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'I kept thinking I would get fired'

By MOHNISH SINGH
September 26, 2022 09:40 IST
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'After 10 days, Balki, Sunny Deol and Pooja Bhatt liked what I did, and the tension eased.'
'I started calming down a little bit. but nobody knew that in my head a tandav was going on.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Shreya Dhanwanthary/Instagram

Though Shreya Dhanwanthary began her acting career with films, it was the success of Web shows like Scam: 1992, The Family Man and Mumbai Diaries that enhanced her reputation as an actor to watch out for.

Shreya currently features in R Balki's film Chup: Revenge of the Artist.

Shreya had no showbiz connections before joining the industry and is enjoying every part of her journey.

"My mom has a folder where she has cut and pasted anything and everything that has been written about me, whether it's a troll comment or a compliment. If my name is there, it has to be there in her folder," Shreya tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.

How does it feel to be a part of an R Balki film with such well-known actors like Sunny Deol, Pooja Bhatt and Dulquer Salmaan?

I really enjoy being a part of such films because I have loved films ever since I can remember.

I still can't come to terms with the fact that I am starring in a film that has such a stellar cast and my name is mentioned alongside theirs.

I am glad I got a place for my long name (laughs).

These are the people I have grown up watching.

Working in the film industry was a dream for me, and that was my little secret.

I kept it private because I never believed it enough for it to happen. And now that this is happening, I am very happy.

IMAGE: Shreya Dhanwanthary and Dulquer Salmaan in Chup: Revenge of the Artist. Photograph: Kind courtesy Shreya Dhanwanthary/Instagram

How do you deal with criticism of your work?

Even when someone says something bad about me, I am like, 'Hey, it's there! My first negative comment is there.'

This is so funny and I shouldn't be saying this, but let me tell you anyway.

My mom has a folder where she has cut and pasted anything and everything that has been written about me, whether it's a troll comment or a compliment. If my name is there, it has to be there in her folder.

Why?

Because we all dreamed of films together and we are still having to come to terms with the fact that it has happened.

Because there are so many people who dream of being an actor, but they never get that chance.

I know that I am not extra talented, nor am I very beautiful or the fittest of all.

Whatever it is, I got the opportunity and I am very grateful.

Ironically, your first film Why Cheat India was ripped apart by critics.

By the way, I got great reviews (for my performance in that film).

But that's the thing, every single thing that I have done, I have done well.

People have liked it.

Have you seen Looop Lapeta? There is this one dialogue I have in that film, and the dialogue goes on for three-and-a-half minutes.

So, I mean, it's a good challenge.

It's not that I do this for appreciation, but it so happens that the directors have trusted me with difficult things, and it has turned out well for me. People have liked it.

IMAGE: Shreya Dhanwanthary in ChupPhotograph: Kind courtesy Shreya Dhanwanthary/Instagram

How did you react when Balki approached you with the role?

I have a great story to tell.

I have this habit of writing love letters whenever I like somebody's work.

I will be like, 'Oh, I am a fan of your work'.

I wrote a similar letter to R Balki, saying, 'If you have any kind of role, I would like to work with you.'

He was like, 'Yeah, I have something for you. Meet me on Monday.'

I was like, 'Oh, wow.'

I got dressed and went to meet him on Monday.

When I went there, he said the same thing again, that it was a psychological romantic thriller type.

That very day, he gave me the narration and said, 'If you want it, it's yours.'

I was standing there, thinking, 'Oh, my God! What's happening?'

When he said that the character was mine, in my head, I was like, 'Don't react here. Don't react here!'

I said, 'Okay, thank you. Thank you, sir.'

I got out and screamed loudly.

After that, I got to know that Balki was sitting there with one of the writers of the film, and he was like, 'Yaar, I had two girls in mind for this film. I know, Shreya is great. I am happy that I met her, but I should have met the other girl also.'

The writer asked him, 'Who is that other girl?'

He said, 'See, I wanted the new girl from Scam: 1992 or the new girl from The Family Man.'

This happened and I am not kidding!

The writer was like, 'Sir, both are the same girl.'

He is like, 'Oh, really? She has done a great job.'

This actually happened. I got to know this much later.

 

IMAGE: Shreya and Emraan Hashmi in her first film Why Cheat India.

How did you react when your debut film did not work?

See, I don't mind if you hate a film.

I don't mind if you don't like it, but at least watch it.

My biggest disappointment with my debut film was that nobody saw it. It was not as bad as people said, but nobody saw it.

You have worked in films and on OTT. Which medium excites you the most as an actor?

I don't think about the medium.

Let me share another funny incident.

One fine day, I got a call from Mr Salim Khan.

Obviously, I did not pick it up as I did not have his number saved in my contacts.

Then he messages me: 'Hello, betaji. I am Salim Khan. I saw your advertisement for Amazon. I thought you were brilliant in it. I think you have a great future. Will you meet me?'

I was like, 'Who is this? Who writes like this?'

I wrote back, 'Please, don't disturb me again. It's very rude to, you know, tease people and don't joke around like this.'

He called me, and I answered the phone.

I know his voice because, obviously, you have seen his interviews.

I was like, 'Oh, I am so sorry, sir.'

He said, 'No, no, it's okay. I can understand. But you come home. I think you have a very bright future.'

This happened almost six years ago.

I had done an advertisement, and because of that, I got appreciation from such people.

That one television commercial got me a film, and the biggest shows in the country: The Family Man, Scam: 1992, and Mumbai Diaries.

It's because of that 30-second ad that I got a 10-hour-long show.

Hopefully, with this two-hour film called Chup, I might get something else.

IMAGE: Shreya on the sets of Chup. Photograph: Kind courtesy Shreya Dhanwanthary/Instagram

What was the first day like on the sets of Chup?

For the first 10 days, I kept thinking I would get fired.

I feared they would get to know that I didn't know anything and they would fire me.

After 10 days, Balki, Sunny Deol and Pooja Bhatt liked what I did, and I started feeling light and the tension eased out.

I started calming down a little bit. but nobody knew that in my head a tandav was going on.

Do you have a takeaway from the film?

I posted a picture recently. It is a picture of Sunny Sir's hand, and I wrote in the caption: '2.5 kilos'.

On his wrap day -- I don't know why I keep doing these stupid things -- I got a two-and-a-half kilo cake.

You have to give a special order for such a cake, so obviously, it was not available.

So what I did was I took one two kg cake and a half kg cake separately.

I was like, 'You know what this is?'

He said, 'Pata hai beta. Good.'

He cut all the cakes.

I have a lot of BTS. I want to keep posting them on Instagram.

I literally have a documentary on my phone. These beautiful moments are my takeaways.

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MOHNISH SINGH