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Audiences recognise true talent: Khuda Haafiz actress

Shivaleeka Oberoi talks to The Daily Guardian on pre-release jitters, bond with co-star Vidyut Jammwal, her journey in Bollywood as an outsider and more.

Priyanka Sharma

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This year’s Independence Day weekend is going to packed with entertainment, action, thrill and romance, all thanks to the upcoming film Khuda Haafiz. Starring Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi in lead roles, the film is slated for a digital release on Disney+Hotstar on 14 August. As the D-Day nears, we got into an exclusive and candid chat with the actress. Excerpts:

Q. The countdown for ‘Khuda Haafiz’ has finally begun. Any pre release jitters for first day first show?

A. Definitely. It is the same nervousness as a theatrical release. The only thing I am missing is interacting with fans. Jaan Ban Gaye has been received so well. We are getting so much love. I just wish we could meet them and feel that love. Otherwise, the confidence is high. We have given so much to the film. I am personally very attached to the film and this character. Jitters are obviously there but these are good jitters.

Q. How was the camaraderie like with Vidyut Jammwal?

A. I enjoyed a lot. There was an instant connection and bond with Vidyut and others team members. I feel I have never felt that connection with everybody on one single set and it is a connection that will last a lifetime. Apart from the action hero that Vidyut is, I realised that he is all the more humble in person. He makes everyone feel so comfortable. When we met for the first time, it felt like we know each other since years.

 Q. Did you wanted to become an actor from your childhood?

 A. My parents realised I wanted to become an actor before me. I started enacting Kareena Kapoor’s character Poo at the age of 5. I would tell people don’t call me Shivaleeka, call me Poo. I feel acting was my calling and my destiny in some ways. I knew it would take a lot of hard work to build contacts and get my first film so my parents insisted that I complete my graduation first. In my 11th grade, I got enrolled in Anupam Kher’s acting school. After that, I gave a lot of auditions, did ads and I was only 16 then. I focused my career on acting post then and luckily destiny played out. I met Sajid Nadiadwala and he offered me to be an Assistant Director (AD) on Kick and Housefull 3. That’s how my journey began and that experience was very enriching for me.

Q. From being an AD to facing the camera for the first time. How was that like?

 A. I did everything as an AD on sets, from giving claps, standing in front of the camera for lighting, dialogue rehearsals, calling actors on sets, making call sheets among many other things. Whatever I learnt as an AD, has shaped me as an actor today. But yes, facing the camera for the first time is a whole another experience. After my first shot in my debut film, I knew this is it and this is my happiness. This is my make or break.

Q. After Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, the talk on nepotism has taken the film industry and social media by a storm. What’s your take on insider vs outsider debate?

 A. Speaking of Sushant, I have always seen him as an outsider who has made it in the industry. He has done some incredible work and I think he is going to be remembered for life. Coming to Insider Vs Outsider debate, I feel equal opportunities must be given irrespective of whether a person is an insider or outsider. It is also about recognition. Audiences have the capability to recognise true talent. Whether it is OTT or theatres, the audiences have changed a lot post lockdown. People are recognising newer talent and more deserving talent. Equal platform is very important.

Q. Sexism is prevalent in almost every industry. Did you ever feel dejected at any point because of it?

A. Behind the camera, it exists just like the way it exists in all other industries and offices. From getting smaller roles, female-driven films not doing so well despite good content and good actors, pay checks, the length of the role, it is very much prevalent and has been happening since a long time. Luckily, things are changing in 2020 and people are voicing out for equality. Women are standing up for their independence and we can only hope that the change happens faster.

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