After the last bullet was spent, after the last dialogue said, hers was the face that I left the theatre with. The last scene in D-DAY was traumatic. She embedded herself in my mind with a performance very, very real.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Shriswara, the actor who, even in a brief role, leaves an indelible mark. GUDDU RANGEELA might not have rattled the Box Office, but, Shriswara left her mark, like she did in D-DAY.
In person, she is an enigma. When you walk in to meet her, she comes across like this stern school principal, almost intimidating you. So it takes a long while before you manage to break the ice with some mundane questions. She then comes alive like her character on screen. Then, there is no looking back as you realize that this actor has not one, but many funny bones.
Her replies are witty, loaded with maturity, and most come across in shudh Hindi and Khalis Urdu. Her English is impeccable.
Presenting Shriswara, whose name has always been misspelt and tagged with a wrong surname.
Excerpts from an interview with Martin D’Souza
How did the name Dubey get tagged to you?
Dubey accidentally got attached, the same way different permutations of Shri, Shree, Sri, Sree get attached or dismantled. I get different names all the time; the winner so far has been Sarveshwara. I don’t have a surname. I’m Shriswara.
Have you deliberately kept your surname off?
Surnames hold caste, creed, religion and all kinds of stereotypical information that truly serves no purpose. [Smiles]
Where you were born?
I’m reborn every time I encounter something that shifts my perspective; hence I have many and no particular place of birth.
How many brothers and sisters are you?
I have two siblings; one’s a cytotechnologist (scans slides for malignant cells) and the other has four legs and a tail! [Smiles]
Can you elaborate?
[Laughs] My sister is human and brother is a cat!
Where are you originally from?
[Laughs] Havaa ka jhonka hu, jo idhar se aya aur udhar chala jayega.
Where did you school?
Schooling is also an on-going process. I’ve had the luck of having some wonderful teachers as well. To name one would belittle the other and the list is too long to list them all!
How did you get interested in acting?
I’ve always loved the performing arts and have been surrounded by films before I was born because of my father.
So your father was an actor?
Not at all. He was just in love with Raj Kapoor and all the leading ladies at that time. Not to mention his romance with Shankar Jaikishan, Shailendra and Mukesh on his stereo. One of his Saturday rituals was going to rent older films. He would rent 7-8 each time so we were set for the rest of the week!
Did you always want to act in movies?
From 1997 onwards, yes. Prior to that, it was something in performing arts only.
How did D-DAY come about?
I was calling offices asking if they were casting. I was told to call Mukesh Chhabra’s
office. I did. I was then called for an audition from which I was selected.
What has been the response after you have been recognized as an actress of repute in your powerfully essayed role?
Time will tell whether I’m able to hold such a heavy recognition, but response wise, post D-DAY, I’m taken slightly more seriously now.
Has your journey been satisfying or frustrating post D-DAY?
It has been both satisfying and frustrating post D-DAY. When I’m taken seriously I’m content. When I’m not, it’s frustrating.
Has the industry been kind to you; is it difficult to get a role commensurate to your talent?
The industry has been kind. I’ve been earning my livelyhood from it for the last six years. Work happens sporadically but there are many variables to the equation. I don’t know what role would be commensurate to my ‘talent’, so it’s difficult to go looking. I think it’s a bit early for that. I’m still understanding things; trying to make sense of them and myself.
Do you feel talented actors get their due in this industry?
I feel art of any sort, as a whole, is losing its forest to ambition. It’s being forced to find shelter amongst cement and sometimes ends up being killed for it.
|‘KAINAT APNI SAAZISH MEIN, AUR HAM SHIDDAT MEIN’|
In other words, you mean to say that good artistes are not getting their due and talent is getting killed?
It sounds so dire when you phrase it like that! All I’m saying is that the world is giving lesser value to the finer things in life, which happens to be art and compassion. For example, a good story comes from a good writer. Stories are hidden within pages of a book. Nowadays people play games on their devices before going to bed. The book dies. The writer dies. The story dies.
What happens to the one playing games then?
The one playing games gains nothing, releases nothing, imagines nothing, feels nothing. Cement! Films are animated, audible stories. We drink them like tequila shots instead of drawn out sips of warm evening tea. All, not just actors, pay the price.
Is there anything more than being a good actor that one has to be in this industry to get good roles and survive?
One must be PATIENT and flexible to learn new expressions and techniques. Things don’t come when and how we want them to. They’ll come when it is time and how it wants to come. Our aim should be not to get depressed, rusty or out of our minds by then.
You seem to be a deeply profound person. Where does this depth of your understanding of a situation come from?
[Laughs] Me time. Need lots of it!
So you like to be by yourself?
I like music, rain, colours, arts, nature and animals. Better than to resolve discord is to avoid it if possible.
How are you going about by way of meeting the right people… do you have a secretary?
I don’t have a secretary in the cliched sense. Kainat apni saazish mein, aur ham shiddat mein. (The universe is conspiring, while I’m true-heartedly desiring.)
Where do you see yourself in this industry five years from now?
I don’t look so far into the future. Things change in an instant here. They say, you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans! [laughs]
What is the best compliment you have received for your acting so far, from whom?
Many people whom I respect have been very kind to me in praise and encouragement.
Sometimes it’s not the words which are used, but the tone and the look in someone’s
eyes that hit the heart. It’s better for me to leave such conversation in the heart only.
So you look people in the eye when they speak with you, to see if they are telling the truth?
The best liars will look you in the eye and speak. My looking there serves no purpose.
What according to you defines a good performance?
If I can live the character, be genuine to the emotions and thoughts while pulling the audience into the plot and setting, that is an effective performance. Anything above that is good.
How do you select the roles offered to you?
I must understand the character emotionaly and be intrigued by her. There must be
a point to her being in the story.
That explains your presence in GUDDU RANGEELA; you showed fire in the last sequence. Do you feel your role could have had more length to bring about a balance in the screenplay?
That is something I cannot say. Making films is like cooking. The one eating can speculate if amchur should have been added instead of imli; or another will say gudh would have made it better. The day I’ve successfully [in my eyes] made a film, I’ll be better equipped to say which ingredient was less or more in my film.
What types of role do you ideally like to essay?
Roles that are human; roles that resonate; roles that intrigue. Roles I would like to include are characters that open an emotional Pandora’s box. Grey and colourful characters with sparks of hope, because that’s what we truly are. We’re not two-dimensional.
Just for the record, what is your surname?
[Laughs] There is none!
Also read our Open letter to Shriswara (June 24, 2013)