Shweta Tripathi interview© Instagram

Shweta Tripathi On The Freedom Of OTT, Her Journey & More

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Ananya Shankar

Embodying empathy in her person and exuding versatility in her persona. This talented actor reveals her adventures in the world of cinema — both on the big screen and online.

Shweta Tripathi Sharma’s foray into the world of glamour was serendipitous. There was a time when she was on the other side of barricades, interning with the Times Group to photograph the stars walking down the red carpet. Cut to 2023, and Shweta’s one of the very celebrities being clicked.

“I’d stand on the sidelines, clicking photos of all these beautiful people. I was mesmerised,” she recalls. “It took a long time for me to accept that this was what I wanted to do because I had no formal training in the craft, and I didn’t know anyone in the industry.”

Today, when one takes a look at the repertoire of films that Shweta has to her name, they would call it destiny. She made her debut in Kya Mast Hai Life, a popular show on Disney Channel, after which came a string of roles in which she showcased her prowess for versatility, effortlessly playing myriad characters that greatly differed in tone, persona and intensity.

“I always want to surprise my audience. I don’t want to serve them stale food. So the one thing that I focus on is emotion. No matter which part of the world you belong to, emotions are universal…” she shares.

Not only is she cognisant about the character’s story, dialogue and background, Shweta also delves into the layers of their emotional complexity to cement her connection with the dramatis personae she brings to life. Her phenomenal performance in Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein had the audience hooked from the very first episode. Even more so for how miles apart it was from the heart-wrenching arc of Golu (one of Shweta’s breakthrough roles) in Mirzapur. It’s this range that proves to be her greatest asset as an actress.

“As an actor, I get a peek into so many lives. I don’t want to live in my own bubble because only when you burst out of that can you see more and feel more…”

The reason we find a Shalu in Masaan so different from a Golu in Mirzapur, an ingenuity she credits to curiosity about human psychology — as well as her experience at a post-production studio, where she worked as an assistant director, and later in casting.

“I worked in casting with Mukesh Chhabra, who was associated with the most talented directors. It made me truly understand the requirements for the characters.”

The joy of acting, Shweta believes, comes from picking characters “far, far away” from who she is as a person.

“In fact, when (Kunal) Kemmu met me on the sets of Kanjoos Makhichoos, he was surprised to see what I’m really like! Everyone has this perception that I’m very serious and similar to Golu (my most challenging role so far). But in reality, I’m just a batata vada!” she laughs, referring to her endearing Instagram handle.

When one observes the times we live in, they find that art often suffers at the hands of capitalism — precisely what makes artists like Shweta a breath of fresh air. As much as she trusts the value of money and follower count, she stresses that neither is a priority.

“I focus on the story I’m telling and the character I’m playing. The rest always falls into place… I choose stories wherein ordinary people perform extraordinary feats!” Which brings us to the three things Shweta bears in mind while choosing her next project: “The story, the character and the people making it. No matter how good a story is, it can’t do well in the wrong hands, whereas sometimes, an average story in the right hands can reach its maximum potential. The conversations that take place behind the camera are equally important.”

For this actor, it boils down to an innate understanding of a character’s emotional drive, which she believes is a collaborative effort with the filmmaker.

“When an actor performs, they make the audience believe what they’re watching and transport them to whichever world they are in. Like there was a time I was mesmerised by Yashpal Sharma’s performance at Kamani Auditorium in Delhi. It felt like magic. I wanted to be a part of that magic...”

A diehard fan of Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit, Shweta was once a trainee at Shiamak Davar’s Institute for Performing Arts. Besides discovering her passion for cinema, one that she nurtured into a flourishing career, her flair for creative pursuits extends to Kathak — a skill she’s currently honing — as well as pottery, which she dabbles in during her small breaks between hectic shooting schedules.

The recent surge in the popularity of OTT has shaken the world of traditional Bollywood. And as a stalwart in the online medium, Shweta welcomes the drastic transformation.

“It’s all so local now. We have stories coming in from across the country. The characters aren’t sticking to stereotypes, and you can understand what drives them, instead of merely judging them… The old-school aspiration remains, but things are more real now. It’s not glamorised — you can see the scars and the emotions.”

In a nutshell, OTT platforms offer a more tactile menu of films at your fingertips, but this trait cannot replace “the experience and the community feeling” of a theatre release. Comparing feature films to a 100-metre race, and OTT shows to marathons, each with their own unique place in the field, Shweta stresses that it ultimately circles back to the story — while some taste sweeter seated beside your loved ones in a theatre, others simply need more time to nurture.

Bollywood is often deemed ageist in its outlook, but we wonder whether OTT content has changed that worldview. And does the onus of inclusivity lie solely on the creator? A pragmatic thinker, Shweta pauses before she answers.

“It’s because of OTT that stories are opening up and consequently, so are the characters. And it’s not all merely the producers’ choice. The audience shares in this responsibility. Watching something is like giving it your vote. If you don’t like something, like an ‘item number,’ don’t watch it! It’s a game of supply and demand, after all.”

Her work brings a plethora of social issues to light — be it Laakhon Main Ek or Made in Heaven. In fact, giving us a sneak peek into her next project, she tells us that she plays the role of an acid attack survivor because “it’s important to tell these stories.”

Next on her calendar is a series with Vijay Varma and Season 2 of Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein. As the conversation draws to a close, she leaves us with her personal mantra: “Everybody wants to change you, but if you let them, you’ll end up as yet another product on the conveyor belt. Know who you are at your core.”

Shweta Shares The Scoop

A funny moment on set? “Fake blood is so sticky! I was covered in it during a shootout scene in Mirzapur. And after all that, they needed a re-shot!”

A genre you want to work in? “I really want to shoot a heist! And also a love story, something that can make the heart smile.”

A memorable fan experience? “The sweetest subtitle artist for Masaan told me that if she had a daughter, she wishes she were like Shalu!”

An average Sunday activity? “Going to Otters Club in Mumbai, swimming with friends, eating out, watching The Romantics, getting a massage — just being.”

A dream co-actor? “Pedro Pascal and Riz Ahmed. I was actually an assistant director on one of Ahmed’s movies!”

This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!