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Simran Sharma Recalls Working With Imtiaz Ali, Sooraj Barjatya; Talks About Her Latest Show ‘Staffroom’ | Exclusive

Simran Sharma might still be a young actress but her journey in front of the camera has been an invigorating one. From acting in ads when she was just 8 years of age to becoming a leading actress for Imtiaz Ali’s short film Eyes For You, Simran has shown exceptional grit and dedication towards her craft and her passion for acting. Her film with the Rajshri Productions Hun Chaar was one of the stepping stones that led her to being a part of unique projects like Atithi Bhooto Bhava and Oka Chinna Family Story

Currently seen in Amazon MiniTV series ‘Staffroom’, Simran Sharma gave an exclusive interview to News18 Showsha where she spoke about her acting journey, working with Imtiaz Ali and Sooraj Barjatya and more. Here are the excerpts:

Tell us something about your first ever acting project. What was it, when was it and how did it help you decide that yes this is what I love doing and I want to continue doing it in future?

I started acting over a decade ago. From 8-10 years of age. And that’s when I started with a few ads. Because my parents were asked by somebody they know if I would like to audition. And then they asked me and I was like why not? So that’s how it started. It started of very casually but I kept doing it along with studies. And it was all like a hobby. And then when I was in 8th grade I think, in that period I felt like this something that I want to do. Professionally, I want to pursue this as a career. But it was such a far fetched dream for a person coming from a middle-class family with no connection to this world of films or entertainment industry. So I would not tell anyone that I wanted to be an actor. I would say all kinds of things like I want to be an interior designer, this and that. But somewhere deep down, I was denying it to myself that this something that I enjoy doing. Once I finished my school, I told my parents and they were very supportive of it. That’s how I started auditioning more consistently. With college it became more easier. And that’s how I kept auditioning, one thing after another kept happening. I got started getting more projects and I did workshop here and there. It’s been good.

What would you consider your ‘biggest ever break’ in the entertainment industry?

There are two things that were a big deal for me. One was when I made my Hindi film debut with Hum Chaar and Rajshri Productions made that. So it was a story of four friends, there were three boys. So I gave around four five rounds of auditions. I was 18-19 and it was a huge deal for me. Because we had grown up watching films like Hun Saath Saath Hai, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun. That was like a dream come true moment. That made me believe more that I should keep moving forward on this path because if something like this can happen, this can really pan out very well. And the other was two years ago, I did a short film that was directed by Imtiaz Ali and I have been the biggest fan ever since I watched Jab We Met. As a child, there was a point in my life that I used to watch all his work be it Tamasha or Rockstar. That was the audition I did online because that was the time we were slowly moving out of the pandemic phase. He saw my audition tape and then he video called me. And I was freaking out the whole time but finally it happened, I got a call and they said you’re onboard. And then we went to Dubai and shot that. And it was shot by Ravi Varman Sir. These are two big things that I bagged that really meant a lot to me.

What was it like working with Sooraj Barjatya? What can you recall about that experience?

People say a lot of things about Sooraj Barjatya. We only get to bear nice things about him and Rajshri Productions. And they talk about how nice he is, how humble he is. And I have zero apprehensions in saying that all of those things we have heard is true. He is actually one of the nicest people I’ve met. He is so polite and genuinely kind. And he goes out of his way to make you feel welcomed and comfortable, even when he doesn’t have to. He is at a position when he doesn’t really need to care about the new actors or people who are junior to him. But he does that and that makes him so special. And even the atmosphere of Rajshri office, as actors it felt like entering a temple. There is a certain kind of sanctity to it just like his films which is a beautiful experience.

What was it about ‘Staffroom’ that really resonated with you and what were some of things you did to prepare for your ole in this?

When I heard it, I found it to be really interesting. I was really excited to audition for it. We’ve seen too many shows and they are all great, they are very fun to watch. But that is about students and what happens inside a classroom. And there was nothing I had watched that occurs inside a staffroom. And I found it very interesting because as students also, we always used to put teachers on a pedestal and we would see them as these entities that could do no wrong and just wouldn’t seem human. And even seeing them as human beings. We would only see them as teachers. When I read the script, I felt like we were portraying the teachers as very human, they make mistakes, they don’t like certain things and I really enjoyed that, the banter, the fun, the jokes, the equations that they make inside. Even they get tired after a bad day when they go back and they are like ‘it’s a horrible day, I hate this class’. Even though they can’t say all that in public.

So I really found that interesting. And we did a lot of rehearsals, we went into the office, there was one very fun session where the team and the actors and the crew sat together and we just spoke about our school experiences, the kind of teachers we had, the anecdotes and the little nuances. And I think everyone picked up a lot. That exchange was very helpful.

