Over the past month or so, the bubbly Masaan (2015) and Haraamkhor (2017) actor Shweta Tripathi has been straddling screens big and small. From the role of a reluctant student leader (in the gangster-drama web series Mirzapur) to a bride who walks out of her own wedding to oppose dowry (web series Made in Heaven), to a girl suffering from alopecia (in the film Gone Kesh), and a doctor in the recent Season 2 of the web series Laakhon Mein Ek (Season 1 had aired in 2017). Tripathi, 33, talks about her choices of stories and why Indian audiences will drive the industry. Excerpts:
How did you prepare for the role of Dr Shreya Pathare in Laakhon Mein Ek?
This is the first time that I had a profession, it felt different. Earlier, I have only played a student — holding books and studying. There is an added layer in playing a professional — the body language, the demeanour, emotion. Biology, medicine and being a topper are not associated with me; my parents will vouch for that. Hardworking, hopefully yes. We have had intense workshops. Director Abhishek Sengupta’s father is a doctor; we had to get the details right. I remember this fat book, and Biswa (Kalyan Rath, comic and show creator) saying, ‘Shweta, will read this!’ I gasped, ‘How?’ He said he will mark out things and if I needed to learn them, I would.
We’ve seen token representations of ‘do-gooder, pious’ women doctors on screen while you smoke, use colourful language and pair sneakers with sari.
The fun is in the real! Shreya abuses and smokes. Her hair is all over the place. My make-up included dark circles, freckles and my skin had to look bad, since as a doctor one rarely gets to eat or sleep on time. Also, we needed to bring to the fore her emotional journey. In episode six, there is a scene, when something bad has happened, and she is in an ambulance. It could have been easy for me to get teary-eyed and express the anguish in an over-the-top way. But the director told me that Shreya, as a doctor, is also responsible for what’s happening, she is devastated but also needs to step up. The fact that she is clearly out of her depth is known to her but she can’t let that rule her actions. I enjoyed this bit a lot.
In an industry that accords physical beauty top spot, did you have doubts about playing a bald girl in Gone Kesh?
It wasn’t a big deal for me at all. And the messages I have got from people suffering from alopecia has been heartwarming. I am glad I did Gone Kesh. And it’s not that I don’t want to be part of commercial mainstream stories, but not for the sake of it. If something like Gully Boy comes my way, then sure. But my choices of roles are determined by my instinctive response to the script.
Was that why you chose Made in Heaven?
I said ‘yes’ to Made in Heaven because I wanted to work with (show co-director) Nitya (Mehra). The time has now come when the audience accepts a boy-meets-boy, girl-meets-girl, or no-one-meets-anyone stories. We are seeing it globally, and it is reflecting back home. In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Mrs Maisel walks off for a six-month gig, alone. I was so happy with that development.
Do you think the Indian industry is ready for such narratives?
I don’t know about the industry, but the audience sure is. The industry will make what the audience wants.
The diverse roles have cemented your positioning in the industry as a ‘serious actor’. Was that the plan?
I take my job very seriously. I think, that message has come out. I know the expectations that come with it, the audience knows if Shweta is in a story then there must be something in it. I want my work to stay with the people. This conscious evolution of my filmography is something I have worked towards. And it’s always the story and the strength of the character that drives me, such as Golu in Mirzapur. I don’t make an appearance in the first two episodes, and neither did I do anything groundbreaking thereafter, but the character spoke to me. Similarly, in Gone Kesh. I consciously want my characters to be different from each other, and from me personally.
I want to play a lawyer, it will be cool. And, a mafia queen. But I really really want to play a pop icon, like Ranbir’s (Kapoor’s) character in Rockstar (2011). In the real world, I’m making my Tamil film debut with (the just-released Raju Saravanan-directed) Mehandi Circus, and will soon start shooting for Mirzapur Season 2, where you will see a very different Golu Gupta.
This article appeared in print with the headline ‘I want to play a pop icon next’