Her lineage dates back to two of her family members being part of the 299-member Constituent Assembly of India; one of them being Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. Her grandfather was a scholar and her mother, who passed away last year, a teacher. History was her favourite subject.
Her father is a lawyer, her grandfather a scholar and Shreya Narayan, who grew up in Jaipur and Delhi, has an MBA under her belt. In spite of education and public service being their mainstay, she found a way to fly out of Muzaffarpur to the city of dreams, much to the chagrin of her parents.
SAHEB BIWI AUR GANGSTER got her the recognition she was looking for, but post that Tigmanshu Dhulia gem, things have not been all that rosy. However, in the last few months, work has picked up pace and the actor is working with a new zeal.
She has gotten into production with the Nana Patekar-Mahie Gill starrer WEDDING ANNIVERSARY. “This is a step towards putting my MBA skills to use,” she jokes. Apart from that she is currently shooting for Anurag Basu's Rabindranath Tagore Story TWO SISTERS, has a cameo in Tigmanshu Dhulia's upcoming film, YAARA, and a miniseries which is to start next month.
Presenting Shreya Narayan, MBA, actor, lyricist (she wrote Sharm Laaj for GULAAB GANG), and now a producer.
Excerpts from an interview with Martin D'Souza
So much of academics in your family, how did you manage to sneak out?
I wanted to spread my wings beyond academics...fly, feel free! I joined NK Sharma's Act One Group and dabbled in theatre for a while. I was hooked.
||'I AM AN ACTOR, WITH THE RIGHT GUIDANCE I CAN PLAY ANYTHING!'
Acting seemed to have always been at the back of your mind.
I did not know ABC of the film world. Films were a no-no at home. I grew up around books. Films happened naturally after theatre.
How did SAHEB BIWI AUR GANGSTER come about?
Mukesh Chabbra sent me to meet Tigmanshu Dhulia, who already knew me since he had auditioned me before. He remembered my audition distinctly, and I was signed immediately.
Did you expect the accolades after the performance as Mahua, Saheb's mistress?
Yes I did. Absolutely!
Confidence seems to be your middle name?
[Laughs] I felt confident because I had worked very hard to be at ease in my character. There were difficult scenes but I was able to pull them off.
Has the industry been kind to you; is it difficult to get a role?
The industry is not one person; yet what one person does others follow. In the midst of this, there are few who do their own thing. We say that things work this way, or that way; but there is no particular way. I follow my instincts, and take life as it comes. However, I must admit that it is not difficult to get a role you do not want to play!
Basically, you are saying there are roles aplenty?
There are all kind of films, all kind of work. But to find roles in the kind of films that one really wants to do is a real challenge.
What you are implying is that talented actors don't get their due?
The industry is full of talented people. It's about timing: meeting the right people. That takes several years. Once you are consistently seen, your talent becomes important.
Which means talent ‘in the beginning' is of no value?
Yes, talent is a dispensable factor when it comes to marketability of a film. But then business has always controlled creative pursuits.
Do you think something ‘more' needs to be done here, besides being talented
Well, everybody gives work to their own friends. I guess one needs to make friends. But I like travelling inside my own being, rather than go begging. When we meet those in positions of power who respect sincerity rather than cronyism, people like me do very well.
||'TO FIND ROLES IN THE KIND OF FILMS THAT ONE REALLY WANTS TO DO IS A REAL CHALLENGE.'
And what happens when you meet people who are not looking for talent?
Cheap men are certainly the main impediment. But the Universe always finds a way to reward the committed!
Cheap meaning men who want to give work in return for ‘favours'?
[Laughs] I always find that a number of people have had a break-up and are nursing their broken hearts at the time they are casting for a film. And a needy actress is good with nursing these broken hearts!
How would you rate your journey so far?
Sometimes the road is long, but in India most have potholes! Good work satisfies, bad work frustrates. It is all moment to moment. However, I find stereotyping very frustrating. I am an actor; with the right guidance, I can play anything!
SAMRAT and SUPER NANI were not successful commercially. Did that dampen your spirit?
Both these movies were taken up at the time when my mother was suffering from cancer. I'm just grateful I did them. It helped me keep my mind off the personal trauma I was going through and most importantly, people on the sets were extremely helpful. So in that sense both these films gave me a sense of calm which I would not have found had I just been running from hospital to home.
That in a way explains why there has been a lull in your career…
Yes, you could say that. My career went through a lull. My mom's cancer and her passing away took its toll on me. I faced the hurdles bravely and have landed on solid ground.
Did you, during the lull moment, ever think of doing South movies?
I wish I knew the right people down South, but I do not. But my Bharat Matrimony advertisement hoardings are all over South India right now. And that has got me noticed. Who knows what the South has in store.
What according to you defines a good performance?
Fearlessness while performing, but that's a tall order. I enjoy working on my character and do wonderfully when the director is an encouraging presence. Business-like work kills performance.
How do you choose your roles?
I am looking to feel excited. A role of a bore too could be exciting! It should be a well-etched role, an un-editable part of the story. And it should not be something I have felt pakaoed doing before. Of course the director matters the most. But I have added a tall order to my list: I want to work with good people. Ethics matter!
What has been your biggest disappointment here?
Feudalism. Shameful hierarchy. Money is God. Stardom is God's Father. Many creative, respected minds are the most corrupt ones. These contradictions are hard to digest.
Do you have any friends in this industry you can bank upon, someone who can take the sting away from these contradictions?
God. He is running this industry.
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