December 1, 2001


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'I'm all blissed out'

After her power-packed performance in Satya where she vowed critics, classes and masses alike, Shefali Shetty recreates cinemagic in Monsoon Wedding.

Shefali Shetty Under Mira Nair's directorial eye, Shefali has an ace up her sleeve. The actress gives Rashmi Ail a glimpse into the wedding of the year:

To be cast in a Mira Nair film is prestigious for any artiste. How did you bag this role?

One day, Mira called me up on the phone from Delhi and told me she was making a film called Monsoon Wedding and she wanted me to be a part of it.

She briefly narrated the script, the backdrop of the film and my role on the phone. We spoke for over ten minutes. I said "Yes" immediately.

Mira said she was very impressed by my performance in Satya. She didn't even know whether I could communicate fluently in English. All she knew about me was courtesy Satya. You can't really deduce my fluency in English from that film.

We kept in touch via e-mail; her office kept me posted about the script and things like that. Mira came down to Bombay for a couple of days before shooting commenced. That was the first time I met her. Things just clicked.

How did it feel working with an internationally acclaimed director like Mira Nair?

Wonderful. As a director, Mira knows exactly what she wants from her actors and how to exact it from them.

She's tremendously organized, else it's virtually impossible to complete a film like Monsoon Wedding in 30 days flat. Also, there is this madness about her which is so necessary to making a film like Monsoon Wedding.

Some of her madness rubbed on all of us -- the best thing that could happen to the film. She's brought out the craziest in all of us. She just lets the actor be. She gives him all the space he requires. Monsoon Wedding

What I admire most is her unique ability to spare a moment amidst all the frenzy on the sets to say something nice to you which makes you feel so special. It's really not expected out of a director -- there is so much work to be done, schedules are so hectic and the director has to get everything organized. Yet, she has that one moment to make you feel wonderful. That's really very sweet.

The character of Ria is very complex. She's been molested by her uncle and comes to terms with it. Was it difficult getting under the skin of the character?

Not really. Ria's is a complex character yet very believable. It's not far-fetched. There was a possibility of going overboard, making the character melodramatic and hysterical. It was a conscious decision on our part not to do so.

We worked towards portraying Ria as a very normal girl who has had an unfortunate experience in her life, comes to terms with it and is dealing with life normally. Her life comes full circle when she confronts the man who has molested her.

Ria always knew what she wanted. The key to doing justice to the role was in being simple rather than putting on an act.

I loved the fact that I was Ria. And Mira loved the fact that I was Ria even more. She's put it across to me in a lot of ways that she's very happy with my performance. Ria has turned out much better than when she was conceived.

Molestation by a family member is rarely depicted on screen. Were you wary about? How do you think it will go down with the Indian audience?

Not at all. It's time we wake up and smell the coffee.

Things like this happen all the time in our society -- it's very believable. It happens to the best of people. It doesn't matter which class of society you belong to. It could happen to a girl living in the jhopadpatti or the one in a skyscraper.

The other day, some of my friends were sitting together, discussing child molestation. It turned out that all of us had gone through some experience where even if we were not molested, we were touched at the wrong place. And the treatment of the film is very realistic.Monsoon Wedding

It was not at all the case of showing something morbid on screen so as to sell a few more tickets. We believed in what we were shooting. That's why we were all very confident throughout the making of the film.

Did you go through intensive rehearsals?

Rehearsing was so much fun. They were not meant for us to memorize our lines. They were meant for us to get comfortable with our characters.

It was just not the case of Yeh movement yaad karo or Yeh line yaad karo. Rehearsals helped achieve a high comfort level. That comes across on screen.

The entire film has been shot with a hand-held camera. How did it help enhance the look of the film?

The camerawork is the pulse of the film. The cameraman had to do a tough job. I'm sure he had bruised shoulders by then. The actors didn't have to bother about camera angles at all. We were 30 people in a room. It seemed as though somebody had hidden the camera somewhere in the room and we were all caught on screen unawares. The camera has captured all the nuances and moments beautifully. No wonder the film has such a natural, real look.

You struck gold with Satya. But you didn't go on a signing spree. Was it a deliberate decision to wait for a good offer?

I was waiting for a good offer to come my way; it was also very important for me to enjoy my work.

There's no point working for the sake of working or to notch up points in the market so that people say, 'Look, she's bagged ten films in her kitty.'

It's more important for me to do a film that touches my heart. I've waited for two years, refrained from signing films or television soaps which didn't excite me.

There's no point being part of a big banner and looking a fool on screen. At the end of the day, you're not happy.

I'm very happy with the decision I took. It paid off incredibly. The one-and-a-half-month I've devoted to Monsoon Wedding has rejuvenated me completely.

Are there any more projects in the pipeline?

I'm just very excited. It's my first baby. I want it to be the most pleasurable experience in my life. Girl or boy, anything is welcome. I'm so excited about buying nappies, baby clothes, cribs, the works. As of now, the baby is the most important thing in my life.

I'm blissed out at the moment, touchwood.

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