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Shefali Shah played Akshay Kumar’s mother when she was 28: ‘Later, I refused work even if it meant sitting at home’

Shefali Shah, who recently opened her restaurant Jalsa, spoke about how age played an important factor in her getting offered the right projects, and Delhi Crime turning the tables for her.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
November 23, 2021 4:24:16 pm
shefali shah restaurant jalsaShefali Shah recently opened her restaurant named Jalsa. (Photo: Instagram/shefalishahofficial)

Shefali Shah agrees that there is a glaring disparity when it comes to the roles offered to men and women in the Hindi film industry. After a certain age, women are relegated to roles of mothers and aunts while men in their 50s continue to rule the industry. “Once you are a mother, filmmakers don’t know what to do with you. They’ll probably get you to play the neighbourhood aunty,” Shefali says, as she speaks about the lack of strong roles for women. The actor, however, has swam against the tide as she has received a wave of good offers after her inspired turn in Delhi Crime.

In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Shefali gets candid about her initial years in the film industry, finding her ground in her 40s and her dream project — her newly opened restaurant Jalsa.

 

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A post shared by Shefali Shah (@shefalishahofficial)

“I’m a very passionate person, and I get obsessed with things. So once it’s in my head, I have to do it. That’s exactly how Jalsa happened. I wanted to be a part of the hospitality sector. I love cooking and hosting people. And Jalsa kind of just fit all of those things,” Shefali shared.

Located in Ahmedabad, Jalsa was designed in one month. “This is the first time where I’ve been jumping from one set to another between shoots. I knew exactly what I wanted,” she added.

Shefali is exploring her new obsession after being a part of the acting business for over 25 years. Her initial work includes memorable TV shows like Hasratein, Banegi Apni Baat, Tara, Aarohan, Sea Hawks and more. Though the actor is averse to revisiting her work, she does agree that in her time “television was not just about quantity and shooting a number of minutes per day, but quality”.

shefali shah akshay kumar amitabh bachchan waqt Shefali Shah played Akshay Kumar’s mother and Amitabh Bachchan’s wife in Waqt (2005).

“But honestly, I do not look back on my professional journey. What’s done is done. Everyday is a new day and a new learning,” the 49-year-old actor says.

Shefali’s trajectory also traces to being part of iconic films like Rangeela, Satya and Monsoon Wedding. But despite that, the actor feels it took filmmakers a very long time to come up with roles suiting her. She agrees that age was a factor. “They took forever! I was almost on retirement,” she reacted.

“I played age very early. I played Akshay Kumar’s mother when I was around 28. I got Hasratein when I was 20 and played a 30-35 year-old in it. After a point, I decided if I’m not getting the work that really drives me crazy, I will sit at home. I reached this peace that such kind of work won’t come every day. And the few films I did raised that bar. I’ve said no to work even if it meant sitting at home for two years not doing anything.”

ajeeb daastaans netflix shefali shah manav kaul Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul were a part of short titled ‘Ankahi’ in anthology Ajeeb Daastaans. (Photo: Netflix)

Shefali agrees that the digital medium came as a breather for actors like her. “OTT opened up that horizon with age appropriate roles, where a heroine didn’t have an expiry date. Otherwise there was an 18-22 window of age. After that they didn’t know what to do with the women. They either became accessories or were just a wall in the background. I’ve been working since I was 16. But my professional life changed by the time I reached my 40s. In fact it changed in the last two years after Delhi Crime,” she said in retrospection.

Shefali, who’s married to filmmaker Vipul Shah, calls their relationship an interesting balance. She said both of them discuss their projects with each other first. “I work with my heart, gut and instinct. Vipul works with his brain. So it’s a very interesting balance. If I had to run my life on the logistics of it, I’d be doing stuff just randomly, but he understands how to handle all that for me. Also, there is no pressure because we both do very different kind of work.”

 

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A post shared by Shefali Shah (@shefalishahofficial)

However, Shefali’s struggle to find work was her own, and despite being married to a filmmaker, she never took advantage of the fact. She added, “We did Waqt (2005) and now we are doing Human together after all these years. I’ve never expected him to make a film for me and he’s never expected that just because it’s his film, Shefali will do it. We respect each other way too much to dilute it with that.”

But does she receive any advice from Vipul or her family? She said they always have a point of view regarding the way she runs her career, as they believe she isn’t smart about her choices!

This took the chat towards how she’d like to advice her younger self. Shefali said she wished she had someone to guide her correctly, as “till a long time I didn’t know this is my profession. I did all sorts of things across mediums. I used to get some Rs 500 per play. I think in six months or a year I realised if I get paid for it on a regular basis, this must be my job. But if I had somebody to guide me, I probably would have been more streamlined.”

Shefali was recently seen in projects like Once Again with Neeraj Kabi and Ajeeb Daastaans with Manav Kaul, both love stories. Calling herself a hardcore romantic, she hopes to be part of more romances on screen. “But someone should make that for us,” she says.

Shefali turned director with short films Someday and Happy Birthday Mummy Ji earlier this year. Calling a character, a collaborative effort by an actor and a director, she said the entire process is what gives her ultimate joy.

Gushing over receiving awards, she however added that the way she’d react to appreciation today has changed. “Earlier when I wasn’t nominated, I would feel sad. Now I don’t. Finally it boils down to appreciation. I’m an actor, not a star. I’m not living up to anyone’s expectation but my own. I’m not supposed to look nice all the time. I don’t have all these pressures. There is no position game. If I feel honest and true to myself, that makes me happy.

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