At 31, Shweta Tripathi has played characters aged 19, 14, and 12 (the last one’s a boy). And she’s become a darling of the indie film industry.
What do you do when you have a deadline to meet, and the interviewee is leaving the country? A Skype call? An interview on e-mail?
That’s what we asked for when actor Shweta Tripathi (31) said she was on her way to Thailand, to the Koh Samui islands, for a bachelorette that very night. “E-mail will be difficult at such short notice,” we were told. As a desperate last attempt, we asked: What if we came to the airport to meet you? Much to our surprise, she said yes.
An interview at the airport was a first for her, and for us. Somehow, we beat Mumbai traffic simultaneously to reach the T2 departure terminal at 10pm, and park ourselves at the Beer Café for a 40-minute chat.
We’ve met Tripathi before. At the time, she’d confessed that she often buys clothes from the children’s section. At the airport, she confirms our suspicion that her Looney Tunes T-shirt is from the kid’s section too.
But Tripathi isn’t just comfortable shopping alongside teenagers. She’s somehow able to manage pulling off playing one herself. In her upcoming film, Haraamkhor, co-starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, she plays a troubled 14-year-old school student.
And from the buzz the film has generated in the festival circuit, it’s evident that she’s just as convincing as a 14-year-old as she was as a 19-year-old in the critically acclaimed Masaan (2015). Fun fact? She shot for Haraamkhor before Masaan.
“This is my first film. A lot of people are shocked when they hear that I played a 14-year-old. I am okay with that reaction as long as they feel I have done justice to the character. And I have not come across a single person who has watched the movie and feels otherwise,” says Tripathi. The Best Actress at IFFLA (Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles) in 2015 goes to prove that. As does the Silver Gateway at the MAMI film festival in the same year.
However, Tripathi is sure that age is slowly but surely catching up. And she won’t get offers to play teenagers anymore. We have our doubts, though. After all, it’s just been two weeks since we saw her play a 12-year-old Sardar boy in Akvarious Productions’s play, Special Bond — 3, at Prithvi Theatre.
Haraamkhor examines the travesties of a group of school kids in a small town. Tripathi’s character is one of them, and is embroiled in a scandalous affair with her married professor played by Siddiqui. The film has been waiting for almost two years now for a commercial release. Owing to the sensitive subject, the movie was stuck with the censors. The CBFC wouldn’t issue a certificate, as they found the theme objectionable. Tripathi sums up the dilemma of the makers in four words: “the wait was killing”. “As an artist, when you make something, you want the world to see it in its totality, especially when the intention is not to titillate,” says Tripathi.
This is the second time we will see Tripathi play a girl from a small town (the first being Masaan). But she is far from labelling her characters or craft. Just last month, the actor made her web series debut in The Trip, where she plays a Delhi-based bride-to-be all set for her big Indian wedding. The actor points out that there are performance-driven scenes in both commercial as well as parallel space.
“There were conflicts in The Trip too. But it was not a matter of life and death like we saw in Masaan. Acting is a psychological profession, and every character drains you emotionally regardless of whether it is an intense art house movie or a light-hearted commercial series,” says the actor.
She keeps her agenda simple: will work in indie films forever, but also desire to be styled well, look good, and do lighter roles in all sorts of movies. And, most importantly, travel a lot while doing so.
But her work travel plans are not about picturesque locations. Instead, her wish list features the biggest film festivals. She went to Cannes with Masaan, but cannot wait to go back. “Right now, Sundance is on top of the list. And of course, Berlin. I would love to hold a Berlin Bear in my hand,” she says like a child describing Disneyland.
For the Delhi girl who moved cities to act, “Mumbai is home now”. So much so her social media handle, @battatawada (Instagram and Twitter) is a tribute to the city’s favourite snack. “People often say that they want to move away to smaller cities for a better lifestyle and peace, But as a single girl, you need your society, your neighbour and even passersby to give you some respect. And that I have found here. I cannot think of living anywhere else,” says Tripathi.
Haraamkhor, starring Shweta Tripathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is in theatres now.