Exuberance and confidence were the two qualities that prompted Shweta Prasad's mother to take her seven year-old daughter for auditions nearly three and a half years ago. Shweta's mother Sarmistha's intuition was bang on the spot and her faith in her daughter's histrionic abilities justified as within a short span of time, Shweta has managed to make audiences sit up and take notice of her talent. Her first big screen performance as Chunni and Munni in Makdee has won her accolades from the critics in addition to the adulation of the masses.
Shweta is no stranger to the small screen; she stars in Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii as the famous 'bahu' Parvati's daughter Shruti.
However, Shweta began her acting career with a serial based on real-life incidents called Agnichakra on Zee. She has also acted in Sony's C.I.D., Baat Ban Jaye and a few others. Kutumb and Kahaani followed... Her mother feels that she is a natural actor and has always been the centre of attraction amongst kids her own age. Dressed in casual jeans and a dressy top, Shweta , accompanied by her mother, spoke at length to indiantelevision.com's Trupti Ghag. Excerpts of the conversation-
The general assumption about child artistes is that their parents enact the scene and the children just copy them. How do you manage?
I am the one who decides how I am going to act in any particular scene. My mother helps me decide as to which assignment I should accept. She has never told me how to act. It is not too difficult to act. I get a script, which includes several details: as to how I should express myself; or what tone I should adopt when I am narrating the lines. It is easy that way. However, I make sure that I rehearse beforehand, prior to a final rehearsal with the director.
What about the more difficult ones, how do you go about it?
Till date I have been acting with reputed directors. In fact, I make it a point to select my serials and films carefully. Working with the professional directors was a good experience as I am able to get all the information in advance. This has also enabled me to pick up the nuances of the characters. The details outlined in the script also help to get more information. If there are any difficult scenes, I ask my director to demonstrate what is expected of me and how he wants me to emote. Sometimes, I just follow my instincts.
Do you allow yourself to be guided by your instinct or do you just follow what the director tells you to do?
Of course, I am a spontaneous actress. My acting is based on my instincts. Usually, the directors give me their basic guidelines for approaching a particular scene but if I feel that I could take a different approach, I let them know. Like for instance, when I was shooting for Makdee Vishal uncle (Vishal Bharadwaj) used to tell me how he wanted a scene to be enacted. He also used to ask me to act in my own way. He did accept some of my suggestions.
Who is your favourite director?
Actually I have enjoyed working with all my directors. (after much coaxing she adds) Well, Vishal Bharadwaj is my favourite director, (then quickly adds list of all other directors as well).
How did you land the part of Chunni and Munni in Makdee?
I had auditioned for a film called 'Barf' for Devgan production, Vishalji was present during the screen test. Unfortunately, the project got canned but Vishalji offered me the central character in the movie that he was planning to make. This is how I managed to bag the plum role in Makdee.
How did you manage to do the double role in the film Makdee ?
We shot in Alibaug for around 22 days. I simultaneously gave the shots for both Chunni as well as Munni. It was fun. It was so real that every time, I watch the movie (I must have watched it atleast 20 times), I think I am living in 'Sitapore', the village where Chunni and Munni live.
" Chunni is more like me and so I did not have any difficulty in portraying her "
How did you switch from Chunni to Munni?
Well, Chunni is more like me and so I did not have any difficulty in portraying her. However, I did a little bit of background work to portray the character of Munni. I talked about her to Mom and to the director. I put myself in her shoes. But, to tell you the truth, I never really liked her. She is 'Miss-goody-two-shoes', gets scared easily and even stutters. However, there are some shades of 'her' in me such as the fact that I, too, am good in my studies.
How was it to act with Shabana Azmi?
Shabana Azmi is a legendary actress but she was very supportive. She had no starry airs. She helped me with my role too. I can never forget the time that I first saw her with the make up. She looked so scary and ugly. I could hardly believe that she was the Shabana Azmi who I admired.
How much preparation do you require for each shot?
Not much really! If it is a small scene, where I am required to cry, I stare at some thing or put glycerin or squirt water in my eye. Sometimes, I just visualise the trouble the character is going through and start crying. For example, when I had to cry as both Chunni and Munni in Makdee , when their screen mother dies, I tried to think of what if I would do if I lost my mother. And the tears started rolling out immediately. The scene wherein I had to make some extra efforts happened during the shooting ofKahaani.... . There was this scene where my character is angry with her screen mother Parvati for leaving her and becomes so upset that she flings a vase at her mother. I tried to visualise how I would react if my mother were to leave me. This is my best scene till date.
How do you manage both your studies and work?
My school teachers and my principal encourage me. They are very proud of me and help me out if I am unable to attend my school. My mother is very particular about my school. I make it a point to attend school regularly. I missed school only during the shooting of Makdee . In fact, I have some sort of a contract or agreement with directors to the effect that I shall work only after the school hours.
How did you land the role of Shruti in Kahaani...?
Sakshi Tanvar who plays the role of Parvati is my mom's friend. She put in a word for me. I was called for an audition and I got the part.
How was the experience of working with Balaji productions; Kahaani... to be more precise?
In the beginning, I was very apprehensive about working with so many good artistes. But, my fears were proved unfounded. Everybody was cooperative, helpful and I have learnt a lot. Now, we are like a big family.
Which is the best children's show on TV, according to you?
I am very fond of Cartoon Network. I also watch Kahaani...
What is your favourite film (other than Makdee of course)?
Terminator 2 and after that I think Edward Scissorhands, Jurassic Park, Matilda and recently Scooby Doo. I love watching horror and action movies. In fact, I was just watching Addams Family before I came to meet you.
What is the best and worst thing about being a known face?
Every thing about being famous is great. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. People recognise me. They want to click photographs with me and ask for an autograph. I love to be in limelight. The only thing that I miss is using public transport.
Anything in near future?
I am working for a serial for Star Plus called Karishma ka Karishma , a take-off on the English sitcom Small Wonder. I am playing Harriet. It is a fun role. My mother and I are also talking to other directors. I shall probably act in two more movies once the details are finalised. I am planning to take a break after two years and concentrate on my studies. I shall certainly be back after 8-10 years.