IBNS: Indian actress Sheena Chohan, who ventured into acting with Malayalam film The Train opposite Mammootty, is all set to make her Telugu debut starring alongside J.D. Chakravarthy. In a candid chat with IBNS correspondent Souvik Ghosh, Sheena, who previously worked with Madhuri Dixit and Kajol, speaks about her experience of Telugu debut, OTT space and more…
Q. What prompted you to accept this role?
A. My role is fearless and fiery. She is strong. I can’t reveal much but I had to go and spend time with a woman in a similar tough field (to the role I’m playing) to really be able to understand and fit into this role. Whenever I choose a character, I look at how much research I’m going to have to do to give real conviction to the character and then decide if I’ll enjoy that work. In this case, I got to observe how this high-powered female I was shadowing in Mumbai treated her seniors, the general public and the tougher elements of society she had to handle – it was kind of scary, but that made it fun – I got out of my comfort zone and into someone totally new – that’s the point of being an actor!
Q. You have worked in a number of languages over the years. Were you waiting for any particular script or a role for the Telugu debut?
A. Yes, there are many standards you have to consider, not only if the character and story is interesting, like who is in the creative team. In this case, I get to play the lead female role, alongside J. D. Chakravarthy, who is such a master actor, with so many incredible films under his belt and exceptional reputation to work with – so I had to say yes. And I’m so happy I did – I learned so much about the South style from my time on set with him – he knows everything that the audience wants, so I studied him like I was back at college.
Q. How was working with J.D. Chakravarthy?
A. He’s so cool – he’s very much like his on screen characters, with his sunglasses and leather jackets. We were running around beating up goons, but as soon as we’d beaten them up, the Telugu crowds would go crazy and we’d get swamped, so even though he’s playing this tough guy, he has to have four security on set. So it was a lot of fun, but as I said, also a really eye-opener for what directors in the South want.
My job is to always be a blank page for my director, but you also need to learn about the more subtle things like how long you hold your gaze, or the level of drama you add to mannerisms, because Telugu has its own taste, so JD Sir was a very gracious master-artist in the way he helped me learn all that I needed to know regarding that.
Q. You have starred alongside some superstars of the country across languages. Did you ever have any fangirl moment? How do you deal with it to avoid any distraction?
A. The single most important thing on any set is professionalism – I can’t say how valuable it is to simply be on time, know your lines and not cause a fuss over little things! Well, part of that is not being a fan-girl. Of course, that’s hard when you’re acting opposite Kajol!
But one just can’t let any of that even enter your head, because you’re there to do a job and when you’re preparing and on the set you have to be laser-focused. Now, that doesn’t mean afterwards one doesn’t get brownie points at home from mum and friends. But on that set and in the weeks while preparing – one boots that fan-girl out and does your job.
Q. Are you a director’s actor completely or otherwise?
A. Completely (I am a director’s actor).
Q. How tough is it to avoid getting stereotyped in terms of choice of films?
A. That does happen, but luckily there’s so much content being created at the moment, especially with the South entering the equation and the industry’s change to female-centric stories, you get a good choice of roles. It’s really a question of – if the character has something repetitive about them, can you bring something new.
So, even if you have to play someone with the same job or same family role again, it’s your job as an artist to reach into the script and find various ways of looking at it and then present those to the director to see what direction they want to go in. So, type-casting can also be in the artists’ hands – while it may be the same ‘type’ of role, what can you bring to it that’s new?
Q. Do you feel OTT is a bigger exposure to actors in terms of exploration of a character?
A. One hundred percent. There’s no question that stories can be told now that were never imagined before. The question is about how to break through all of the content to get your character and story noticed. It’s wonderful to get the role and to create the character and film, but our jobs now are more difficult -we really have to deeply dive into the script and find who that character really is, related to the story, then bring total professionalism to the set so everyone can focus on telling story that can hold people’s attention in this age of doom-scrolling, enough to inspire them, uplift them – to give them that chance to forget they are staring at a screen, and dream.
Q. How was your experience of working for a Hindi project- titled Amar-Prem– which you have just wrapped up?
A. Delighted to share that I concluded the year with a very special short film, Amar Prem, on love. A love triangle film where I had the privilege to portray the lead character. Ending the year with this uplifting love story, which we just wrapped filming was directed by the national award-winning and Filmfare award winning Suvendu Raj Ghosh, produced by Manoj Pandya and the film was truly special and made with love because we put our hearts and souls into making it. As an actress, I cherish the opportunity to entertain,uplift and inspire , contribute to and share beautiful stories through my craft.
(Images: Sheena Chohan’s Team)