Jalsa is a fascinating human drama: Shefali Shah

When actor Shefali Shah embarks on a film, his success is guaranteed. Not just because she’s a phenomenal performer, but an artist with a great sense of script, a director’s actress and an audience favourite.

Shefali, who shot to fame after her web show “Delhi Crime” won the Emmy award, is currently basking in the appreciation for her latest release – a crime thriller titled “Jalsa”. Directed by Suresh Triveni, it is a captivating story of two characters Maya (Vidya Balan) and Ruksana (Shefali Shah), whose world turns into chaos after a terrible accident. What follows is a duel of redemption and retribution.

The film was released on March 18 on Amazon Prime Video to rave reviews from audiences.

Millennium Post sat down with Shefali to talk about her journey bringing her character to life onscreen. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Since this is a very emotionally draining project, were there times when you felt exhausted and stopped it?

Filming ‘Jalsa’ was definitely overwhelming. It was very exhausting, emotionally and physically. But when I shoot for projects like these, I never want to leave the set. It’s because when I’m in an emotional zone, I don’t want to get out of it and back into it. Doing this would break the chain of thoughts and emotions. Instead, I stay there and continue to film with the same intensity and feeling. During the filming of ‘Jalsa’, there were times when I felt drained because I had given everything. So, to replenish my energy, I would take a 30-minute break, gather for the next scene, and continue working.

Who is your contact in case of doubt on the set?

When I work in front of the camera, I blindly rely on my director. And luckily I had an incredibly insightful director, Suresh (Triveni). So I wouldn’t go to anyone but him.

How was the experience of working with him?

I simply love Suresh Triveni. He’s an extremely insightful director, who doesn’t just tell you what’s on paper, but dwells very deeply on the character’s psyche; and that’s something I admire. Working with him has been one of my richest experiences.

He is also a very curious soul who likes to learn about spirits and human relationships. The more he learns, the more he wants to explore.

When we came together for ‘Jalsa’, Suresh knew exactly what he wanted from his actors, myself included. He had worked out Ruksana’s backstory and understood very well where it came from. His hard work paid off as I had a reference in mind while getting into my character’s skin. We used to have hour-long conversations about approaching a scene. There was a lot of “give and take”. There are two things we agreed on almost immediately, one being that the two predominant emotions that will prevail throughout will be pain and anger. He also had someone who would walk me through the lingo. So the thing is, he was there the whole time, open to all kinds of discussions and ideas.

I think he is very lucid about what he wants and that makes working with him a very simple but interesting experience.

How did you get involved in the project?

Suresh approached me for the character of Ruksana and gave me time to go through the plot. But when I read his work project, I immediately said yes. It was as simple as that.

For me, the deciding factors are the script, the director and my character. If the script takes me to the guts, I will not hesitate to say yes. There is no other calculation I do when selecting a script. It is a very impulsive and instinctive reaction of a yes or a no.

But does the casting count?

Of course, it is important. Vidya being part of it was the icing on the cake. Couldn’t have asked for more. She is undoubtedly amazing. But I would also like to mention how fabulous the rest of the film’s cast is.

Working with fabulous actors like Vidya Balan can sometimes add to the performance pressure. Have you experienced anything like this?

There was absolutely no pressure and I didn’t feel intimidated. I believe that the better the actor in front of me, the richer I will be. I feed on my co-actors. Moreover, I do not work in competition. If I have competition, it’s only with myself. Just because I have a good actor in front of me doesn’t mean I’m going to go the extra mile. I will go that extra mile regardless. I really push myself and give it my all.

Please explain to us a normal day on the plateaus of ‘Jalsa’.

Once we got ready and went on set, one thing was sure to happen. Whenever we had emotionally intense scenes, Suresh would play the background music he created for each character so we could immediately get into the mood. The set was a very intimate place and the program was very intense – physically, emotionally and temporally. Then there was a break where I relaxed and came back to the set to shoot the next scenes.

The movie is doing well and people are loving your performance. How do you take it. How important is public validation to you?

Validation is important to everyone, whether they accept it or not. The film is made for the public, so we want people to watch it and love it as much as we do.

That said, I never calculated the commercial success of the project. I never address questions such as “Where is it going to be shown” or “How much will it fetch”. I say yes to a project because it upsets me.

I know one thing that no matter what happens to the movie, I’m extremely proud to be a part of it. I wouldn’t have said yes if I didn’t think it was so powerful.

Describe ‘Jalsa’ in your words?

“Jalsa” is not just another crime thriller. It is a very engrossing and gripping human drama that will leave you spellbound. If you ask me, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. And everyone who watches it will identify with one or another of the film’s characters.