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Exclusive! Sharmin Segal: Directors didn't come running to me after Malaal

Sharmin is currently seen in Atithi Bhooto Bhava opposite Pratik Gandhi.

Exclusive! Sharmin Segal: Directors didn't come running to me after Malaal
Sharmin Segal (Instagram).
  • Shaheen Irani

Last Updated: 02.27 PM, Sep 25, 2022

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Back in 2019, two names were just entering Bollywood and they were rooted for. One was Jaaved Jaaferi’s son Meezan Jaaferi and the other was Sharmin Segal. She received luck from the maestro Sanjay Leela Bhansali and actor Ranveer Singh as she pursued acting. Now, Sharmin is back after three years in another film, this time with Pratik Gandhi and Jackie Shroff. Her movie Atithi Bhooto Bhava is now available on OTT, on Zee5.

We at OTTplay spoke to the actress about life pre and post Malaal, discussed the current scenario in Bollywood and her thoughts on the same. Excerpts…

When your debut film Malaal was announced, it was one of the most-awaited. Despite that, was it tough? Did your debut film not help you bag more projects?

I speak the truth 90% of the times and so I'll answer this question as honestly as I can. Malaal didn't do the Box Office numbers that people thought it would do. In this kind of industry which is always competitive, there isn't just one actress or one actor. There are 20 actresses and actors and there's cost and benefit for each one of them. Obviously, directors didn't come running to me after Malaal considering how the film performed.

Then again, you have to keep proving yourself as an actor. So when you get the opportunity, you grab it until you can find an opportunity and prepare for what life throws at you. You work hard to get that opportunity and you make the most of it.

Malaal was that opportunity for me which I tried to make the most out of. It didn't propel me to where I want to be but today I'm a lot more comfortable with myself and a lot more secured in the sense that things will happen when they have to happen.

With Atithi Bhooto Bhava, I met Hardik sir and suddenly did a film with him which got shot in 25 days. The very fact that he believed in me. Throughout the shooting, that was one of the biggest things for me. My director, another human being, believes in my ability to execute. It was scary. It was my second film and I didn't believe in my ability to execute at that point. The way Hardik sir spoke to me when I wasn't able to perform or when I did a good job, it motivated me and changed my approach towards acting. It definitely helped me become a lot more secure as a person. Everyone has their own destiny. You can do your best and get the best out of your life but everybody needs to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. So, you have to work hard in the hours you are awake in order to try and make your destiny the best in what you want to achieve out of it. Finding happiness in the not-so-happy moments is also a good policy to live by.

It appears that you started being hard on yourself after what happened with Malaal. You were looking for motivation. So were you more critical of yourself after the failure?

Of course. I'm generally a very critical person so yes, I was critical about myself. If you aren't, how will you grow? If you don't know the right or wrong, how will you grow? If you don't look at your shortcomings, you're automatically on the losing end. It's actually helped me that I have the ability to be critical of myself.

The world has a population of seven billion people. Somebody would criticize your work - whether it's a justifiable criticism or not - you take it in, assemelate it and then incorporate what you can take in. I think this is my strength rather than something that bogs me down. Of course, criticism affects everyone and it only comes with time and hindsight that you understand what the criticism means. Everyone feels bad when someone criticizes them but what you do with that, that matters. With time, you learn the process of criticism.

This is my second film and all of this is happening as we speak. I'm understanding so much more about myself. If it were my 10th film, it probably wouldn't hit me the way you perceived it would.

First COVID happened and then the trend of boycott started. While there is OTT boom, theatres are affected. What would you say about this?

We live in a diverse world anyway. There's as much room for theatres as there is for OTT. I wouldn't say OTT is making theatres suffer. We all went through an entire year of our lives where we couldn't leave our homes. It wasn't because OTT wasn't there before COVID. It was still there. The approach changed because each and every individual's life on this planet changed. I don't think there's a co-relation that because OTT boom happened, that people aren't going to theatres. That isn't a generic statement you can make. It's because of the fact that people couldn't go to the theatres, today, when we've surpassed the peak stages of COVID - when we couldn't leave our houses and go to the theatres - the attitude of an audience has definitely changed and with that, what content pulls an audience to the theatre has changed. We're in that phase right now, where we understand what to make based on which film is working and which isn't.

I personally think OTT is great and I'm really happy my movie has released on OTT because it makes me feel really good thinking that a boy and girl can sit in a room and watch a nice, romantic love story or comedy that might give them some understanding of their relationship, if they're watching it with an emotional approach. That for me is special with this movie.

