Shikha Talsania came to everyone’s attention as the absolutely loveable Meera in the superhit Veere Di Wedding last year. But she started her journey long before that film - working behind the scene on television sets, and working on screen in films such as, Midnight Children and Wake Up Sid. Daughter of one of the finest actors, Tiku Talsania, who we loved for his comic timing, Shikha Talsania continues to foray into a path of exploring new roles, characters, and wants to continue on doing new things, but acting will always be her number one. Here’s my chat with her of all things relating to films, entertainment, how she sees stories on screen, and the importance of collaboration on projects:
Congratulations on Veere Di Wedding – thought it was last year, I think the impact of the film lives on – for me anyway.
Thank you so much. It is always great to hear about it.
Now, you’ve done a lot of things behind the camera, specifically for television. Your father is very well recognized for all the work he has done. Obviously, in your mind, at some point, acting is something you wanted to do. What was that moment in which you realized that acting is what it is going to be for me?
I don’t think it was a particular time as such. Even though when I was growing up, I saw my parents and saw what they were doing, but it wasn’t because I wanted to do what they were doing. It was more that it was the thing that made me come alive. I always wanted to be front and centre and experiment with different characters – that is what I remember clearly. It had really nothing to do with what my parents did – and in fact, I don’t think, when you are young, you actually really know what your parents do.
I didn’t grow up thinking that obviously I’m going to be an actor because my parents are actors. I grew up thinking I definitely wanted to act, because I enjoy it so much.
I always knew I would also try different things because I like to explore so much – but I knew acting would always be there in my life because I really do enjoy it. It was definitely existential crisis though – I was trying to figure out initially if I really wanted to act or if I was just doing this because of the nurturing and environment around me.
So it took me a long time to get to the point of realization that this is what I want to do in my life. But acting would be one aspect because there are so many things I want to do.
But yeah, it has been an interesting journey and it’s been fun. I have made some great friends along the way and built some great relationships, which I really treasure. I’ve had some great experiences.
Was there ever any hesitation on your end? In Hindi cinema, things are changing now. When you look a certain way, you are typically typecast into certain roles – did that thought ever cross your mind?
Of course, of course. It would be naïve on my part if I didn’t know that already, of what I was getting into. To be very honest, I have always, through my family, been encouraged to go after what we want. It should be about my skill set, not what I look like. Of course, I’m very aware of the trappings that come with it – but I think every actor, every technician, everybody in the entire world, everybody is going to get typecast – regardless of what they look like, that is across the board.
That is why you have to keep pushing against the tide and work with different collaborators and keep making content that is different and challenging.
It’s interesting you say that, because apart from Veere Di Wedding, you had a short film…the name escapes me now…that I absolutely fell in love with.
Yes! “Khaney Mein Kya Hai”!
Yes, that – what a phenomenal short film. I came across it and when I did, I was sharing it with people and those people shared it with others I knew – and it was a domino effect.
Really? How cool is that! I mean, all the credit goes to the writer and director of the film. I came across that script and thought, “Oh my God, this is so much fun.” You know, it is cheeky, and it’s fun, and it is so relatable.
You know the first minute and a bit, I didn’t know where it was going to go. When you get something like that, like Veere Di Wedding, these films took a stand without taking a stand. We’re not going to go on a twenty minute rant – it is an actual slice of life film. As a woman who has perhaps seen cultural boundaries, maybe not in your own personal life, but the lives of others – how do you balance the cultural sensitivity and taking a stance, when presenting topics that isn’t spoken about that much?
For me, it is going to me a longish answer.
See, when I was watching Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, I connected with those characters – that there is a part of me that acts like Farhan, or there is a part of me that acts like Hrithik, or like Kalki, or like Abhay. That’s what people relate to, when you start looking at it as a story, not necessarily as a film just for women, or for men. It is about the story.
And it is so refreshing to have more stories that revolve around women, and not just men. And for me, to strike that cultural balance, it comes down to reading the script and the way it is written, to be honest. It comes down to collaborating with your co-actors and your director to see where it is going. If your wavelengths or your thought processes aren’t matching, then, unfortunately, you have to regretfully let go of that – and say, “I’ll pass. Sorry, my thoughts are not matching on this one.”
Honestly, all the credit goes to the writer and director of Khaney Mein Kya Hai. And the fact that I had Ayesha Raza, who is such a great actor, and she is so much fun. She is such a fun actor. Because we are also all women, we know that this is the conversation that the mother has with the child, so how do you talk to your mother? And how do you tiptoe around that and have fun and still get the message across? But see, talking about sex with your parent, emotionally, must be the same, regardless of your gender. The emotion is the same. It is about creating that, and collaborating – trying different perspectives and trying to put them across.
What about the play, Dekh Behen, that you co-directed? What was that experience like? Will that help you on your journey as an actor?
To be honest, it all happened very collaboratively for me. You’re spending so much time with each other, you are creating something completely new. I always wanted to direct a play – I’m lucky I got the opportunity to do something with people I already knew. I trust these people immensely, and they give you some great perspective and tell you if you can put this up.
I’ve had people ask me – so will you direct behind the camera? And I say, no, don’t make me do it – I don’t want to – I’d rather be in front of the camera.
But honestly, I don’t think I have directed that much. I have given suggestions to actors – how to make a lie the truth – and how to do that convincingly. I have really enjoyed the collaborative process of directing a play, so that’ll help me in front of the camera.
What do you see for yourself in the future – personally and professionally?
For me, professional and personal will always be mixed. I see myself with a lot more money (hopefully), I want to buy a car, I want my bathroom re-done, I want to collaborate with everyone. It is such an exciting time to be an actor. I doodle a lot – so maybe an Exhibition. Maybe dating someone interesting by then.