Born and brought up in a Kashmiri Pandit family, a major part of her childhood was spent moving from one refugee camp to another until they managed to find a space they could call home. For young actress Shaylee Krishen, there was no sense of permanence about where she lived, and the TV set and radio that offered films and songs were her only constant source of entertainment, escape and happiness.
Today, Shaylee belongs to that world of entertainment. She recently appeared in the OTT series “The Last Hour”, and has a couple of Malayalam films – “Bermuda” and “Malayalam” – lined up.
She gets nostalgic recalling her first introduction to the 70mm screen, as an audience when she was 13. “I went to Bengaluru to meet my brother and he took me to a cinema theatre, and we watched a Malayalam film! I am a Kashmiri, watching a film, in which the language is totally unknown. But I remember how engrossed I was because of that cinematic experience. It was a Santosh Sivan directorial,” informed Shaylee.
As fate would have it, she has now worked with Sivan in the upcoming thriller “Jack N Jill”, as well as another film, “Moha”.
“I know it sounds surreal but what is real and what is unreal? In fact, the reality is very different for me because being born into a Kashmiri Pandit family, we all know how for the last 30 years, our community has been living as a refugee in our own land. There was no sense of permanence, as children, me and my siblings would always live in fear. But wherever we shifted, my only constant was listening to the radio and watching films on TV every Sunday. I would visualise the song and dance in front of the mirror and try and enact them after watching films. Rest of the reality that we all Kashmiri Pandits faced, everyone knows, was quite gloomy. Acting and storytelling were the escape I always wanted to hold onto,” Shaylee says.
She was always interested in performance-oriented characters – like her favourite Sridevi in “Sadma” and Manisha Koirala in “Khamoshi”.
While her portrayal of Pari Singh in “The Last Hour” was intense, was it possible because of OTT platforms?
“I think when it comes to budding actors, getting good performance-oriented roles is possible now because of good casting and vision of the director. We know how some legendary film directors used to work with non-actors and extract brilliant performances from them. A director has to have that strong vision and be good with his craft to bring out the best actor from them. That is how directors used to be star makers,” says Shaylee.
She sums up, “Santosh sir and (‘The Last Hour’ creator) Amit (Kumar) sir are people who discover a new side of an actor that nobody has seen before, and there comes the vision of a director for his actor. I think it has nothing to do with whether the medium is web series, films or TV shows, but it has to do with the vision of a director.”
Shaylee’s latest work “The Last Hour” streams on Amazon Prime Video.
–By Arundhuti Banerjee