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Exclusive! 9 Hours actress Madhu Shalini: Whenever you've done good work, choosing your next project is always a challenge

The Kitha Kithalu, Avan Ivan actress talks about her role in 9 Hours and opens up on why it was a surreal experience to be a part of a show backed by Krish Jagarlamudi

  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 08.42 PM, Jun 01, 2022

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Exclusive! 9 Hours actress Madhu Shalini: Whenever you've done good work, choosing your next project is always a challenge
Madhu Shalini

Madhu Shalini is exactly what one would term as 'Lambi Race Ki Ghodi' - capable and steady. She has never tasted great highs or steep lows but knows what it takes to survive in an industry that doesn't often give its actresses enough time to evolve as performers. Quite well aware of her strengths and limitations, she has been smart in picking the right projects, associating with good banners, filmmakers and actors, that have helped her replenish her creative juices from time to time. The digital medium is just what the doctor ordered for someone of her calibre, who can't be slotted or given a label. 

In an interaction with OTTplay.com, the actress, in her 17th year of filmdom, talks about her second Telugu web show, 9 Hours, currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

"In 9 Hours, I play Chitra, a journalist (set in the 80s) who finds herself in the middle of a crime scene. Niranjan, one of the directors, was a journalist himself and he shared his experiences of being a media person, accompanied by a still photographer back then. He particularly told me how communication was so difficult back in the day and discussed his practical problems! That made the job a lot easier for me. We had a lot of workshops and rehearsals before the shoot took off - it helped us and informed us about what nuances we had to pick and avoid. I never had to wait for instructions on a set and went in quite prepared. Very rarely do you get projects that give you the time and the mental space for prep," she says.

Was 9 Hours extra special or any different because it's a period thriller? She nods in agreement, "In terms of performance working in a period project is a tad difficult, we have to replicate something which is already there. You are not creating something on your own and need to refer to the way a particular set of people reacted back then. It's an interesting experience because going back in time helps reflect on the change in the way we look at relationships. Today, we'll probably leave a text to our parents to tell them if we'll be late. Back then, they would've been in panic mode if I didn't come back home in time." 

Talking about associating with brand 'Krish', the actress calls him (Krish Jagarlamudi) a phenomenal filmmaker. "All of us love his films and are familiar with his work. When I got a call and was told that he thought of me while scripting the character in the show, I was thrilled. It's really sweet because I don't know him in person or I wasn't sure if he has watched my movies either. When I heard the narration from him and read the script, it felt very surreal. As an actor, it's a dream to work with someone of his repute. Getting a call from him was a bolt out of the blues. I enjoyed bringing Chitra to life and it's a beautifully written character," she mentions.

What does it mean to be a female journalist in the 80s? How different was it? "I was told that there weren't many female journalists back then and it was the most enjoyable part of playing Chitra. She is special, she is outspoken and speaks her mind. When someone with such traits chooses to be a journalist, she will not back off. Back in the 80s, anything such women dared to do wasn't considered normal - it was more of a taboo. Her journey is very well-etched here - the character's tale is all about her priorities and how she handles her relationships. We talk of women empowerment today and this is a role that establishes it clearly."

Choosing her second web show after the success of ZEE5's Expiry Date (in which she got to play a well-defined, full-length role) wasn't easy. "Whenever you've done good work, choosing your next project is a big question. More than what audiences expect from us, you're looking out for opportunities that satiate you as an actor. I don't take a liking to scripts very easily and it's probably why people keep asking me if I have vanished from the industry. Just because I didn't have a release in Telugu doesn't mean I am not working in other languages - I worked on Visithran in Tamil recently. Good scripts don't come by too easily. More than me choosing these scripts, I am fortunate that they found me."

Having known Taraka Ratna for a very long time, Madhu Shalini finds it funny that it took them so long to work together. "It's nice to relive your memories with people you know well and share screen space with them," she states. Why should one watch 9 hours? Pat comes the reply, "Every episode in the show offers an interesting twist. While I was dubbing for it, a lot of people were second-guessing the plot but the twists kept surprising them. The twist is going to be better than what you expect. That is one thing I'm happy about. Even when I was reading the script, I finished it in one and a half hours - it was so gripping. It's a binge-worthy show and if you're up for something nailbiting, this is it!"

(Directed by Niranjan Kaushik and Jacob Varghese, 9 Hours is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar)

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