If her first film Khamosh Pani earned her critical acclaim, Shilpa Shukla’s role as the feisty Bindiya in Chak De! India threw her straight into the limelight as a bright new talent. Yet in the six years since Chak De... this girl from Delhi who made her name on stage, working with iconic names as Girish Karnad, Mahesh Dattani and Govind Deshpande, has hardly done justice to her acting talent.
Now, Shukla is banking on her latest film B.A Pass to get a foothold in the industry. “Theatre taught me to slip into any character. I can alienate and be someone else easily,” she says, as we dig into a pizza at a suburban cafe.
Born in Vaishali in Bihar, Shilpa grew up in Kolkata and Delhi as her father, a senior IAS officer moved around the country on work. It was during her college days at Miranda House in Delhi that she got into theatre.
But it was only in 2007 that she hit jackpot with the SRK starrer Chak De! India. “It gave me fame but sadly, not much quality work,” she recalls. Then the recession hit. So she utilised the free time helping fulfill her father’s dream of building a great school for girls near her family home in Vaishali. A school? We’re intrigued.
“This is the only girls school across 13 villages near my home. My father started it. I shot a documentary highlighting the plight of these poor girls.
Then my brother, who teaches at MIT came down with a few of his students and they did some fabulous work,” she says. Her brother incidentally is Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, a famous scholar at MIT and a Buddhist monk. “We all have a deep connection with Buddhism,” she says.
Back in Mumbai, however, the offers had dried up. So when B.A Pass came along, it was like a breath of fresh air. Was it tough doing love-making scenes? “Not really. Once I slipped into the role, I was Sarika (the character she plays in the film, that of a middle-aged woman who seduces a younger man). I had to live the role,” she says.
The awards that the film has received, has made her happy, as well as the fact that the censor board gave the movie a green signal without a cut. But her dream role though is yet to arrive. “I would love to play Benazir Bhutto or act in a film on Mother Teresa,” she says. While she may still have to wait for such cult roles, hopefully this film will give her the break she has been looking for.