The year 2015 saw Shefali Shah in one of her most memorable performances till date, where she aced the role of a harried mother and neglected wife in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. She was also seen in an impressive cameo in Brothers.
Irrespective of her screen time, Shefali is one of those rare talents that has consistently managed to make people sit up and take notice. But the question remains, why has this National Award-winning actress chosen to avoid the camera more often than not. We decode the enigma that is Shefali Shah.
Why don’t we see you more often in the movies?
That’s because the kind of work I want to do doesn’t come everyday and I think people don’t know where to place me. It’s as if something gets stuck in people’s minds — if I have played a mother in one film, then I get calls for that kind of role only. I don’t know what they think. And I am way too choosy. I love my work way too much to just go and do a job. So it’s not about ‘oh my god, I am doing 10 films’. It’s about you know what, it is in fact one film and I am so kicked about it.
What did you see in Dil Dhadakne Do’s script that made you give it the green signal?
When Zoya met me, she said, “I don’t know if you would do it but can you at least read the script?” I said, “Of course, I will read it.” I remember I was at home and when I finished reading it, I told my husband (Vipul Shah) that it’s one of the best scripts I have read in a long time. He asked me about my role and I told him it is a fantastic one. My character wasn’t so aggressive on paper but I thought it was the best role in the script. I did, however, express my doubts to him about doing it. And he said, ‘what do you mean? Just do it’.
Does Vipul have a say in the films you do?
He does. I mean I talk to him about whatever gets offered to me. And the same holds true for him. He seeks my opinion on the movies he is producing and the scripts he comes across. But at the end of the day, he has to decide what’s right for him and that applies to my decisions as well. He will tell me his point of view, but finally it’s my decision.
Despite being a National Award Winner for The Last Lear, do you think you have been ignored by the film industry?
Yes, I do think I have been ignored.
Why? Do you feel that people are unclear as to how you should be portrayed?
Yes, that, and there is a strange preconceived notion that I don’t want to work for some strange reason. I have no clue what it is. One can offer me something that I may or may not take up for whatever reasons. But not to offer anything assuming I won’t do it, is strange.
Also, I think there is a big mind block — they don’t know where to put me. So there is a lot of stuff that I could do but I haven’t done as much as I would have liked to do.
Are you happy with the kind of writing you see in films these days?
There is some really good writing happening and there are some wonderful directors. I don’t think we are lacking behind on that front. For my sake, I do wish they’d break the mould that they have set for me.
Do you think that has to do with any shortcoming from your end?
I could have done some PR but I didn’t work on that either. I have never worked on it and I don’t say this with pride. That is an important part of an actor’s job but I haven’t done it.
So you’re saying that because people didn’t see you more often, you slipped from their minds?
How many scripts do you end up rejecting?
Recently, I got offered lot of mummy roles. I said “no”. I might do a mother’s role again — I have no problem with that. But I won’t jump the bandwagon. I want to wait and it’s fine. I don’t want to be seen in three to four films back-to-back in the same mould. I don’t want people to think of me as the next Nirupa Roy. I don’t want be that. I don’t want to work for the heck of it.
Also — touchwood — I have a full life. I have kids, I have a husband, I paint, and I write, we watch four films a week, I cook, I travel. So if I am leaving all of that for a film, it better be worth it.
You paint as well! Do you plan to exhibit your works some time in the future?
I want to do it but I don’t know where to start. I guess my husband will have to push me again. Otherwise, I will sit and vegetate.