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Exclusive! Simran Sharma on Oka Chinna Family Story: I find small-town simplicity aspirational

The actress, who was last seen in the Hindi film Hum Chaar, talks of her digital debut with ZEE5's Oka Chinna Family Story

Srivathsan Nadadhur
Nov 17, 2021
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Actress Simran Sharma, who made her mark as a child actor in several Hindi television shows and later transitioned into a lead actress with Hum Chaar, is set to foray into the digital space with the Telugu web series, Oka Chinna Family Story. The show, to premiere on ZEE5 on November 19, is produced by Niharika Konidela under Pink Elephant Pictures. The family dramedy is directed by Mahesh Uppala and has her paired alongside Sangeeth Shobhan. Ahead of its release, the budding actor caught up with OTTplay for a candid chat.

You hail from a family that has very little or no association with the arclights. What drew you towards a career in the industry?

I started working in the industry when I was quite young. I was barely a 10-year-old when I first faced the camera as a child artiste. It initially started as a hobby because someone at a gathering noticed me, thought I was a cute kid and asked my parents if I would be interested to appear in ads. My mom asked me about it and I had no reason to say no. It started just like that and there was no plan to make a career out of it. 

I did a couple of shows for Sony and Sahara One and my parents rightly decided to drop it briefly so that it wouldn't affect my academics. I just kept doing ads on and off. Over the years, I had many ambitions - to be an interior designer, image consultant, chef, baker and God knows what not! Finally, during my late teens, I realised that acting is something that I enjoy doing and has been growing on me. Since then, I wanted to give a proper shot at it and make it a professional choice.

What about acting fascinates you the most - is it the character, the fame or vanity?

The fame, popularity and vanity are the perks of this profession but they weren't my motivation to take up a career in the entertainment industry. When you start, you have nothing of those and come for it expecting something else. I just happen to feel at home and enjoy the time between action and cut. I like getting lost in the little world of the character, understanding it, getting to play it, associating with a lot of creative people in the process of bringing it to life. 

Back in your childhood, were you critical of the way you appeared on the screen?

As a child, I don't think I bothered much about the way I looked. I was just having fun and looked at it like any other hobby. In the last few years, even though I feel happy to see myself on the screen and that a lot of people are going to watch it, you can't escape being critical of your work. It's not like you're seeing the character for the first time - you have seen it on paper, shot for it, dubbed for it- and you end up thinking you should've done a better job of it, get anxious for the most trivial of aspects, from the look to gestures and expressions.

Your first major assignment as a lead was the feature film Hum Chaar in 2019. How different was it to play a lead as opposed to being a child actor?

Landing Hum Chaar itself was so surreal because it was produced by Rajshri Productions, whose films like Hum Saath Saath Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun I've grown up watching and loved them to bits. Just to imagine that the banner was producing Hum Chaar and for me to be a part of it was so special. The process is very enjoyable and we had a great team. I got to meet Sooraj Barjatya and realised why such people make it big and stay right there all along. It was an enriching experience that was equally fun.


That you were cast as a Telugu-speaking small-town girl Keerthi in Oka Chinna Family Story comes across as an unconventional decision by the makers. However, the promos indicate you pulled off the challenge quite well. What did it take to play a part that's so different from your world?

I am glad you say that I look my part in Oka Chinna Family Story. And yes, indeed, my world in Mumbai and that of Keerthi, a small-town girl in Warangal are quite different. Keeping the challenges with the language aside, my core personality is quite similar to that of Keerthi's. Managing to speak Telugu wasn't a major issue because I took my lines two months in advance and got in touch with a language coach and did my prep thoroughly. Hopefully, in the series, audiences won't be able to recognise I'm a non-Telugu speaker. I, Sangeeth and the director (Mahesh Uppala) were part of several workshops before the shoot. I kept asking Mahesh some bizarre questions (laughs) as part of the research I had to do to play Keerthi. He patiently answered all my queries. It all worked out well.

What do you make of Keerthi as a character? Is she any different from an urban-bred girl?

There's nothing distinctly small-town about Keerthi as a character and there's no apparent rural touch. She's simple, dressed like the girl-next-door and it's hard to give her label like small-town, rural or urban. She's a grounded, simple person. I find the small-town simplicity aspirational. At one time, all of us are simple beings but life takes its course later.

Did you have to work hard to get your comic timing right?

The comedy in the show is quite situational and we didn't have to deliver comic punches intentionally. The show is driven by the characters and each of them is quite well-defined, has a proper graph. It's just that they land up in funny situations and act accordingly. They deal with something wacky and how they react to it is extremely funny. 

Tell us about your shoot experiences for Oka Chinna Family Story.

It was a delight to shoot for it. Back in Mumbai, there is a clear demarcation in terms of departments, the way the crew would function but the setup while shooting for Oka Chinna Family Story, was more family-like. It was okay to ask someone a question that's entirely different from their role/department in the show and they wouldn't still mind and answer it. We all became one little family while shooting for it. We were this good young bunch and the average age of our cast and crew is definitely less. The producer, the actor went the extra mile to make me feel comfortable. I was initially nervous about working with Naresh and Tulasi (garu) but they surprised me with their insights and warmth.  

This must have been a relief for you as an actor to be on a set after a long time, especially after the dark times the country had to go through during both the waves of the pandemic.

Absolutely! Shooting and being on sets is my happy place, more so after the horrific year and a half that we had. I didn't get to shoot much before the show. Nothing much was going on and we were stuck at home for long. I was grateful that it was a good team and the content was equally refreshing.


Was shooting for Hum Chaar and Oka Chinna Family Story any way similar?

Hum Chaar and Oka Chinna Family Story were similar in a way that I was away from home, shooting with an exciting team. The basic difference was that the workshops happened remotely for this show. For Hum Chaar, we took a couple of months for the workshops before we went on floors. I got a lot more time to spend with the team because the shoot was also longer. Would you believe we managed to finish the shoot of Oka Chinna Family Story in 27 days? It was quick and organised and I had fun while it lasted. 

How would you describe your director Mahesh Uppala? It's also only his second show as a filmmaker.

I always believe that every person on the set, right from the AD to the cinematographer to the spot boy and actors, is working towards the director's vision. It's important that he has complete clarity over his material and thankfully, Mahesh knew his content, script inside out. I used to ask him a lot of questions about the chronology of sequences and why a character is supposed to react this way and he would have an answer to everything, almost immediately. One of these questions was also - 'If Keerthi was an animal, what would she be?' He never got worked up and was appreciative of the fact that I was working so much on the role. He was glad that he cast me for the part. The innumerable questions were at last worth it (laughs)!

What was the answer to the comparative study between Keerthi and the animal?

He (Mahesh) compared Keerthi to an elephant - someone who's no-nonsense, mature, grounded, won't rush into anything and do things at a leisurely pace. Even if an ant gives it any amount of pain, it's sure to be trampled.

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