All I have got, is through going to auditions, says Harleen Sethi
From dancer to model to anchor to actor, ALTBalaji's new IT girl Harleen Sethi says it's not impossible to make it in the film industry just on merit
I always wanted to be the centre of attraction, ever since I was a child. My mother knew that even if I was made to stand next to the girl in the middle, in the front row on stage, I still wouldn't do it. I needed the spotlight," laughs Harleen Sethi, the lead in ALTBalaji's new show, Broken but Beautiful, as we chat over eggs at an Andheri cafe. Sethi looks bright eyed, expectant, and excited, as she should be. The show, which pairs her with Death in the Gunj actor Vikrant Massey, is about two people, both "broken" because of bad relationships, come together to heal each other and themselves. The reviews range from brilliant to encouraging, and even the one that has panned the series, have only good things to say about Sethi's natural charm and acting skills.
But the Lokhandwala girl has take the long route to arrive at her moment. After studying BMM at Bandra's National College, where Massey was her senior, and where she always wanted to be "a director, never an actor", she worked at a TV channel before joining dancer Ashley Lobo's Danceworx for two years. Then she worked on ads (Asian Paints, Blue Star), before hosting a wedding and travel show on TV. "So this is what happens. You get slotted. You do ads, so you get called a model. You start fronting a non-fiction show, you get called a host. If you have to act, you need to be perceived as an actor, not as a model or anchor. I learned that late, but I am glad I finally did. So at one point I decided, I had to stop modelling and stop anchoring, and just go for acting auditions. You have to take that risk and decision," says the 29-year-old.
But Sethi says she could serve as an indication that the industry could be changing, especially with varied roles available, and the fact that auditions do work. "I don't know anyone in the industry. My parents didn't even want me to try acting, as they were sure I would be exploited. So I really didn't know how to do this. I put my name out, and just waited to be called to auditions. I went patiently, and it's all happened because I performed well." It seems to have worked. She was first finalised for ALTBalaji's The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family, but after she got the role for Broken as well, she decided to choose that instead. "Didn't I tell you I love being the centre of attention? The former was a great role, but an ensemble cast. Here it was all about me and Vikrant."
For now, the show is bringing love from quarters Sethi didn't expect. Fans have been writing in from the US, Dubai, Pakistan and all over India, sharing their heartbreak stories with her. Her honest and raw portrayal seems to have won them over. "I had to really work for this role. I had to dig deep and feel emotions I felt when I broke up with someone. So I actually thought of my last relationship, which I had thought I was over, but it helped me to move on even more. It was cathartic. And as my character Sameera heals and finds love again, I healed as well. It's the start of a wonderful life."
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