Sheena Shahabadi, the latest entrant to the tinsel world, is making a rather unconventional beginning in Bollywood. In her debut flick Teree Sang, she plays a 15 year old girl who gets pregnant by her 17 year old boyfriend (played by Ruslaan Mumtaz). This Satish Kaushik directed film comes with a message around teen pregnancy and has one of its major promotional pegs being sex education. As the film gets ready for release this Friday, Sheena talks to Joginder Tuteja about her love for movies, how she always had her mother (Sadhana Singh) standing behind her like a rock and whether she is open to all the criticism once the film hits the screens.
Since your mother has been an actress herself while your father has been a known producer for Bhojpuri films, movies would have come naturally to you, right?
I won’t deny that. When I was just a 5 year old kid, I had made up my mind that I wanted to be an actress. In fact I started grooming myself when I was just 16 years old. Of course initially my parents were surprised that I was really serious about this profession but it didn’t take them much time to understand my passion for doing films. My mother supported me whole heartedly though my dad gave an okay-dokay reaction (laughs). He was like ‘Theek hai, kar lo, jaisa tumhe theek lage’. Thankfully there was no real resistance per se from any one and I joined an acting course as well to understand the nuances of acting.
Thankfully there was no real resistance per se from anyone for my acting
So what did you learn from your acting classes?
In addition to the entire learning, I also discovered myself. I went on to realize that ‘obsession’ is a plus point in my acting. I can portray the emotion of obsession and romance quite well. I remember during one of the scenes that we were enacting during our acting classes, my Sir just asked me to stop during my act and immediately called my mom. I was so nervous since he didn’t say a word to me. When my mom came over, he just asked me to re-enact the entire scene. I did it all over again while being pretty confused that why he was asking me to do that. Once I was through, my Sir just declared that I was ready to face the camera for a film and asked my mom if he was right in his assessment. That single scene that I did was like a live show reel for my mom and her face said it all. It was one approval that I would cherish for the rest of my life.
Was there any run time grooming that happened for you during the shooting of the film?
Yes, my mother used to be there for all the support. If I wasn’t doing any of my scenes right then she would guide me on how I could better them. Even if I did something really good, she won’t go gaga over me and exclaim that it was fantastic, superb or something. She would quietly say that I did it well and I should now concentrate on my next scene. I was happy with all the criticism and appreciation coming my way. It’s fine if the person in front of me is honest and blunt.
Though at time criticism does rattle an individual, isn’t it?
[Says after a pause] Well, yes when you know that it is unfair or has been conveyed in a poor taste. For example I remember this instance when I put on slight weight during the shooting of Teree Sang. I don’t want to take any names but there was this individual who commented on my weight and it wasn’t a pleasant conversation. Initially it did hit me badly but then my mom advised me that I should instead take this as a challenge. She told me that ‘chalo, ab aisa usne kaha hai to patla hoke dikhayo’! I worked on myself and soon I was back in my best shape!
I don’t want to take any names but there was this individual who commented on my weight
Playing a pregnant girl in your very first film is not a joke. Did it come easy to you?
If you ask me about the character that I play then frankly I didn’t have to really work much. This girl is bubbly and constantly laughing. Now that’s me so there were no worries there. In any case I play a girl of today. In fact every girl can identify with my character. We also went through script reading sessions and had acting workshops as well. In fact my mom always tells me that actors belonging to today’s generation are so lucky because in their time, there was no concept of acting workshops etc. Yes, talking about the pregnancy bit, it was indeed quite tough because I haven’t quite gone through that emotion or the physical state.
So from where did you get help?
I asked my mom a lot of questions on. I also took help from Neena Gupta who plays my mom in the film. Over and above that, I purposely kept myself tense and exhausted in real life as well for all the portions in the film where I had to play a pregnant girl. After all I had to convince the audience that I was going through all the pain and trouble.