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'Shilpa Shetty has been very caring'

By PATCY N
June 13, 2022 12:42 IST
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'She is not only concerned about her own performance or how she is looking, but also about others.
'I am new to all this, so I don't understand when I need a make-up touch-up.
'But she would spot a shine on my face and call my make-up artist to give me a touch-up.
Then there was a scene where I had to smile differently.'
I thought I did a good job, but when she saw it, she said, "You have done it pretty well, but why don't you try it this way?"
'She was absolutely right, and the scene came out so much better.'

IMAGE: Shirley Setia, who makes her big screen Bollywood debut in Sabbir Khan's Nikamma this Friday, June 17.

If one has a dream, one can live it too, and Shirley Setia proves that.

Raised in New Zealand, Shirley carved out a singing career all on her own, became a YouTube sensation, and headed to Mumbai to become a Bollywood actress.

She will now make her debut in Sabbir Khan's Nikamma, co-starring Shilpa Shetty and Abhimanyu Dassani.

Though we will see her on the big screen for the first time, this is not her first release.

Shirley -- who was first seen in the OTT film Maska, co-starring Manisha Koirala -- tells Patcy N/Rediff.com, "Just having a dream is not enough. You need to know whether you are capable to be an actor or not. When people from the industry tell you that you have the potential to be an actor, it inspires you."

Nikamma is your third acting project, after Maska and Krishna Vrinda Vihari (in Telugu). Does it feel strange that despite a release, people are calling Nikamma your debut?

Krishna Vrinda Vihari was supposed to release on June 3, but it got postponed and the release date is not yet fixed.

I have been fortunate to work with a wonderful team like with Manisha (Koirala) ma'am in Maska and Shilpa (Shetty) ma'am in Nikamma.

Even though I am a newcomer, they have been very supportive and never made me feel that I was new to the industry.

It doesn't feel strange that people call Nikamma my debut because it is a debut in different industry.

All the three films have been new experiences for me.

This is the first time I will see myself on the big screen, and I am really excited.

Nikamma was the first film that I signed, but it got delayed and Maska released first.

IMAGE: Shirley Setia in Nikamma.

How did Director Sabbir Khan sign you up?

I wanted to act, so I was giving a lot of auditions.

I got a call from Sabbir's sir's office.

I gave an audition and he liked it.

But he was not sure that I could pull off the character, so he asked me to attend a workshop.

After that, he asked me to do a couple of scenes from the movie and when he felt confident that I could do it, he gave his nod.

Nikamma is a remake of the Telugu film Middle Class Abbayi. Your character was played by the popular actress, Sai Pallavi. Did you watch Middle Class Abbayi before you started working on Nikamma?

No. After we finished our shoot, I got to know that Nikamma was a remake of Middle Class Abbayi, so I went and watched it.

Sai Pallavi is one of my favourite Telugu actresses. Her acting is very natural.

When she's on screen, you don't want to look at the others.

Nani sir is also fabulous in the film and in Jersey as well; he is a well-respected actor in the Telugu industry.

To understand my character better, I watched Jab We Met a lot. I took inspiration from Geet's (played by Kareena Kapoor) character.

Our film is slightly different from Middle Class Abbayi; mthe values or the message is the same, but the way it is presented is different.

Since I had no idea it was a remake earlier, I gave the character my own flavour.

IMAGE: Shilpa Shetty, Abhimanyu Dassani and Shirley Setia in Nikamma.

Shilpa Shetty plays your older sister in the film. How was your first meeting with her? What was it like working with her?

I have been a huge fan of Shilpa ma'am's work.

A few years ago, I had done a '90s mash-up of all my favourite songs like Chura Ke Dil Mera.

I was really excited to work with her, as I had a lot of scenes with her.

She has been very caring. She is not only concerned about her own performance or how she is looking, but also about others.

Like, I am new to all this, so I don't understand when I need a make-up touch-up. But she would spot a shine on my face and call my make-up artist to give me a touch-up.

Then there was a scene where I had to smile differently.

I thought I did a good job but when she saw it, she said, 'You have done it pretty well, but why don't you try it this way?' She was absolutely right, and the scene came out so much better.

We started filming in 2019. Over the course of two years, I got to know her better.

