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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

First of Many: Ashwini Kalsekar revisits Shanti

This week's 'First of Many' features Ashwini Kalsekar. In the 40th edition of our exclusive series, the actor talks about her debut project, Shanti, which she did in 1995.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
Updated: May 6, 2020 8:28:45 pm
ashwini kalsekar shanti Shanti premiered on DD National in 1994 and Ashwini Kalsekar became a part of its cast a year later. (Express archive photo)

Ashwini Kalsekar is a regular face in Rohit Shetty and Ram Gopal Varma’s films. She has played memorable roles in movies like Simmba, Golmaal, Phoonk, Johnny Gaddar and Khakee. A popular name on Indian television too, Kalsekar has also been part of shows like CID, Aahat, Kasamh Se, Jhansi Ki Rani, Jodha Akbar and Kavach.

The actor, who has stayed active for the past 25 years on both big and small screen, stumbled into acting by chance. So how did it all begin for her?

Here’s what Ashwini Kalsekar shared:

1. What was your first acting project? How did the project come to you?

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It was a daily soap called Shanti. If I am not mistaken, I joined the show in its episode number 269, and my character’s name was Sasha. I never thought of acting or anything. I am not a trained actor. I am not from theater. I am a classical dancer. Back then, I was a air hostess. There was a gentleman called Kabir Bhatia. I don’t know where he is now, but God bless him. It is because of him that today I am where I am. During one of the occasions, he asked me would you like to act. I said why not, but I am flying, and I can shoot only on Fridays because that used to be my weekly off. He said never mind. So I went for this audition, and Parto Mitra, who I work with even now on television, wrote a few lines for me and asked me to say it on camera. I did that and came back home. At 9 pm, I got a call from Shafi Inamdar’s brother who was the line producer for UTV. He asked me if I want to act, and I said my only condition was I can do it on Friday.

2. What do you remember of your first day on set?

I was surrounded by all these big actors – Amar Talwar, Yatin Karyekar, Sumukhi Pendse, Sukanya Kulkarni, and Mandira Bedi. They were all big stars, but they were so helpful and accommodating. There were a lot of Marathi actors too, and since I am a Marathi, their presence was comforting. What I remember was this multi-camera setup. And the funniest thing that they would say was “okay, we go from the top” and I would think that the camera is on top so now we have to act for the top (laughs). I didn’t know anything about these terms.

We did rehearsals. After instructing us, the director would be in the monitor room. To me, that monitor room would look like a bigger version of the cockpit. And then there was online editing happening. So everything for me was new. I had never seen a single shoot in my life. I knew what makeup was because of my classical dance background. But here, there would be this man who would put blue and pink eye-shadows, so makeup wasn’t too fascinating on the first day. But the hairstylist asking me about the required hairdo took me by surprise.

Fortunately, I didn’t fumble on my first day, and my take was good. Then there was a little photoshoot that they had to do. My mother still has that photograph laminated.

3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?

Honestly, I don’t remember. It was many years ago. There wasn’t any nervousness because as cabin crew you deal with so many people every day, and there was no stage fear because I used to perform with Hema Malini all over the world. So for me, the fear wasn’t of meeting people and getting intimidated. My one strength, which is still there, is I remember my lines. This is also because there are tukdas in Kathak which you have to recite while performing. So technically there wasn’t any memory problem. Then the director was there to tell you how natural or loud you can be. Also, when you have good actors, it gets easier. Someone told me in the beginning, “Ashwini, you are supposed to only react on somebody else’s performance.” That’s the only key. Acting is about reacting. And then it all started.

4. How was the rapport with your co-stars when you got to meet or work with them again later?

I meet Amit Behl sometimes because his wife Vaibhavi is also a good friend. I was in touch with Sumukhi for the longest time. I also cross paths with Annup Sonii. We last met when I was driving back from Laxmmi Bomb shoot in Madh Island, and he was shooting for Crime Patrol on a jetty.

5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what would you like to change or do better?

Everything! And I am not talking about my look or styling, but I would try and correct myself. However, I think according to that time (1995), the performance that we did was okay. I am not saying it was loud, but it was very theatrical.

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6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?

Nothing inspired me as such. But I am a Bollywood buff. Amitabh Bachchan is my God. My other favourite actors are Rekha ji and Dilip Kumar.

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