Shantanu Maheshwari interview© Shantanu Maheshwari

Shantanu Maheshwari On Navigating The Realms Of Dance And Acting

In the labyrinth of the entertainment industry, where talents converge and dreams unfold, Shantanu Maheshwari has carved a unique path. From his early days as a young contestant on reality dance shows on TV, to gracing the big screen in Gangubai Kathiawadi, Maheshwari’s journey is a testament to the fusion of artistry and ambition. In an exclusive conversation with us, the rising star shares insights into his journey, Bollywood debut and the exciting developments in the latest season of his popular series, Campus Beats.

Journey And Growth

Shantanu Maheshwari interview©Shantanu Maheshwari

As Maheshwari reflects on his journey, he takes us back to the roots of his passion—the dance floor. “I joined the industry as an actor, but the initial focus leaned heavily on dancing. However, I had to navigate the realms of acting, simultaneously dispelling the misconceptions of a reality TV background, along the way.”

His initial stint in Channel V’s Dil Dosti Dance became the crucible that forged his dual expertise. “Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t start my acting career with a reality show. It was a dance-centric fiction series that laid the groundwork for my multifaceted skills.”

“Entering the industry during my teenage years meant experiential learning—a journey that tested my personality and patience. Initially, I was drawn more to filmmaking than acting, but gradually uncovered my passion for the latter. This adventure taught me valuable life skills, including patience, the ability to see from different perspectives and the importance of self-preservation.

My college years marked the beginning of my acting career, and the industry exposed me to a dual identity—sometimes forgotten for my acting skills while dancing and vice versa. Yet, I managed to strike a balance, finding happiness in both realms, making this journey a fulfilling and enlightening experience,” he shares.

Character Evolution in Campus Beats

Intricately navigating the evolution of his character in the hit Amazon miniTV series Campus Beats, Maheshwari unravels the layers that define Ishaan. “Ishaan is a complex character—a bad boy with a good heart. Portraying such duality is inherently challenging. While you witness the surface persona in the first season, subsequent episodes peel back the layers, revealing the depth beneath.”

Discussing the growth of Ishaan, he shares, “It’s not a sudden transformation, but a gradual progression. Both the character and I have undertaken a journey, evolving together in understanding Ishaan’s thought process, relationships and his approach to various situations.”

Bollywood Debut

Transitioning from the small screen to the silver screen marked a transformative chapter for Maheshwari, crystallised by his role in Gangubai Kathiawadi. “Working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali was an enlightening experience. He is a genius with multiple approaches to a singular scene,” he shares.

gangubai kathiawadi©IMDb

Recalling memorable moments on set, Maheshwari adds, “I was nervous, unsure about what to expect. However, Bhansali sir instilled confidence in me to have my individual experience—be it good, bad or ugly. It was an experience that moulded me both as an actor and as an individual.”

Reflecting on his collaboration with Alia Bhatt, Maheshwari effuses admiration for the acclaimed actress, breaking stereotypes surrounding Bollywood superstars. “Alia, despite being a superstar, is extremely approachable and easy to work with. She is incredibly humble and her approach towards her craft is inspiring. In addition to being a beautiful human being, she creates an environment where co-stars can flourish, giving them the space to deliver their best performances,” he shares.

In a candid revelation, Maheshwari emphasises Alia’s ability to bring out the best in her fellow actors. “Working with her crushes any preconceived notions one might have about how ‘superstars’ are supposed to act. Alia allows everyone to shine in their roles, contributing to a collaborative and enriching creative process,” he adds. This insight into Alia Bhatt’s collaborative spirit sheds light on the camaraderie that fueled their on-screen chemistry in Gangubai.

Campus Beats Season 3

Teasing the series finale of Campus Beats, Maheshwari sets the stage for excitement. “It’s not merely a dance-filled season; it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Different turmoils unfold and we delve deeper into the mystery surrounding Netra’s (Shruti Sinha) father’s death. Expect a power-packed, fun and thrilling season.”

Shantanu Maheshwari interview©Shantanu Maheshwari

Reflecting on the show’s evolution, he states, “While shooting, we sensed that this was the right trajectory—a notch higher than the previous two seasons combined. It’s a progression aligned with the audience’s expectations.”

For the unversed, Campus Beats is a series about a Gen-Z girl, Netra, who discovers her hidden dancing skills. As she journeys through a contemporary dance academy, she discovers the intricacies of friendship, love, freedom and justice, amid the stark socio-economic divisions that define the institution. The third and final season of this beloved series released on December 5, 2023.

Advice For Aspiring Actors

For budding actors, Maheshwari imparts valuable advice: “Let go, learn on the job and embrace multiple approaches. Stay grounded and humble; it’s essential.” He emphasises the significance of adopting a broader perspective, acknowledging that every individual’s journey is inherently unique.

Fun Rapid-Fire Round

In a lively rapid-fire round, Maheshwari’s choices inject a playful spirit.

H!: If you could dance with any actor in a music video, who would it be?

SM: “Govinda, Prabhu Deva and Javed Jaffery.”

H!: One thing fans would be surprised to know about you.

SM: “I’m really good at sports.”

H!: Your go-to song to lift your mood.

SM: “Any song by Anuv Jain.”

H!: What is your ultimate dream role?

SM: “Leonardo DiCaprio’s iconic role (Jordan Belfort) in Wolf of Wall Street.”

Skincare And Self-Care

Shantanu Maheshwari interview©Shantanu Maheshwari

Peeling back the curtain on his personal rituals, Maheshwari shares, “I believe in home remedies and my ultimate go-to is aloe vera. I simply cut a leaf and use it on my skin and scalp — it works wonders for various issues and keeps my skin supple.”

Future Projects And Life Beyond the Spotlight

As the conversation concludes, Maheshwari hints at exciting projects for 2024, including a Neeraj Pandey directorial with an impressive cast featuring Ajay Devgn, Tabu and Saiee Majrekar. Adding to his impressive repertoire, the actor is also working on his upcoming Bengali debut film, Chaalchitro.

Shantanu Maheshwari interview©Shantanu Maheshwari

This project marks his entry into the Bengali film industry, but it’s not the first time he’s collaborating with director Pratim D. Gupta. The duo previously worked together on Tooth Pari: When Love Bites. Expressing his fervour for this new venture, Maheshwari eagerly anticipates stepping into the character of a cop in this riveting thriller, marking not only his debut in the Bengali film industry but also a homecoming for the Kolkata native.

As for life beyond the spotlight, the actor expresses his desire to balance work with travel—a source of holistic growth. The future, he suggests, holds a mix of diverse projects that keep him engaged and enthused.

“Exploring new places is something I truly miss these days. Travelling is more than just visiting locations; it’s a profound learning experience. It contributes to personal growth, shaping you both as an individual and in your craft. When you engage with diverse people from different backgrounds, you gain invaluable perspectives. This, to me, is not just a leisure activity; it’s a transformative journey that can be truly life-changing,” Maheshwari concludes.