A chat with Shruti Bapna

Her work is extremely varied, whether it be Wake Up Sid, Mardaani 2, Medically Yours, or her recent role as a homosexual woman named Natasha in Breathe: Into the Shadows. Theatre, television, and films have all shaped who she is as an actor, but what is more admirable is the way in which she always comes back to find herself in an industry that is full of noise. Here’s my chat: 

While the OTT platforms have done a much better job in depicting homosexualized in a “normalized” way, than the Hindi cinematic route. Since you’ve started your journey until now, do you think the industry is doing a better job in providing a realistic portrayal for individuals who belong to groups, religions, ethnicities, of certain sexual orientation?

Well, there’s no doubt that we have come a long way. Of course, it has been a gradual process. I think the audience has taken time. Not just that, I think the kind of films and content that was being a major driving force in having audiences watch stuff was not the kind of real cinema we see now. The audience was more oriented towards stardom. It’s now changed with the audience’s taste is also changing and we are now able to experiment as artists. We are able to cross the lines which we wanted to cross very long back. The kind of exposure actors are getting now, and the work we can do on different platforms is incredible. It still needs to open up even more, I would say. There is still a long way to go though. 

If you do not allow actors or writers to experiment enough, the audience gets comfortable with what they are given. Even they are not able to experience the changes that can be possible. Their parameters of defining a performance is also limited.

How has your experience in theatre shaped the actor you have become?

It keeps me very grounded, firstly, which is imperative if you have to keep growing as an actor in the industry and if you do not have a Godfather and you are not part of these groups, so to say. Besides that, the most important thing when you are starting off, as a baby, are the basics you learn of a craft. Nothing teaches you better than theatre. Working on screen is a different ball game altogether because there are so many technicalities involved, with regards to the camera, your spacing. For me, it’s been a great mix of using what I learnt in theatre and use it and transform it on screen. I prefer or enjoy the screen more, because the process is more internal for me. When you are on stage, the interaction is more external as well – everything becomes more louder. What I’ve learnt in theatre helps me bring out my character on screen in the right possible way. 

You talk about internalizing a character. What was the one character you played that you struggled to get out of, that you had internalized so much?

(Chuckles) Yes, it used to affect me a lot earlier in my career because I would get very attached to each and everything we did. We are also learning and growing. In my early phase, when I was in the process of exposing myself to the world, I was also understanding and experiencing different things. I would find it very hard to let go of a character. However, I have now learnt to switch on and off – I can let go more easily now. Having said that, everything I do is connected to me in some way. A part of me is going into that character. 

When I was, in fact, playing Natasha in Breathe: Into the Shadows, it did take me a couple of months to come out of it. I had really gotten into her as a character, as a homosexual. For a little while, I was looking at women differently. And I had to tell myself, no, this is over, you can go back now. Because I was learning and observing Natasha. I had to develop certain things within me to transform into Natasha. I had to consciously make an effort to centre myself again. 

Today, if you told me to pick up a character, I may be able to go back and pick it up once again. It’s quite possible.

All of you are constantly under the microscope. When you are having a particularly low moment in reality, how do you get out of it?

I think that’s what works for me. If I’m feeling low, working is kind of an escapism for me. That itself is meditative for me. You can be consumed in your work and let it flow, even if there is something happening in your personal life. I’m two hundred percent attentive when I’m in front of the camera, acting. Once I’m done acting, I’m thinking again of the problem I am having. 

So when there is so much noise around you, and there can be so much toxicity around you, how do you make sure that within the noise, you are still listening to the voice in your own head?

For me, this profession has involved a lot of inner work. Somewhere I think that’s what translates on screen for me. It’s not just about being in front of the camera. There’s a lot more of what goes on behind the scenes. That involves a lot of issues that go on on a day to day basis. The only way I see myself cutting off all the noise is the inner work I keep doing – constant traveling, meditation, yoga. Everyday there is a rejection call coming in, there is social media – it is not easy at all. How do I go on as an actor, as a person because there are times when you have no idea where your career is going, there is no stability. You have to keep coming back to yourself.

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Armin S.

Bollywood Film Fame Canada has been a source of original content consisting of real conversations, reviews, and news of everything film, music, and entertainment for 15 years.

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