THE TRANSCENDENCE OF AN ARTIST SHITAL SHAH
Shital Shah’s extraordinary transition from a successful Actor to a critically acclaimed Writer, Director and a Film Producer.
It was a brisk winter afternoon, and after jostling my route through a maze of uncannily identical streets, I arrived at my destination – Moksha – not to be mistaken with my perpetual desire of attaining salvation in this life but in fact this happens to be the residence of a very talented film star – Shital Shah.
When one seldom comes across a reservoir of talent like Shital, words of appreciation just doesn’t seem to concede. She has been known for her creative demeanour and ‘breakthe- box’ persona. So with a warm cup of coffee and a picturesque front lawn setting, we began our tête-àtête with Ms. Shah.
To her ‘Performing Arts’ came by birth, like literally, she was 9 months old when her mother who happens to be a classical dancer used to keep Shital beside her during performances, meticulously, with a milk bottle ready if she gives out a cry. While growing up, she used to mimic people and relatives, and that was her first stint with acting. Furthermore, as a young adult she was academically strong and a meritorious student thus went on to pursue her Masters in Business Management while simultaneously perusing her passion for acting.
She did her first TV serial on Star-Plus, her 1st theatre play with Paresh Rawal and starred in India’s 1st composite animation film My Friend Ganesha – which became a huge success on box office and in popular culture.
In over 10 years, Shital has acted in more than 21 movies as a leading actress, 19 TV serials and various other TV commercials and short films. Even though she had performed on various platforms as an actor, it never actually satisfied the artist inside her and an inner voice continuously reverberated to expand her horizon.
I feel actors can never be really satisfied, as they have limited control over the way their roles shape up in the final product. I wish I could have gotten to act in films like Guide, Mausam, Chupke-Chupke…… the list is long
Since her epiphany of evolving as an artist, Shital has described the metamorphosis as ‘absolutely amazing’. She describes this journey as a revelation, opening up a world of ideas and opportunities for her which she had never imagined, enabling her to break the norms of dependence on others. Now she can herself take all the creative calls and explore her creativity at a much deeper level. She has grown from a “performer” to a “creator”. That’s exciting!
As an actor, she has done more than 50 different roles on every possible platform. But for creativity sakes, it was high time for her when she directed and acted in her 1st Gujarati Film ‘HuTuTuTu- Aavi Ramat ni Rutu’. She received the State award for Best Director and Best Actress in 2016 for this film.When she started acting, she had never aspired to be a Director, but gradually, she felt acting a very limited creative pursuit. Speaking lines written by someone, wearing clothes designed by someone, moving the way Director tells you, were all bare creative calls that Shital felt can be taken by her individually. Her vision had no place in projects where she just acted. While making films gave her a canvas to create, dream, execute and make stories, empowering her to use her complete imaginative and creative skills. She thus vehemently relishes this phase and ould be soon coming upwith her 3rd instalment as a filmmaker.
One of her finest creations is – HuTuTuTu – which emerged from her 12 years of experience in acting, her relentless attention to details of film making during her acting career, and most importantly her failures that she experienced as an actor. Extremely disheartened as her producers were not able to get the films to the release zone, Shital decided to take matters in her own hands. And it was through these series of disappointments that she decided to make her 1st film.
“My family has been my biggest strength throughout my journey… When I decided to make my film, they not only encouraged me but also invested in terms of finance and creativity into HuTuTuTu”
The film released with the widest applause in over 450 shows across Gujarat and she became the 1st woman to direct an urban Gujarati film. The film had a unique story – based on a stock market scam, with 4 men playing the key roles, and contrary to the criticism of people who thought that women would direct a female-oriented social drama; HuTuTuTu became a game changer – completing 100 days in theatres!
Though she has received numerous awards for HuTuTuTu (8 State awards including Best Director, Best Editor and Best Actress to be precise), Shital does not consider this to be her most favorite project. Surprised? Well for her all the projects that are taken up fall under the category of ‘favorites’ because an equal of amount dedication and love goes into them.
While speaking with Shital we couldn’t help to wonder who would be her favorite actor considering her finesse in film making. And it’s none other than Shah Rukh Khan along with yesteryear actor Sanjeev Kumar. So with the few final sips of our thickly brewed coffee we asked her whether she would like to give a message to many aspiring film makers, to which she replied, “Take risks, work hard like never before, and believe in yourself”.
Question & Answer with Shital Shah
How did you get involved in Acting & Film Industry?
Performing Arts came to me from birth. My mother being a classical dancer, I was 9 months old when she performed on stage in a concert, keeping me in the wings where my milk bottle was ready if I cried. So that how early on I was introduced to performing arts. As I grew, I used to mimic people and relatives, and that was my first brush with acting. I was also academically strong and was a rank student, and went on to get my Master degree in Business Management. Simultaneously I perused acting and went on to do my first TV serial on Star-Plus, my 1st theatre play with Paresh Rawal and starred in India’s 1st composite animation film My Friend Ganesha- which become a big hit.In over 10 years. I acted in films(more than 21 films)as a leading actress, 19 TV serials and various other TV commercials and short films.
Are you working on any current projects?
