The first time I had spoken to Shefali Shah was for a Women’s Day article. It was just a random shot in the dark; I was on a deadline, it was late at night, and I was frantically calling up every name that came to my mind. She had, however, agreed to do it, and the very next morning, there was this article in my mailbox — a scathing, yet bizarrely witty take on Bollywood’s beauty bias and ageism. I wasn’t expecting the Dil Dhadakne Do actor to be that good with words. That led me to her blog, where I was properly introduced to Shah, the writer. The slice-of-life stories, laced with her unique brand of dark humour, were delicious reads.
Then, a few months back, just out of the lockdown, she turned director, and churned out a short film before announcing her feature-length directorial, Happy Birthday Mummy Ji.
Earlier this year, her Instagram page introduced me to another Shah. The artist. We have seen many actors trying their hand at painting, especially in quarantine last year, but hers didn’t look like yet another lockdown love. This was serious stuff, and reflected years of practice and skilled techniques.
What was going on with this woman? I wondered. I needed to get it from the horse’s mouth.
The last time I had called her for an interview, it was 1 am — just a few hours after the announcement of the International Emmy Awards where her Netflix series, Delhi Crime, had bagged the top prize, and the actor was ecstatic at the team’s win, and the phone network was finding it difficult to keep up with the excitement of two sleepless women. For this interview, we decided on a more appropriate time. But I guess some things don’t change. If last time I was pacing down the dark stairs of my parents' home in Kolkata to find network, this time I almost fell from the balcony of my Goa hotel trying to catch the signal (I could have called this article, ‘tripping over Shefali Shah’ but I would resist the temptation).
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