In general, the thought about theatres is changing and it might take us a year or three to understand how theatres in our lives have changed - in terms of content, number of theatres and a whole bunch of things. It will still take us some time to understand how to approach the situation. Filmmakers will get to decide whether to release their project on OTT or in theatres based on that. There are movies that release in theatres and flop but people love those films on OTT. It's still an understanding to see where your content fits in - on which medium.

Talking about content, how do you look at content? In the sense that what do you look in scripts and that helps you pick your film?

I generally look at the base character and where it ends. If there isn't any kind of growth - it could be a physical transformation or emotional awakening - but it has to flow in the script. That's literally the most important thing for me.

Even if I don't understand the script, my character graph is really important to me whenever I pick any script. For some reason, my entire life revolves around love stories. I'm going to become the actor who does love stories. That genuinely seems like a trend going on in my life right now.

I like to believe that I have a decent approach and understanding to the emotion of love, especially between a girl and boy. That is something I somewhere incorporate in the love stories I do and will be doing. Hopefully that comes across to the audience and I can share a little bit of my understanding of love with that audience through the serial love story shoots.

Recently somebody told me that romance, comedy and drama would not end in Bollywood. People still want to see romance. Those are basic emotions so I guess you are safe...

Yeah, yeah. You love your father, mother, boyfriend, dog, husband. It's a very complexly universal emotion. To play with it is amazing and if done right, it can resonate with an audience and that's what you want at the end of the day - for your audience to feel anything while watching the movie. That's my intention - to get their interest. They don't even have to sing praises but if the films can just remind them about their own lives, even that is enough for me.

Atithi works for me because it's relatable. It's what today's generation and human beings go through. Atithi changes timeline. There's a past and present. That's why it would resonate with just today's generation but also an older generation who has an understanding of love over our instant generation.

You have assisted in films like Bajirao Mastani and Mary Kom - both different genre but still successful films. What was the learning you took from that?

What I understood the most was the actor-director relationship. I observed it as a third person. Most people don't get the privilege to see Ranveer Singh and Sanjay Leela Bhansali discuss a scene.

When I was ADing, I wasn't as determined about acting as I am today. I wanted to understand what a set environment is like. Being on a film set is very different from most things. You get that experience only when you are on the film set. It's not like how you working in one office and most offices also function in the same way. Here, every film set is different. You work 16 hours, standing most of the time. I took up a job and responsibility and at the end of the day, even though I want to stand around and observe Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, I have a job to do. I have to get their costumes, hair and makeup done. What it really prepared me for were the long work hours, understanding what it physically and mentally takes to create a movie.

I remember an incident where in a dialogue, my Hindi flew. I generally have a very Mumbai-type Hindi. Ranveer had called me to his van to run lines during Bajirao Mastani. He gave me the scene and when I started narrating, he snatched the script from my hand and asked me to learn Hindi if I want to be an actor. Then I took it a little seriously. Now I incorporate Hindi in my day-to-day life, even if it comes out Mumbaiya. Even if you're doing modern-day films, it's very important to have the correct balance between English and Hindi when you're speaking. There's a certain transition that happens when you switch from English to Hindi or vice-versa. That for me doesn't come easily and it has taken me years to understand it and I still don't do it properly but that was really important. When I watch movies about today's day-and-age, set in India, with today's generation, the balance between your dialogues in English and Hindi, that creates a vibe for me in a way. That's definitely one of the most important things I've learnt over the last couple of years. To answer your question shortly, I learnt about the amount of effort it takes to actually create cinema. That's what I learned in my AD and acting life. Also, when you are an actor, don't try to be an AD. That happened to me, so...

Oh, was that on Malaal sets?

Yes. In my mind, I'm constantly checking hair, costume and makeup. Then I asked myself why? I need to check my performance. So, I had to unlearn some things but I got a lot of insight and understood the work environment. If you don't understand, that can be a little shocking.

You told me that you weren't too keen on acting but then when you told me about your incident with Ranveer, by then the acting keeda bit you. So, when exactly did you think about pursuing acting?

I was healthy during Mary Kom. I didn't have the courage to say that I want to act. Some people in my life knew. Ranveer saw me everyday so he knew. Sanjay sir knew but I never told him that I wanted to be an actor. It was very difficult for me to say out loud that I want to be an actor and I wasn't sure about it. I was losing weight. I was 40 kgs heavier when I was an AD on Mary Kom. It took me 5-6 years to lose the weight and then get into acting.

Some people knew for sure, especially during Bajirao Mastani, because I was going to acting school back then. So they had a vague idea. This industry is so competitive and subjective. So many people are trying to be a part of it that I didn't know what was going to happen. I focused on weight loss, learning Hindi and then went ahead with things.

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