I have 4 films in which I have acted as the lead actress and are now complete, release of which is awaited… I also have a web series in the pipeline.
What kind of roles have you performed throughout your career? Are you satisfied with them?
I performed a variety of roles on TV/Films/Shorts. But honestly none of them gave me complete satisfaction. I feel actors can never be really satisfied, as they have limited control over the way their roles shape up in the final product. I wish I could have gotten to act in films like Guide, Mausam, Chupke-Chupke…… the list is long.
From an actor you have evolved into a Film maker, how would you describe this metamorphosis?
On its absolutely amazing- I have discovered myself in a totally different way. This journey as opened
up a world of ideas and opportunities for me which I had never imagined. I am no more dependent on others to cast me, dress me up, do my make-up, give me dialogues to speak or decide the fate of my film. Now I can myself take all these creative calls and explore my creativity at a much deeper level. I have grown from a “performer” to a “creator”. That’s exciting.
Acting wise I have done more than 50 different roles on every possible platform. But creativity wise, it was a high point for me when I directed and acted in my 1st Gujarati Film “HuTuTu-Aavi Ramat ni Rutu”. This film got me the State award for Best Director and Best Actress in 2016. When I started acting, I had never aspired to Direct. But gradually, I started finding acting a very limited creative outlet. I was speaking lines written by someone, wearing clothes designed by someone, moving the way my director told me to, there were barely any creative calls I took. My vision had no place in projects where I just acted. While making films gave me a canvas to create, dream, execute and make stories by using my complete imaginative and creative skills. So I am absolutely enjoying this phase, where I am scripting my 3rd films as the writer-director and looking forward to going on floor very soon.
Can you tell me a bit about your thought process which went into making your award winning film HuTuTu?
HuTuTu emerged from my 12 years of experience of acting, my learning of film making while I acted for
these 12 years, and most importantly my failures that I experiences as an actor, when many of my films did not release. 15 out of 21 films that I acted in have still not released. This was extremely disheartening for me, as sadly my producers were not able to get the films to the release zone. It was out of these disappointments that I decided to make my 1st film. My family has been my biggest strength throughout my journey… When I decided to make my film, they not only encouraged me, but also invested in terms of finance and creativity into HuTuTuTu. It released with a bang in over 450 shows across Gujarat and I became the 1st woman to direct an urban Gujarati Film. Ours was a unique story – based on a stock market scam, with 4 men playing the key roles, contrary to the expertness of people who thought that a women would direct a female oriented social drama! HuTuTuTu became a game changer and completed 100 days in theatres!
Which has been your favourite project apart from HuTuTuTu?
When I work on any project, I give it my heart and soul. A part of me permanently becomes a part of the
project. So it’s very difficult for me to choose favorites.
What are your strong points as a Film maker?
My clarity of what I want to tell through my film, my 100 percent effort to achieve my vision by hook or crook, my knack for edit, and my team.
What have you learned from the artists that you have worked with throughout your career?
I have had the pleasure of working with great artists like Paresh Rawal to absolute new comers. I have learnt from each co-actor I have worked with. Fine artists like Paresh ji taught me the discipline and beauty of the craft, while the difficult ones taught me how to deal with insecurities and focus on giving my best. So I am thankful to both for shaping me as an artist.
From where have you learned acting, directing and writing?
Well, I learnt it all on the job. I did not have the opportunity to go to any film school, as I was studying my MBA, while acting was my hobby. Being on stage for my dance had already taught me the nuances of performing, emoting and developed my presence of mind. But the technique I learnt when I acted professionally. I was a quick learner and ended up understanding the technology and direction side of it, as I instead of sitting in my comfort zone of the vanity vans, liked to sweat it out with the technical teams of Directors and DOPs. The “Behind the Camera” always fascinated me and I learnt through observation and discussions with the best of technicians whom I worked with.
Do you think that you have matured as a Film Maker?
Each film that you teaches you a million things. I am two films old as a film maker, and feel more like a child who is exploring this new world of stories and cinema. And that’s how I would like to stay for the rest of my life – a learner.
How do you think film stars handle their popularity?
Some do it maturely. But mostly I feel that popularity puts them in an extremely limited and insecure space, where they are usually full of themselves, and barely explore the rest of the happenings. There are very few like Julia Roberts, Emma Watson who go beyond…
What has been your biggest achievement in the field industry?
My debut film winning 8 State awards including Best Director, Best Editor and Best Actress for me was
definitely an achievement that encourages me to make films that I believe in. I have a long list of the kind of films I want to make. The journey has just begun, and am excited to go ahead with my next film that is in the pipeline.
What kind of movies do you prefer?
Oh I like a whole lot of variety in films, especially those with a strong story line. I love films that touch the heart. I also love simple comedies like Chupke Chupke or Padosan, which are not made any more sadly. Amongst the new ones, I have loved Dangal, Chak De and Queen.
What is the hardest part of being a celebrity?
There are no hard parts. There are just benefits.
Give me a few tips to be a successful film maker?
Take risks, work hard like never before, and believe in your self.
Who is your favorite actor?
Shah Rukh Khan, undoubtedly. And amongst the older ones, Sanjeev Kumar. He is the ultimate actor for me.