but we will never know what being there when it happened was like because we were not there, thank God.
It was mainly about breaking my comfort zone and being on completely shaky ground, about going to live with a person with whom you are not connected.
How was the whole experience?
To begin with it was very daunting, very intimidating, scary, unnerving. But once I interacted with him, I realised he was just like someone you would interact with on a train. You begin to see that person on a human level.
Image: Shefali Shah
'Rahul Bose thought my research was unnecessary'
But your 'research' seems to have upset Rahul Bose (the actor plays the criminal in the film).
Yes, he thought it was completely unnecessary.
I did not inform anyone I was going. When they came to know, after the deed was done, they wanted to know why I would put myself in a situation that wasn't exactly safe.
Was Vipul (Shah, her husband and the film's producer) upset?
Vipul knows I am little off in my head because I keep doing crazy things.
Did you prepare in any other way for the role?
The major preparation was losing weight. I was finally playing the heroine and there are expectations about how a heroine should look. Until now, I have played characters where I have been true to the character's look.
But when you are the heroine, it goes without saying you have to be desirable, attractive, beautiful, trim, fit, well-dressed, great hair, make-up, etc.
What did you do to lose weight?
I followed a hysterical workout regime. I had a trainer who put me under a very strict workout for two and half hours. He put me on to a diet which I followed religiously. I knocked out almost 10-12 kilos in one and half months. That was a drastic change.
I had a very efficient team who took care of hair, make-up and clothes.
Image: Shefali Shah
'Madhu is not like Sholay's Basanti'
Is it true Vipul was supposed to play the role of the husband?
Barns (writer-director Barnali Ray Shukla) wanted him to play my husband in the film, but I remember Vipul saying, 'I don't really think you guys can afford me.'
Was it a conscious decision to play your own age?
People don't know what I am. They don't know I can look like this, that I am capable of this as well.
People connect me with intense roles and performances; a thinking actress who only does serious work. But there is this side of me which no one has explored or discovered.
This film has done it; it took someone like Barnali to visualise me as Madhu.
People are comparing Madhu to Sholay's Basanti since both characters talk almost continuously.
Madhu is not exactly Basanti of Sholay. Yes, she is chirpy, boisterous, talkative, vulnerable and a little crazy. She does silly things. But it is a completely different character.
If people are making this comparison, though, I would consider it a great compliment.
Do you identify with Madhu?
Completely. Madhu is my better or worst half, depending on how you see it. Madhu is an extension of me; I am like her in real life.
Image: Shefali Shah
'I followed a hysterical workout regime to lose weight'
In real life, would you want to spend a day with a stranger? What would that day be like?
It would be very interesting. It would start with getting to know each other. It also depends with whom I end up spending the day with.
How would you react if your husband and your sons forget your birthday?
If my sons forgot my birthday, I would forgive them and remind them. If Vipul forgot my birthday, I would kill him. Vipul doesn't have a chance of forgetting my birthday because I start reminding him 15 to 20 days in advance.
What is the maddest thing you have ever done?
I have jumped off a balcony from the second floor.
Why would you do that? How old were you then?
I was standing in the balcony and thinking about people committing suicide and how a person jumped from second floor and died. I thought nobody can die jumping from that height; at the worst, they would suffer some bad fractures.
I really wanted to know what it is like -- I know it's stupid, crazy and not normal -- but I climbed the parapet and jumped. As expected, I sprained my ankle.
I was around 15 then. I don't want my children to read this because I don't want them to try this at all.
Image: Shefali Shah
'I'm very proud of all the films I've done'
What is the most expensive thing you have done without your husband knowing about it?
Honestly, nothing so far. The last thing I brought myself was an Ipad.
Recently, I have been on spending spree. I have been shopping for our house. The whole responsibility is on me so I travelled around quite a bit and picked up stuff from around the world. Vipul is okay with it.
How adventurous are you in real life?
Extremely. I don't have a sense of fear. If someone warns me saying you cannot do this, it is extremely difficult, I am capable of doing it.
Even in day-to-day life, you have to follow a protocol. I don't. If, for example, I go for a movie screening, Vipul tells me what I should say after the end credits have rolled because I can actually go and tell people, 'This is crap.' It is not polite to do something like that, but that's the way I am. I behave instinctively and impulsively.
You are a good actress, but you are mostly offered supporting roles. Does that frustrate you?
I have to admit that all the roles I did were spectacular -- whether it was Satya which was a seven minute role or Monsoon Wedding, which had an ensemble cast. I am very proud of these films.
They are incredible roles and they have really raised the bar. I don't know how many mainstream heroines can boast of such a resume.
The films I did weren't about a hero or a heroine; they were about characters -- whether it was The Last Lear, Satya or Monsoon Wedding.
People did not see me in my age bracket which is my own doing, because I picked up roles which were older than my age. It became a vicious cycle. I am glad I am playing my age in Kucch Luv Jaisaa.
Image: A scene from Kucch Luv Jaisaa
'I'm perceived as a thinking actress'
Even your husband gave you the role of Akshay Kumar's mother in Waqt. Did that upset you?
No. It is not about Vipul or any other big director in the industry. They are friends who I respect immensely and vice versa. But no one had the guts to cast me as the central, pivotal character. It took Barnali to do it.
Is this movie a gift from your husband because you won the national award (best supporting actress, The Last Lear, in 2009)?
I was talking to Vipul as his wife about a great film I had been offered. After hearing the storyline, he asked Barnali if she would be interested in making the film for our banner.
I asked him to speak to her directly. They met and agreed to work together. That's how Vipul came into the picture.
Vipul is producing three films but not directing any. Has he taken a break from directing?
He is working on the scripts for the sequels of Singh is Kinng and Namastey London. Plus there is John Abraham's Force with director Nishikant Kamath.
Image: A scene from Waqt: The Race Against Time