SHEFALI SHAH REVEALS SHE SAID NO TO PROJECTS AFTER PLAYING AKSHAY KUMAR’S MOM AT 28: ‘EVEN IF IT MEANT SITTING AT HOME’
A Story by Jasmine Kaur
Shefali Shah agrees there is an egregious disparity in the roles offered to women and men in the Hindi film industry. After a certain age, women are relegated to the roles of mothers and aunts, while men in their 50s remain in control of the industry.
Shefali talks about her first years in the film industry, finding her feet in her 40s, and her dream project, a restaurant that recently opened.
“I’m very passionate about things, and once they’re in my head, I have to do them. Jalsa came about that way. I wanted to work in hospitality. I love cooking and I love hosting people. And Jalsa was an incredibly comfortable fit for me,” Shefali shared.
Jalsa, located in Ahmedabad, was designed in one month. “This is the first time I’ve worked on different sets between shoots. I knew what I wanted,” she added.
ABOUT HER JOURNEY
As an actress who has been in the business for over 25 years, Shefali is pursuing a new passion after performing in shows such as 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”.
“But honestly, I don’t look back at my professional journey. What’s done is done. Every day is a new learning experience,” says Shefali. Shefali has also worked in 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.
When I was 28, I played Akshay Kumar’s mother. I got Hasratein when I was 20 and played a 30-35-year-old. But after a point, I decided I’d just sit at home if I didn’t get work that really drove me crazy. I reached this peace that such kind of work won’t come every day. And the few films I did raise that bar. I’ve said no to work even if it meant sitting at home for two years not doing anything.”
“OTT opened up that horizon with age-appropriate roles since a heroine didn’t have an expiration date. There was previously an 18-22 window of age. After that, they didn’t know what to do with the women.” Shefali says.
Shefali, who’s married to filmmaker Vipul Shah, says the couple talks about their projects together first. “I work with my heart, gut, and intuition; Vipul works with his brain. I find it a very interesting balance,” she says.
Shefali’s struggle to find work, however, was her own. Even though she was married to a filmmaker, she never took advantage of the fact. She said, “We did Waqt (2005) and now we are making 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.”
However, does Vipul or her family offer her any advice? She claims they always have a point of view regarding the way she runs her career because they believe that she isn’t smart in her decision-making.
This took the chat towards how she’d like to advise 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 realized 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.”
She said that although she expressed gratitude for awards, her reaction has changed. “Earlier when I wasn’t nominated, I would feel sad. Now I don’t. Finally, it’s appreciation. I’m an actor, not a star.” I’m not living up to anyone’s expectations 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.