We used to eat her oat cookies when we were in Lucknow.

She follows a strict routine, and there is so much you can learn from her.

She is such a strong-headed, independent woman, such a caring mother...

 

IMAGE: Shirley Setia and Abhimanyu Dassani in Nikamma.

How was it working with Abhimanyu Dassani?

Abhimanyu has done two films, so he understood camera angles better than me.

He would guide me on the sets, how to face the camera with the maximum light on the face.

Do you think it is easier for a star kid to make a debut than an outsider like yourself?

I have given a lot of auditions even since I came to India in 2017, after my graduation.

I would give auditions, but I wasn't confident.

So in 2018, I went to the New York Film Academy and did a three-month course. That gave me a lot of confidence.

I think star kids have their own set of challenges.

IMAGE: Shirley Setia and Naga in Krishna Vrinda Vihari.

How did you get Krishna Vrinda Vihari?

I signed Krishna Vrinda Vihari in 2020.

I was in New Zealand to meet my parents.

The makers saw me in Maska and reached out to me.

I was scared about how I would say my dialogues in Telugu.

I don't know how to speak Punjabi or Gujarati, but I have sung songs in both languages, so I knew I would manage Telugu too.

For me, my role was important, whether it is meaningful and something my parents could watch and be proud of.

IMAGE: Shirley Setia.

You are a singer. When did you decide to be an actor?

I always wanted to be an actor.

Singing just happened and I am grateful for that. Or else, I would have been able to shift from New Zealand to India.

Once I moved here, the directors I was working with for my singles encouraged me to be an actor.

I am not from the industry, neither is my family.

So just having a dream is not enough. You need to know whether you are capable to be an actor or not.

When people from the industry tell you that you have the potential to be an actor, it inspires you.

What is happening with your singing career? You sang in Maska and in Nikamma.

I am not a formally trained singer.

Training in singing is a life-long process.

I did not get any trainer or guru in New Zealand, and then I started working because I had to support myself.

I am grateful to the Maska team for introducing a diction teacher to me.

I have learnt a lot after coming to India.

I recorded my songs for the first time in a proper recording studio at T-Series. Earlier, I would do it at home by myself.

Singing has not taken a backseat for me; I am still working on my singles.

I want to do both acting and singing like Ayushmann Khurrana, Farhan Akhtar, Diljit Dosanjh, Shraddha Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra... they inspire me.

I have never met any of them, but I know how much hard they work to balance both.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Shirley Setia/Instagram

You were born in Daman and brought up in Auckland.

I was six when my father got a job in New Zealand and we shifted there. Today, he has a business there.

I did my education there, but we would frequently visit India during vacations.

On July 9, 2011, I met my favourite singer KK in New Zealand. He had come for a tour.

I am a huge fan of KK. By fluke, I got a chance to meet him backstage.

In 2012, I was doing a part-time job in a Hindi radio station in New Zealand, when I met KK again, as well as Shreya Ghoshal. They had come for a concert.

I asked Shreya ma'am what I should do to become a good singer, and she suggested YouTube because people all over the world can see you. It's the best way to reach out to audiences in India.

I was a little worried to put myself out there on the Internet.

In 2013, I recorded the karoke version of Tum Hi Ho from Aashiqui 2, and posted it on YouTube.

T-Series were running a Tum Mi Ho contest. They picked up my video, and I got a lot of appreciation.

People started supporting me and that's how I started doing my own music videos.

I started getting a fan following.

When I came to India, in Hyderabad, I wrote on my social media page that I would be in such and such mall at this time. I was not expecting anything, but there were a lot of people who came to meet me.

The security threw my fans and me out because there was too much crowd.

That's when I realised how popular I was.

So I went back to New Zealand and told my parents I want to go to India and try an acting and singing career for a year. If it did not work, I would come back.

There were a lot of arguments as they wanted a secure career for me.

But I came to Mumbai.

It was strange when I came here because I discovered that people don't give house on rent to single girls.

It was very difficult.

My mother tried her friends and through that, I got a house. My mother came for a while to help me settle down.

Once I came here, I got offers immediately because of my YouTube videos.

I would go to colleges and perform.

I got a manager and they started lining up projects for me.

I started doing auditions and that's how I got films.

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PATCY N / Rediff.com