Shilpa Shukla became a household name with the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chak De! India. And, then from going bold and sexy in B.A. Pass, to playing a modern-day working mommy in her digital debut, Mentalhood, Shilpa made some daring career choices. Known for her sultry avatars on screen, she is now set to wow the audience with her mysterious character of a prisoner in the sophomore season of Disney+ Hotstar series, Criminal Justice, which streams from December 24. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your character. You are the mysterious girl in the series?
You will have to watch the show for that (laughs). My character, Ishani Nath, in the series is a very important part of politics. She is the woman who is in control of things. I can’t reveal anything more than this. When the releases, and when all the characters come together, will I know how it works in totality. I’m also looking forward to the release.
How was it working on this series?
I loved being on the sets for this one. Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors is my third project with Deepti ma’am. I was eager to work with her again, and used to wait on the sets with bated breath. Pankaj Tripathi and I have been friends for the past 20 years — we did our preparations for NSD together. And now, I am getting a chance to work with him along with Meeta Vashisht and Ashish VIdhyarthi. As a fan of their work, collaborating with them is like a dream come true for me. The directors were also supportive, and took into consideration our opinions too. After a long time I had a great time on the set. I have never been part of a thriller like this before. The characters are good with so many women working together... the story of the show is priceless. Next year you will get to see more of me as well.
How was it being back on the set?
There were a few scenes left to be shot before the lockdown was imposed. And, I was in Mumbai all alone. Initially, I did not know how it would be managed. But, once the lockdown rules were relaxed and shoots resumed, I realised everything will be done smoothly as everyone was ready for it. After five months we were together for the first time, and I cannot describe the feeling. This series happened at an important juncture. It taught me we can be on our own, but we cannot survive without each other. We are interdependent and it helps us co-exist. We may think we are all individuals, but I have realised how interconnected we are. If one suffers, everyone suffers... if one is happy, we all can be happy.
How do you see your journey?
My journey has been good. I was 18-years-old when I did Khamosh Pani, featuring Kiron Kher, and then Chak De! and B. A. Pass came through. As an actor I have evolved, and now I am able to filter my emotions, and process them in a better way. I’m happy I could go beyond a certain identity and get diverse roles. Now the canvas is huge and it feels time has turned for the better with the onset of OTT. Patience helped me to keep going. There are ups and downs in our lives, and we have to embrace both.
What are you doing to provide shelter to women and girls education how far have you taken this work of yours?
Yes, that’s my passion to help women and girls, and I am still doing it. I am working for the upliftment of women and girls in my village Bihar (Vaishali district). My family is also involved in it. But it’s been long since I visited my village.
I’m happy I could go beyond a certain identity and get diverse roles. Now the canvas is huge and it feels time has turned for the better with the onset of OTT
You are known for taking up sexy roles. At this juncture would you take up a bold/sexy role?
At that point of time I took up B.A. Pass merely because the role and the story line were brilliant. I didn’t take it up for any other reason. I always look at the people who are involved in the making, the script and my role. It was shot very aesthetically... so it all depends.
Having worked on Mentalhood, how has your association with Ekta Kapoor been like?
My association with Ekta Kapoor has been very good. She is a very chilled out person, though I have not known her for long. But she is very professional. I got different kinds of vibes while working on the series and the actors.
If given a chance to work in a biopic, whose biopic would it be?
I would love to do a biopic. I find it very interesting to transform into the person whose story will be told. I would like to play Benazir Bhutto. She has been one of the strongest women in history. She was a great political leader as well.