Shikha Talsania: “The web has opened up so much more for everyone…”

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Shikha Talsania made an impact with her role in last year’s release ‘Veere Di Wedding’ and she continues to do so in the digital world. Coming from a family known to the industry, this actress has made her own journey and carved her own way through her career in entertainment.

BizAsiaLive.com caught up with Talsania while she was in London recently.

You’re currently in London. Can I ask why are you here?
I was shooting over here for a web-series. We finished the shoot and now I’m non holiday.

Have you been sightseeing at all?
Yes. I went to the V&A, I went to the Natural History Museum. I’ve watched so many plays which I’m so happy about. I went to watch Hamilton. It’s really a thing that I can tick off the bucket list. And I got to spend time with my family over here.

What do you most love about London?
I love everything, including the weather… sometimes. There’s an old world charm about London. The architecture blows me away every time. Every street you look at is just beautiful. The arts and culture over here is amazing. For me, two weeks isn’t enough to take it all in. There just aren’t enough hours. I wish I just spend more time. I like the people too, they’re lovely. I really enjoy London.

Is there anything you can reveal about the web-series you’ve been shooting for?
Er… it’s funny. It’s going to release in 2020 and it’s for Amazon Prime. That’s all I can say right now. There hasn’t been a press release about it so I can’t really talk about it too much but it’s going to be fun.

You had ‘Veere Di Wedding’ last year and your role was so real – today’s young mother. Was there any inspiration you looked to for the role?
I did actually. The thing about Veere Di Wedding and the characters in it is it’s very relatable. The characters, the story, everything the characters are going through; some bit of it is relatable to people’s lives. I have friends who are like that. I’m not a mother, I’m not Punjabi. I haven’t eloped. I’m very single and I’m Gujarati (laughs). And I’m not a mother. But you have these girlfriends in your life so I have a friend back home who I took a lot of inspiration from and she’s a Punjabi. She’s a mother. She’s like Meera (my character in Veere) and she’s always the life of the party, she wants to have fun and make the best of every moment. My friend is very much like that. I actually went to her to learn how to speak Punjabi correctly. I went to her for classes. They paid off hopefully! Also every character in the film, including the parents… The time and space that it’s set in is so relatable. We all know parents – for example – like Kalandi’s parents or my parents or Sonam’s parents. Even Sumit’s parents. I think you find it’s easier to relate and when the world of a film is like that, it’s easier to improvise.

The film, especially within the UK, provoked a lot of debate about the boldness of the subject areas. Were you interested to be part of something that like that was conveying this image and hasn’t necessarily been shown in commercial Indian cinema?
You know, whenever someone says “this film is really bold”, I don’t know how to respond to that because we are in 2019 and we have so much information in our hands. We have been working. The people before us have been working towards an open dialogue today and it not being termed as “bold”. I’m not sure how to articulate it correctly but it’s strange. I think it’s a slice of life film – the subjects it portrays. It’s all a part of our lives. I was interested in doing this movie because I’m a part of that life. It’s interesting to have four women at the centre of it. Kareena’s character is commitment-phobic. So many people said to us that it’s so nice to finally have four women, a film about friendship, etc. It’s the same as a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and I related to those characters as well – the struggles, the emotions, the friendship. Gender didn’t really matter. Including the themes that were in ‘VDW’, the emotions are what mattered. We all knew it’s break the barriers and it was great to be a part of that.

In the time you’ve been doing films, there’s been a change in how women have been portrayed on screen. There’s also been the Me Too movement which shattered a lot of myths, so to speak. Is there anything you can say about this in today’s age?
I think we have a lot more opportunities. We’re writing more nuanced and layered scripts being produced. You’re not looking at the quintessential heroes, like a cookie-cutter version of a film. As an audience, we want more and there’s more being written and produced. There has been a shift and thank God for that. We’ve all been working towards it. It’s a fabulous time to be an actor and there’s no particular bracket you fall into anymore. The world is your oyster. It’s a great time. Let’s revel in it.

