mid-day lunchbox: Jamie Lever and Shikha Talsania talk about finding their feet in showbiz

Nov 07, 2017, 08:31 IST | Dhara Vora Sabhnani

Stand-up artiste Jamie Lever and actor Shikha Talsania talk about finding their feet in showbiz, despite their famous surnames

Their fathers, comedians Johnny Lever and Tiku Talsania, have worked together in several films. But this is the first time that these two women have found themselves in the same room. Stand-up comedian Jamie Lever has followed in her father's footsteps, and Shikha Talsania too is actively involved in theatre and films. In fact, she is just back from Delhi after shooting for Veere di Wedding with Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor and Swara Bhaskar. "I have had a heavy breakfast, another shoot schedule, and have worked hard to get fitter this year. So, I will pick a beetroot hummus platter and cucumber chaas," confesses Shikha. "I have been on a weight-loss journey for five years. I used to weigh 80 kg, I have lost 25," admits Jamie as she picks the non veg meal at Farmers' Café. Once the orders are out of the way, the duo bond over the similarities of living in a "star" family, but having dads who help them stay grounded.

Shikha Talsania and Jamie Lever goof around at Farmer's Cafe in Bandra. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Shikha Talsania and Jamie Lever goof around at Farmers' Café in Bandra. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Dhara: How is it that the two of you haven't met before?
Jamie: The only time I remember visiting a set was when my family packed me off to see my dad shoot since I was crying about missing him. And there was this other time for the shoot of Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge, when my dad thought it would be a great summer break for all of us, so we went to Switzerland with him. I have no memories of the shoot, though.
Shikha: We did that for Raja Hindustani. We only went to Mahabaleshwar, though [laughs]. I don't remember our parents socialising. It was all work, work, work. The only free time we got, we would go on family trips. There was this group that was together in most films (it included Kader Khan and Shakti Kapoor). They were all really close friends. That was a time of no cell phones so they would chat and bond on set. My father was never around on family birthdays. Those days, actors were doing three films at a time.
Jamie: True, if my dad made it for my birthday, he would be gone for three months post it. Sometimes, for Christmas he would come back at odd hours and wake us up, saying, 'Hey! I got you chocolates!' And the next day, he was off again.

Dhara: It mustn't have been easy not having them around.
Shikha: You don't grow up thinking that it is unnatural. That's how it is. As much as they were away, they were also very much there...
Beetroot hummus arrives
Shikha: I got distracted by the lavash. It's yummy! Jamie, please try it... Your dish is a complete meal, yaar. Sorry, so, it was a different kind of communication. They didn't have smart phones. But he took out time to connect. If he would say, 'I will call at 6 am,' everyone at home would wake up and wait for him. It's become so easy now. I was away recently for a month-and-a-half schedule and I don't remember having so many chats with my parents and dog as I did this time, thanks to video calling.
Jamie: I had accepted that this is my dad's job and this is what it's going to be. They tried their best to be around us.

Dhara: Did this prep you for the industry?
Shikha: It did. When I finished my graduation and told my parents that I would like to act, their faces dropped. It's a hard life. They have seen it from the trenches. And even though I have seen it all my life, it was still alien. I got a lead role in a film once, but four days before the shoot it got shelved. I haven't cried so much for a job. But I am fortunate because my parents understand that this happens. If I wasn't a Talsania, I would have taken longer to cope. I was only getting awful fat-girl roles after Wake Up Sid, and didn't work for six months. They understand that stability is hard to find in the industry. But my dad never made cold calls to help me land roles.
Jamie: My father didn't want me to enter the industry. My first gig was at his show in London, and I auditioned for that too. After people liked it, I returned, started making calls and looking for work myself. My father guides me and gives all the inside gyan, though.
Shikha: We are long-lost sisters.

Dhara: Was it easy to come out of your fathers' shadow?
Jamie: The surname will always be there. I started out as Jamie J [for Janumala; their family name] but the Lever tag was thopo-ed on me. My dad found it awkward too at first as he had a story behind Lever. You may find initial recognition because of your name, but they will return to you if your work is good. It doesn't bother me now.

Shikha: It's like taking your heritage and being proud of it.
I echo her sentiment. I used to write my name as Shikha T so that people didn't annoy me with questions. But when people know who my dad is and ask me about it, I love it that he is still relevant. I can't do the "Eeesh" though [laughs]. We are lucky to have that shadow.

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Quick takes
Favourite films of each other's fathers:
Shikha: The iconic Mere Chhote Chhote Bache scene from Khiladi. 
Jamie: When he is chasing the stars in the song Neend Churayi Meri' from Ishq. Also every time he does the "Eeesh".
Favourite mid-shoot snacks:­
Shikha: Carrot and cucumber sticks, fruits and dry fruits.
Jamie: Dry fruits and sprouts.
Stand-up and theatre favourites:
Jamie: Carol Burnett, Miranda Hart, Lee Evans and Michael McIntyre. 
Shikha: The cast of my parents' play Sakha Sahiyara Santu Rangili, Naseeruddin and Ratna Pathak Shah, and many more.

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