Shilpa Shukla talks about her bold and emotionally-draining role in B.A. Pass
When Shilpa Shukla was offered Ajay Bahl’s B.A. Pass (releasing July 12), she asked her mom if she would disown her if she acted in it! For this film and theatre artiste, best known for her performance as Bindiya Naik in Shah Rukh Khan’s team of women hockey players in Chak De! India, this was a hard-hitting noir film. “Yes, the issue was difficult to broach. The scenes promised to be very bold. Initially, I was immensely insecure and apprehensive. As an artiste, I wasn’t questioning any of it; I have been exposed to world cinema. But for me, the reaction of my parents mattered a lot. My father warned me that it would definitely be a road less travelled and that I should be prepared for it,” says the actor.
Based on the 2010 short story The Railway Aunty by Mohan Sikka, B.A. Pass unveils the ugly truth about male prostitution. Shilpa plays the pivotal role of Sarika Aunty, a mysterious married woman who seduces a young small town boy (Shadab Kamal) to a point of no return. The sensitively made film has been doing the rounds of film festivals including the Montreal World Film Festival and the New York Indian Film Festival. It won the Best Film and Best Actor (for Shadab) awards at the Osian Cinefan Film Festival and was also voted Best Film by the French audience in the South Asian Alternative Film Festival in Paris earlier this year. It has been picked up for distribution by producer-distributor Bharat Shah.
Shilpa confesses that she read the original story after she had gone through Ajay’s script. “Sarika is a sort of femme fatale. She is unhappy within and holds many secrets. But she isn’t sure whom to trust. It’s a heady mixture of beauty, power and erotica. It was mentally exhausting to play her,” says the actor. While it is being largely typified as an erotic drama, her character comes across as highly emotionally strung. “After seeing the film Vishal Bharadwaj said, ‘It’s not about the physical exposure; it’s about the range of emotions you have handled amazingly’,” she says, beaming with pride.
Shilpa built an imaginary world for her character to understand her circumstances. “I started imagining her childhood. In the book, her introductory scene reveals her wearing rudraksh around her neck. I thought of what her redemption would be.” Shilpa, who lost her father last year, says that she is focusing on her Bollywood career with renewed vigour. “Post Chak De! India, I signed some films but none of them went on the floors. Also I think I was very casual about earning money. But now I need the money. So there is a definite motivation ,” says the actor, who is an ardent follower of Dalai Lama. But Shilpa’s motivation is not materialistic. She needs the money to support the cause of educating girl children in Vaishali district (her home town), Bihar. “There is just one girl’s school for 13 villages. After my father’s death, I found a copy of the bunch of letters he had written to the authorities to encourage secondary education for girls. I am going to follow the cause to its end,” she says.