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The Trial’s Sheena Chohan: ‘OTT is portraying women in a different light’ | Exclusive

In an upcoming supernatural thriller web series, she’ll be seen playing a negative lead

The Trial’s Sheena Chohan: ‘OTT is portraying women in a different light’ | Exclusive
Sheena Chohan

Last Updated: 08.43 AM, Jun 11, 2023


From theatre, short films, movies to now web series, for actress Sheena Chohan it’s an ever-expanding canvas of art. Best known for playing the female lead in The Train, opposite Mammootty, the actress has also shared screen space with Madhuri Dixit (in The Fame Game) and Kajol (in The Good Wife, which is now known as The Trial). Currently gearing up for the release of a slew of projects, Sheena recently indulged in a freewheeling conversation with OTTplay.

The actress opened up about her experience of working with industry legends, her take on the portrayal of women in the digital space, why she thinks it’s important to spread human rights awareness through the arts and more. Excerpts:

Q. Tell us about your upcoming projects that you are really excited about…

A. 2023 has been a great year for me so far. I have about four releases coming up. I am one of the main characters, alongside Kajol, in an episode of Disney+ Hotstar’s The Good Wife (now, The Trial). Then, there is this historical biopic of Sant Tukaram, helmed by Aditya Om, where I play the leading lady, Avali, opposite Marathi actor Subodh Bhave. It just got announced and I am quite excited about it. I have also shot for a Hollywood film last year, called Nomad, by Karen Lexontaron, which is coming out this year-end and is already garnering a lot of attention. 

There is another international film in the pipeline, titled Justice, where I play a lead. It’s currently on its festival run. And finally, I just wrapped up shooting for a supernatural thriller web series, where I play a negative lead. And that kind of is like a cherry on the cake, because it’s such an exciting and fun character. 

Q. You have done a fair bit of theatre, been part of films and series in various languages and worked with industry greats like Mammooty and Buddhadev Dasgupta. How would you describe your journey so far?

A. I actually started doing theatre when I was in school and I learnt a lot from the stage. In fact, my acting journey started from the stage, which I did for about four or five years. And I think I learnt a lot about conviction from theatre - about being a blank page for your director; about how researching, understanding and fitting into your character is the most important while preparing for a role. But I think theatre doesn’t get seen by so many people. And it was a transition for me to reach a larger audience, and I wanted to have a big positive effect through it. So, when I got my first big break down south with megastar Mammooty as the female lead, Meera, in The Train, I was very excited to be a part of the film. It was a great experience, simply because he’s so completely in the present moment, spontaneous and organic. On the set, he made me feel very comfortable. Then from there, I worked with Buddhadev Dasgupta in Mukti and Patralekha. So, even during my initial years, I was working with a legendary actor and a National Award-winning director. These opportunities kind of gave me wings to fly and encouraged me to inch ahead.

Then, there was Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s Ant Story, for which I was even nominated for the ‘Best Actress’ at the Dubai International Film Festival. Honestly, my goal has always been to work with great directors. Next, I was roped in to work with Nagesh Kukunoor in City of Dreams [a political drama television series streaming on Disney+ Hotstar]. Aditya, on the other hand, gave me a lot of freedom to be creative. Working with him was absolutely wonderful.

Q. Tell us about your experience of working with these legendary actresses like Madhuri Dixit (in The Fame Game) and Kajol (in The Good Wife - now, The Trial)...

A. Both Madhuri Dixit and Kajol are legends. Honestly, I don’t remember not watching any of their films as a child. There’s a different level of energy when they are on the set. Both of them are powerhouse performers, but in their own unique ways. Madhuri is more warm and someone who shows a great amount of love and passion toward her craft. On the other hand, Kajol enjoys everything she does. She is always high on energy. It’s fun to be with them on the set. They have so much love for their art that they have fun while working too. Obviously, a lot of it comes from experience also, but I just kind of enjoyed working with both of them. Even between shots, we were cracking jokes and laughing and having fun, and that made it such an enjoyable work environment. I think having fun while you’re working and enjoying it is something I think I learnt from both of them. Doing what you love, putting in your passion and dedication and professionalism is what I learnt from both of them.

Q. You are also a human rights ambassador. How do you merge that with your acting career?

A. I think I want to do movies and web series where I have roles that uplift and empower the society. I think an artiste gives out a message that impacts the culture of a civilisation, and the culture needs art, because art is aesthetics and aesthetics is peace, love and compassion. And at the same time, it’s all about igniting imagination and there is entertainment to it all. And all of that leads to what kind of stories we want to communicate. 

I think as an artiste, I want to entertain and enliven my audience. I want to be a part of stories that empower and, at the same time, uplift society. Art and aesthetics are what I’d like to put out, because I think art does create a new culture and civilisation. 

Now, when it comes to human rights, I want to use my career as an actress to reach more people and save more people from oppression where I feel their rights have been denied. And if my role and my position as an actress brings more peace and less crime or brings more human rights awareness to society, I feel my life has been fulfilled. So my purpose of being an actress is also to help people become more aware of their human rights. 

Q. What’s your take on OTT, especially in terms of the women-centred films and series streaming on digital platforms lately?

A. I think we are very lucky because there has definitely been a big change. I mean, look at it from the point of view of narratives. Men in most societies have always been seen as breadwinners, while the role of women was restricted to being a good homemaker or a good mother. But now, OTT has really helped in modernising that narrative, and the role of women onscreen have changed dramatically. 

I think the digital space has played a very important role in the modernisation of society, and it greatly affects the image of women in today’s world. If you look at the kind of films and series that are being made - be it Sushmita Sen in Aarya [a crime thriller drama streaming on Disney+ Hotstar], Shefali Shah in Delhi Crime [a crime drama television series available on Netflix] or more recently Hansal Mehta’s Scoop [a Netflix original crime drama television series, starring Karishma Tanna] and the Vikramaditya Motwane-directed Jubilee [a period drama television series streaming on Amazon Prime Video] - women have strong roles to play all these OTT projects. I think this is a great time for us artistes, especially because of the OTT platforms. 

I enjoy myself as an artiste more now because OTT is providing me with the opportunity to excel as a female protagonist, playing both positive and negative characters simultaneously in different projects. 

Q. Anything you’re currently watching on any of the OTT platforms that you would like to mention?

A. Most recently, I enjoyed watching the Apoorv Singh Karki directorial Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai, starring Manoj Bajpayee, and Scoop. Jubilee took my heart, because of the era and the ensemble cast, and I really want to be a part of something like that. 

In terms of movies in the theatres, my mother and I just went to watch Laxman Utekar’s Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, starring Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan, and we loved it!

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