Winning Notes

16 November 2012 Screen India by Asad Khan

In Student Of The Year, I play the character of Shruti Pathak who is Shanaya’s (Alia Bhatt) best friend. Shruti is upfront and sometimes even nasty to people. She doesn’t like playing second fiddle to Shanaya and wants to make it on her own. She sees Student of The Year trophy as the only way to prove her mettle. Hence in the pursuit of winning the trophy, she loses perspective and manipulates everyone including her best friend.

Casting Coup

I got a call from the casting team of SOTY. I went to Dharma office in Khar. The first audition saw me doing a scene from the film Jaane Tu.. Ya Jaane Na. Within a week, I got a call from Nandini asking me to come for another round of audition. This time, Shruti, the character that I play had to emote her feelings ten years hence after graduating from St. Teresa’s. Some of the scenes are there in the film as well. A few days later, I got a call from Nandini saying I was shortlisted. My happiness knew no bounds!

Stepping Stone
SOTY happened right after I finished shooting for my first film Mujhse Fraandship Karoge. I had also done a few plays before. The most popular ones being Walking to The Sun in which I played a 11 year old ailing boy called Amal. It was based on Rabindranath Tagore’s short story called Dakghar. The play was directed by theatre stalwart Sunil Shanbag. I had also done a few other plays like a musical called Aisa Kehte Hain, a tragic comedy Bali Aur Shambhu directed by Manav Kaul and a dark play called Confessions directed by Kashin Shetty.

First Shot
My first scene in SOTY was the scene where Shruti finds out Shanaya is going to the prom with Jeet and she confronts Shanaya about the same. My first day of shooting was like a dream. I had met Alia just once before and we were supposed to be best friends having a fight. While doing the scene we instantly connected and started playing off each other. By the end I had even forgotten I had just met her. That is one of my most favourite scene in the film.

Stumbling Block
I used to have water phobia. I had almost drowned twice trying to learn swimming. So when this role came along and I was told that Shruti is a state-level swimmer in the film, my first instinct was to simply run away! But then I told myself, either I chicken out and don’t do the film, or I face my fears and do an important part in a KJo film. I’m glad I chose the latter. But it wasn’t easy. In the beginning I would go to swimming class alone, swim a little and wait for it to get over. A month later, Rob Miller's ReelSports team was roped in to train us and life went in fifth gear! I had to do innumerable swimming drills in the pool. And Sam, the coach would give me deadlines that in a week I should be able to swim 200 mtrs, non-stop, without running out of breath. By the end of my training schedule I remember swimming three to five hours a day.

Lessons Learnt
Learning swimming taught me not to give up! Your mind always plays games with you especially when you are scared of something. But I have realised you need to also play games with your mind to overcome your fears. I would psyche myself into believing that there isn’t any option like giving up. I had to persist till the time I learnt to swim perfectly. And yes, I also learnt to trust blindly. It’s difficult when you have to trust your life in the hands of someone you’ve just met. But I guess that’s when you stop thinking and take that leap of faith.

Matinee Idols
I love Vidya Balan. She is also someone who entered the industry with no godfather and has made it to the top just by sheer hardwork. And she is a beautiful actor. She plays her roles with conviction. It’s a treat to watch her perform. It’s inspiring. I haven’t met her, but heard that she is very simple and down-to-earth. I think that’s commendable.

Future Projects
I am waiting for the release of my next film Charlie Ke Chakker Mein. The film features Naseeruddin Shah among others. Unlike SOTY, it is a dark film. It’s about Mumbai, drugs, mafia, cops, violence. I play a Bengali girl called Nina who is an aspiring actor. Charlie.. and will release in early 2014.

This article was first published in Screen India (16 November 2012).
Original story

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