What was the energy like on the sets?

This might sound cliched but honestly it was a blast. It was a lot of fun. Because our show was also a very light-hearted, heartwarming kind of show. It was very easy and very beneficial for us to have that kind of camradarie on sets. And that kind of vibe, we could easily maintain it. And we were always joking around, just having a good time. And it was a very positive vibe on sets. Like you would want to go to this workplace and you are excited for the next day. And it was very well planned out by the production team. Ofcourse there is Shristi, Sanchay, Nikhil, Tushar and these are actors our age. There are also seniors like Anjuna Ma’am, Shahnawaz. Unfortunately we lost Shahnawaz. That was very shocking. So we got to learn a lot from them and we would sit down, hear stories between takes. And Tushar was my co-actor from Hum Chaar so we talked about how we went from being students to being teachers.

Talking about your Telugu web series Oka Chinna Family Stories, since it was in a different language altogether, what kind of difficulty you had to face in order to get the diction and pronunciations right?

So Oka Chinna Family Story, since it was Telugu, so the major difference was that. I had to get to the preparation stage since there was acting and character plus another layer of language. So I basically took my lines about two to three months in advance and they were very kind to provide me the script and they gave me a translation as I got in touch with the tutor. And when I reached sets, it was as good as being on a set of any project where I would know the language. Because atleast my lines were very thorough. As for the pronunciation, no matter how much you try, when you started speaking a language, it might not sound authentic. We still dubbed it but if you watch it, you’ll see my lip sync is not gibberish and I am saying the line. Even the team was very happy with that. That was also a very fun experience. I had shot majorly in Hyderabad and a little bit in Warangal. Ultimately I feel like, be it any language, whenever there is a good story, people would like to watch it. The language barrier doesn’t matter.

Will you be interested to take up more regional projects?

Surely, I would love to do all the good work out there and as long as I can pull it off, I can do justice to it, as the makers want, I am okay with the prospect.

You played a small but important cameo in Atithi Bhooto Bhava, how did that happen?

The director of the film watched Him Chaar. From there, sort of in his mind, he called me to meet him and when I reached his office, he seemed pretty sure already about me playing that part. He had that kind of clarity. And not just with my casting but also casting of other actors. Even on set, he was a director who had a lot of clarity. So he decided in his head because he liked my portrayal and he felt I would fit as Manju in Atithi Bhooto Bhava. That’s how I started preparing and that’s quite a dramatic story because right when we were supposed to leave for shoot, that week I got diagnosed with Covid and I called them and I was really upset because I thought I was gonna lose it. I thought so since it was a small part and they might replace me. I spoke to them and they actually rescheduled and rearranged the dates and as soon as I got the negative report, immediately I went and my recovery time happened on shoot. We shot in Mathura. It was super chilly and there were scenes in the night we were shooting and I had freshly recovered from Covid. The thrill of it was so much that it didn’t matter. I was happy to be a part of it.

What role do you play in Imtiaz Ali’s Short Film? And what have you learned from that experience?

The role that I play is basically like a love story but also coming-of-age for one of the characters. The character that Ehsan played, he played this part where he sort of looking for his purpose in life and then my character Nidhi comes in she is blind. But she lives her life in such a way that she never lets that affect. He sort of gets inspired by that. Firstly I just want to get it right because I didn’t want my blindness to look caricaturish or mockery. I watched several videos and did some research to make it look a little authentic. But being on Imtiaz Ali’s sets was very surreal and strange. Sometimes when you meet someone who is a public figure and you really look up to them, it’s really weird because you just this new person who has come in. But for you, there is so much going on, you are thinking about everything, all the parts of his films that you loved or things that you would like to say to them. But we happened to talk one evening between the takes and he asked me where did I study and all of that, then I happened to tell him I am your biggest fan, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to freak you out. I tried to be calm and told him I know Jab We Met by heart and all the lines. I say it when I watch it. I showed him a picture where on my previous birthday, my friends had gotten me a cake which said ‘Mein apni favourite hu’. And then he used to test me whether I was actually telling the truth and I started telling the lines and he started laughing that you remember the whole film, you are crazy. We were shooting a scene in the auditorium and I was seated in a corner and he was directing another actor, I had tears in my eyes because I was reflecting on my journey as to how I started from nowhere and now I am somewhere in a place where I am working in this foreign with the director I really looked up to. And it became very overwhelming.

I really admire him for the kind of composure and patience, even if something is going wrong, he would do calmly explain it to them. I found that really inspiring. And I spoke to him and asked him and he gave me really lovely feedback about things I should work upon and what I was good at and that really meant a lot.

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