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Exclusive! Shreya Mehta: Everybody wanted to be a Yash Raj or Dharma heroine before YouTube but I've always liked OTT more

Shreya plays the role of Deepika in the web series College Romance 3.

Exclusive! Shreya Mehta: Everybody wanted to be a Yash Raj or Dharma heroine before YouTube but I've always liked OTT more
Shreya Mehta (Instagram).
  • Shaheen Irani

Last Updated: 10.39 AM, Sep 18, 2022

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You remember her as the stubborn, pokerfaced girl from College Romance, Deepika. Shreya Mehta, however, admittedly is a completely different personality in real life. She does not understand Deepika and in her own life, Shreya goes with the flow rather than taking control or having the desire to go and grab films.

Talking to OTTplay ahead of her series College Romance 3’s release, the actress shares that even though she wants to work in films and be a Yash Raj or Dharma heroine much like others, it was OTT that always kept her more intrigued and interested. Shreya also speaks about her debut film Namaste England’s failure and what makes OTT special among many other things.

Excerpts from the interview…

You have been a part of Girls Hostel and College Romance. Do these shows in a way take you back in time and help you relive the college memories?

It does. If I'm walking in the corridor, I get the thought of being back in school or romance. That is such a student feeling. Sitting on the bench, talking to friends on sets, it always takes you back to college - that you did those things while you were in college. It's so relatable, sure. It's a great energy.

Is there anything that you missed accomplishing in college which you did through these shows?

I drove a bike in College Romance. That was new! That made it to my checklist.

Deepika is a character who knows what she wants. She exudes confidence and is very, very sure about who she is in the moment. You can see that she has literally zero fucks to give. At such a time, it is in the small moments of her weakness that we see her human side. Was that graph appealing to you?

When I got Deepika for the audition, I wanted to go for Naira. Back then, there wasn't meet in Deepika and Bagga's roles. They were very brief. We grew throughout the series.

Mostly because I was in-house talent and they were writing College Romance (which was Undergrads back then), I thought that it was just the story of Karan, Trippy and Naira. I fell in love with Naira. She's so smart who handles chaos and the two men.

However, I was asked to audition for Deepika. I said I don't want to and I don't even relate to this woman. I couldn't understand why she said f**k off every other second. I never connected with this woman and after the audition, they found Deepika in me and I was left stunned because I wanted to still play Naira.

Till the time I wasn't on set, I didn't even understand what is Deepika. Even now, whenever I get the script, I don't understand the lines Deepika says.

Since she's such an unusual character, whenever she says something, the audience is expecting something out-of-the-box from her, which is my biggest challenge yet. They expect me to deliver and it is all about improvisation, which gets tough.

This character, she constantly has a poker face. I personally cannot believe that someone can walk around with a poker face because it takes too much effort. However, you tell me, is it tough to keep a straight face and deliver scenes?

It is so tough. Gagan as Bagga is throwing this West Delhi energy and I am like Bagga in real life. I connect with his energy so much. I give him things to say. I remove my angst through these people. I ask them to express a certain way because I can't do it.

Even if they are cracking crazy jokes and being hilarious in the scene, I can't laugh. These are stupid jokes to Deepika. It is a task to stay mute and not give a flying fu** to these people when they're actually having a lot of fun.

Shreya laughs within but Deepika has this straight face. The craziest thing is that if I smirk even little, that is also noticeable. Hence, I can't even do that. Now, when my director asks me to give emotions, I apologize saying this woman doesn't give any emotion.

I really want to know, whose idea was this character trait and to such extremes. Deepika has the attitude of the South Delhi girl right but the whole pokerface is a bit extreme, no? Did you ever ask someone where did that come from and why?

This character was written like that. She's this wild student girl who owns up the college. She will drive in the wrong lane. She doesn't care only. If people say A, she'll be Z. She's totally opposite from everybody. It was all our writers actually. We simply acted and it just translated beautifully.

On the show, you have been a fuck up with Karan. In real life, have you ever fucked up so bad that it made you feel the same way - that you fucked up?

Yeah, I have done fucks ups in my real life as well. I regret them. I'm a very sensitive soul and it really affects me if I hurt any human being.

You made your debut on YouTube which has been very similar to the OTT space. What would you say about your learning experience?

Working with TVF has been a learning. They are my film school. It was one of India's first YouTube channels. It was such a huge deal that the people who gave others the first web series - Permanent Roommates - gave me work. In 2015, I didn't think that I want to bag movies. Before YouTube happened, everybody wanted to be a Yash Raj or Dharma heroine. It was my dream too but I'm so grateful to work with TVF and ever since, I wanted to do web series. Back in 2015, nobody knew about YouTube content creators as much either. Nonetheless, I wanted to continue web series. I see TV and film actors dying to be a part of crazy web series and OTT.

I started my journey with web series and OTT. So, I feel lucky and really grateful that I didn't have to struggle in that sense. The audiences have seen me and they enjoy my work. It's a very blissful feeling.

Let's talk about validation. You have critics and audiences praising content in both cinemas and on OTT. However, with films, you also have Box Office numbers. That is an additional validation. What was it here, in OTT space, that you felt like exploring OTT more? What kept you going?

YouTube content opened a different kind of a perspective for us actors. We got to know that the world didn't end at films. How I felt while working on OTT, is what kept me going. They have a different comedy sense and shooting style. There was no hero-heroine entry and the focus was on content. That was extremely attractive. My big dream of becoming a Bollywood heroine, shifted. It evolved in a way. I live like a heroine through dancing. I'm fulfilling my dream through dancing. In acting though, I'm very interested in the web space.

You made your Bollywood debut with Namaste England which unfortunately was not as accepted as everyone expected. Did the failure sort of give you a setback because it was supposed to be your debut film?

I didn't feel bad. It was an experience. At least I know what kind of scripts I want to be a part of. The failure didn't matter to me much because it was a beautiful experience. Very few people get to live the dream. I dreamed about it for 10 years and it finally transpired. The failure and success is not on me. If I'm on screen and people enjoy my performance, I'm happy with that. I should not be performing bad. I did my job right. People enjoyed my work. I liked it. Now, I know what kind of scripts to pick. If there's no failure, then how will you enjoy success?

I don't want to just work on OTT but be a part of good content. I have been very clear post Namaste England that I don't mind not being on screen for six months or years. I don't care about that. My track is very different. I'm not running towards doing more films. I'm very slow and steady, relaxed and want to be a part of something which is worth it. So, of course I want to do a film but content matters.

Right now, Bollywood is in a phase where most of their films are not working and nobody can understand why. In such a time, tell me what is your parameter when it comes to picking a film.

It has to be very relatable. The grand entry of hero and heroine isn't working out anymore. People have evolved, especially post lockdown. They have seen such amazing cinema sitting at home, not just Bollywood, that now they know where there is right meat, where they should invest and right now, they watch so much content at home that they wouldn't go to a theatre until and unless the content is worth going for.

Indians still love romance, action and comedy but it depends on how it is written. Of course, I want to be a part of something dramatic, some thriller. I want to try everything. We need great writers.

Upcoming projects?

Girls Hostel season 3, Pitchers 2 and a lot of dance videos. We're actually exploring something in that. So, wait and watch.

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