Shahana Goswami talks about her journey from theatre to films.
With movies being her passion be it watching or acting, Shahana began her acting stint way back in 2006. But it was in “Rock On” in 2009 she won everyone's heart. From then on there's been no stopping her. Steadily gaining ground Shahana opens up to NXg in an exclusive tete-e-tete on her films, future and what she fancies.
Was your career planned or a stroke of chance?
Strangely, a bit of both. I wanted to act since I was six but living in Delhi, films feel like a far off dream. I decided to go to Mumbai for my college and simultaneously worked with a theatre company called Working Title, under Jaimini Pathak. Coincidentally while still in college I bumped into a casting director, Shanoo Sharma, and she started sending me for auditions. The first was for Naseerudin Shah's “Yun Hota To Kya Hota”. Luckily I got it. I did both “Honeymoon Travels Private Limited” and “Rubaru” while still in college. After college I took a year off to see if I can continue doing this for a living. As luck would have it, I managed to get good work so here I am... still here, still working and still equally excited about it!
You have experimented with different roles in “Break Ke baad”, “Rock On”, “Game” … Where do you see yourself?
I entered the industry telling myself that I didn't want to get typecast; I think I've more or less managed to steer clear of it. That's the only way to keep it exciting for myself. I would love to do a film with a female protagonist who is strong, complicated and nuanced... an Umrao Jaan; a psychologically disturbed girl, a real life character, a Lara Croft type... anything! Also I just finished “Midnight's Children” with Deepa Mehta. I am looking forward to doing more work like that, which exposes me to international cinema. It's not just a distant dream anymore!
Typecasting is an actor's nightmare…How do you think you will face it?
You have to recognise it early on and you have to make the choices that will help you break out of it. Sometimes people typecast you because they have seen you do justice to a type of character and so anyone making a film with a similar character, will think of you. The idea is to treat it as your own responsibility to reinvent your image. You need to present yourself differently for people to think of you in a different light. We live in a very busy world and no one has the time to imagine you to fit into a role that you may not seem to be appropriate for. Its very important as an actor to stay fit, stay active and be remembered for your ability to act, beyond your ability to play one kind of character well. According to me, you just need to be aware and feel your way through making things change for yourself. Does the length of a role bother you or are you happy doing a meaningful role instead… How and where do you draw the line?
It has to be a combination of the strength of the role and the length of the role! I don't think there's any point having any fixed, air tight rules to operate in out industry. Its a creative field and a business where what you do today will shape what you will do tomorrow. So you need to be careful but at the same time you must stay true to your instinct. I have always gone by instinct. Some times it may not have proved to be a good choice in terms of a commercial success but i have definitely gained enough from those experiences to make the same choices again, if i were given the opportunity again. Growth has to be with some learning of what doesn't work as well. If you only see things going brilliantly for you, you're bound to have a great fall or stagnate. The only way for me to make choices and decisions has been to be aware and observant at all times and having done that, trust my instinct to do or not do a film.
Any actor you would like to work with? Any kind of film you would aspire to do?
I'm greedy to experience life and as an actor I would like to know what it's like to work with different actors. Why just actor, I'd like to work with every director as well! I'd love to play a role for which I need to train and really transform myself; a real life character, an action film, a dance-based film etc...
Its often heard that you cannot be friend people in the industry and its better to maintain a professional relationship …what's your take on this?
I don't believe in any absolute rules in life! And in an industry full off such varied personalities, i don't think there is any fixed rule. Its a personal choice. I have friends in the industry and outside. What is important is to be able to trust your friends and usually since we work for short stints with people on films, the familiarity often doesn't last beyond the film schedules. But if you are in the industry you know that this is a part of the life of being in this business. I have had friends outside of the industry for a long time and still do, but like i said, i have friends in the industry too - Deepika, Danish and Shruti, Imran and Avantika, Yudi, Soha Ali and Shikha Talsania.
Does it bother you that movies are still hero-driven? How long before the tides turn in your favour?
I don't think so. If that were true, then all these big budget films with big super stars would not flop. Movies today have to be story driven, with interesting characters! So, whether they are male or female characters, I don't think it makes a difference. I think I'm very lucky and an example of someone who having not done any films as the protagonist have still got recognition from the audiences. That goes to show that people like watching interesting characters and appreciate those characters, maybe sometimes more than uninteresting and innovative protagonists.
Any interesting anecdotes from your career?
At the “Rock On” music launch, I had come a full circle. When “Dil Chahta Hai” had its music launch in Delhi, I waded through rain and a mob at Planet M to see Aamir Khan. They arrived very late and the crowd became chaotic. I was standing on a table and blowing kisses to Aamir, waiting for just one glance. And now here I was at the music launch of the same production house, sitting on the other side of the barrier!
What are you future projects?
Ra.One this Diwali, then Midnight's Children in the middle of next year probably. I am working on Madhur Bhandarkar's “Heroine”, another International project by Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche, which I start early next year.
Your style and fitness mantra?
I believe happiness is the key to staying fit! It's important to do a basic amount of exercise regularly and to eat a healthy, nutritious diet. Learn to listen to your body and you'll know.
Style— find your own and make it work for you! Anything that helps bring out your personality and is true to who you are.
Now you know!
I learnt Odissi for 10 years from Padmashri Kiran Segal.
I've been the second national champion in artificial wall climbing (1997) and been a sportswoman and athlete in school.
I don't particularly love cooking but I LOVE eating
I can watch movies non stop for the rest of my life
I was in love with Aamir Khan for 15 years and wrote two letters to him too!
I love: Food
I hate: flying insects
I'm superstitious about: wishes (eye lash, seeing a mail van etc)
My biggest strength: friends and family
I'm afraid of: losing people who matter (them dying)
My weakness: laziness
My favourite possession: the people in my life!
What touches me the most: honesty, and helpful strangers.
My passion: cinema
My spice: my energy