You’ve been a part of a few web-series, and digital platforms have taken India by storm. With this and certification and more, the international community are viewing India a little differently, more so because of the web content. Would you say the portrayal of women on the web is going in the right direction?
Yes, absolutely. We have so many things on our hands. I’ll go home and work on another project. It’s opened up so much more for everyone, regardless of gender. If you’re seen Sacred Games, Mirzapur, Four More Shots Please, Made in Heaven… it’s opened up in a great manner. As actors, creators.. all of us, we have so many opprtunities. It’s the same thing. Our content is getting better, way more creative, inclusive and experimental. It’s just a fabulous time to be any sort of creator. I was speaking to people born and brought up in London and talked to them about the web content they’ve been watching. We know that not just the Indian community is watching our content but it’s great that our content is seen and acknowledged by everyone.

You started out in theatre (kind of). Did you ever see yourself back then as being where you are now?
Yes! Hell yeah! I did theatre when I was in college, as an enthusiastic student saying “thank God I get to be on stage and get paid for it”. I worked behind the scenes in television behind the scenes too. And then by chance I got a call for Wake Up Sid! And that happens so organically, it’s not even funny. My first shot for the film, I felt everything fall into place and everything was how it was meant to be. I think you need to be a dreamer. As a creator you need to be a dreamer. And you dream… and you work towards that. It’s hard, you have to be patient and resilient. You have to think about what you want to achieve, it doesn’t happen instantaneously but you have to keep dreaming. And you work towards it. And there’s more to happen from here.

Your father has always been in entertainment. Do you think that’s shaped what you wanted to do and where you wanted to go in your life, in terms of your profession?
Yes and no. I wish the answer to that was simple but it isn’t. It was great to grow up with actor parents. I mean we went to a regular school like everybody else and we had the same problems as everybody else. My parents would always say to me “What are these grades? You need to work harder!” (laughs) So it wasn’t very different to anyone else but it was just that parents didn’t have a 9-5 job. My exposure to the arts happened at a much earlier age than other people. I think that every child wants to do to what their parent does, whatever their job might be. Somewhere I also said I wanted to be an actor because my parents were actors. But, to be very honest, as you grow p and start realising all the other interests you have and what life is like. My parents were encouraging to me to do whatever I wanted to. I came into acting very organically. A friend of mine from college was a casting director for Wake Up Sid and I don’t think she knew my background. She did know I was very active in college. She asked me if I wanted to audition for a film and I was working on another project for behind the scenes at that time. So I had a day off so I went to audition. That’s how it happened. Compared to those who don’t have actor parents, they understand my situation more. You have the knowledge of what your life is going to be like but when you’re living it, it’s your own experience. It’s not an easy answer.

You said you can’t talk about the web-series you are doing. Are there any upcoming projects you can talk about or is there something you’re working towards?
I can talk about something I directed recently. It’s a play with an all-female cast and crew. We just completed the shows of that so I will go back to doing more shows. I’m looking forward to that. There are projects that I don’t want to talk about because I feel like I might jinx them. There’s a lot of web stuff and film stuff. I’ll go back and look at all of that.

When we look at the entertainment industry from the UK, it feels like it’s moving quite fast. Do you think it should slow down and smell the roses or continue at this speed?
I don’t think we can control that. I think right now, with the way there’s so much information you get instantly, you can’t control it. As much as I’d like to say that it’d be nice to quieten the pace a little, I don’t think you have a choice. For the amount of information we’re consuming, I think we need to keep up. If we don’t it’ll be a problem. It’s almost a circumstance. And it’s fun! It’s also a personal choice – you need to expect and see how much they want to take in. There’s enough for everyone who wants to take it in but the fact that, coming from a generation where went from cassettes to CDs to MP3 players… from then until now, with the click of a button, you have a billion options. It’s awesome. As creators, you then need to stand out from the crowd and make something that’ll garner everyone’s attention. That’s a new challenge I guess.

BizAsiaLive.com thanks Shikha Talsania for meeting us.

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