Exclusive! Audience have the capability to recognise true talent: Khuda Haafiz actress Shivaleeka Oberoi

12 August, 2020 | Priyanka Sharma

Shivaleeka Oberoi Entertainment

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, Actor Shivaleeka Oberoi talks about her upcoming film Khuda Haafiz, pre-release jitters, bond with Vidyut Jammwal, her journey in Bollywood as an outsider a...

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 August 14. As the D-Day nears, we got into an exclusive and candid chat with Shivaleeka on pre-release jitters, bond with Vidyut Jammwal, her journey in Bollywood as an outsider and more.

Read Excerpts:

Q1 The countdown for Khuda Haafiz has finally begun. Any pre release jitters for first day first show?

 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 too the film. I am personally very attached to the film and this character. Jitters are obviously there but these are good jitters.

 Q2 How was the camaraderie like with Vidyut Jammwal, any fun incidents from sets?

 A lot. 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.

There were a lot of fun incidents on sets. We shot in -6 degrees in Uzbekistan. While on-screen we were showing Middle East’s bright sunny day, off-camera it was snowing that day. So we thought the shoot would cancelled but it didn’t. The production called us at 6 am to inform that the shoot would happen and we should get ready. When we reached set, the crew had to remove snow to make the shoot happen. Similarly, a sequence where Sameer and Nargis’s hands drift, was shot in a small corridor. But it was fun. The crew felt like family and work didn’t feel like work.

 Q3 Did you wanted to become an actor from your childhood? Was there any specific moment that you realised that you want to join the film industry? How was it like convincing the family?

 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 AD on Kick and Housefull 3. That’s how my journey began and that experience was very enriching for me.

 Q4 From being an AD to facing the camera for the first time. How was that like? Tell me about the audition process and how was it landing your second film even before your first film’s release?

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.

Landing the second film before first sounds easy but isn’t. I gave more than 100 auditions for my debut film. I wanted to sign my second film before first because this industry is not a very stable industry. It was dream to be an outsider and an outsider to dream this big. I just know one thing, whatever you send to the universe comes back and it obviously takes a lot of hard work. Luckily, I came across Khuda Haafiz.

 Q5 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 Insiders vs outsider debate in reference to your own journey?

 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.

We have some great talents like Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao who have made it big in the industry. It is impossible but it is a long journey. It is important that somebody holds your hand from the inside world and recognises your talent. For an outsider, the recognition comes after doing 2-3 films. I think it is changing slowly. Speaking about my journey, it has been difficult to get to where I am and I am still on my 2nd film. The path till here has been very difficult. Everyone’s journey is his or her own.

Q6 Sexism is prevalent in almost every industry. Did you ever feel dejected at any point because of it?

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.

 Q7 Speaking about Yeh Saali Aashiqui, the film was appreciated by people a lot on OTT. How do you feel with all the appreciation and love coming your way since it was your debut film?

I was actually very happy that it was appreciated by the critics first. Someone called me and said that actresses do such characters after doing 5 films. It was a slightly different film, it was female dominated and it was a film where I could display all my capabilities as a debutant. That was my only motive behind choosing Yeh Saali Aashiqui as my debut film. First impression is the last impression for an outsider. Luckily, people loved it. The only thing I felt that it would change my life and I would get a lot of opportunities but it didn’t happen. The only opportunity I got was Khuda Haafiz and one two more. Had it been someone else, they would have been flooded with offers. I felt a little bad about it but I take every day as it comes.

Q7 Your Instagram bio reads real is rare. In an industry so driven by looking perfect and saying all the perfect things, how do you stay strive to be real to your audiences and showcase your true self?

 That is what sets me apart. I am 100% real, irrespective of whether I am with my friends or family. When my fans, who are aspiring actors, ask for advise on social media, I always tell them that my journey has been hard, you see how your journey will go. I feel there is no harm in being real when the entire world is trying to make you in something else. Keeping yourself real is very important. I don’t know why so many people in the industry keep hiding, in terms of what they do for their fitness, skincare etc. I am very open on my social media. You would find videos like ‘a day in my life, ‘what I eat in a day’, fitness and skincare routines on IGTV to keep my fans engaged. Honestly, it is a give and take relationship. Real is actually rare.

Q8 What makes you stay patient and motivated to your work in an industry where patience is key as disappointments are plenty & good opportunities don’t come everyday?

I feel I sowed the seed; now i am waiting for the plant to grow now. I have put in all the hard work. Beyond that, I have to just keep watering and let myself grow. Honestly, it is all destiny. How much hard work you put into yourself, it comes back to you. Disappointments are there, not everyday is a happy day. We actors take the day as it comes. There is nothing pre-planned and that’s how I am living my living. Keeping your family close and having patience is very important. My family keeps me sane and my journey keeps me going.