Shreya Dhanwanthary, who is a part of Amazon Prime Video's Mumbai Diaries 26/11, spoke about playing strong characters, finding a safe place in ensembles and how she picks her projects.
Actor Shreya Dhanwanthary says playing field reporter Mansi Hirani in her latest web series Mumbai Diaries 26/11 wasn’t anywhere similar to essaying Sucheta Dalal in Scam 1992, despite both being journalists. “I was shooting for Scam and Mumbai Diaries at the same time. So I had to constantly unlearn from one set and adapt to different mannerisms on the other, about professions that are surrounding or complementing each other,” she said in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
Mumbai Diaries 26/11 presents a different perspective to the dreadful night in 2008 when terrorists wreaked havoc across Mumbai. We might have seen several stories about the tragedy in the past, but the medical drama gives the perspective of the doctors, who had to treat both the victims and the terrorists. Directed by Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves, Mumbai Diaries 26/11 stars Mohit Raina, Konkona Sen Sharma, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Tina Desai, Satyajeet Dubey, Natasha Bharadwaj, Mrunmayee Deshpande and Prakash Belawadi.
“It’s always fascinating to know more about such an event because you’ll never know a story completely,” Shreya said adding that the show brought out a new angle to the tragedy. “Many might feel we are trying to take advantage of the horrifying 26/11. But this show focuses on the medical angle and several other threads that were connected in a weird way on that night.”
Shreya revealed the script was a thrilling page-turner for her and there were moments she was overwhelmed. “We realised we were basically trying to show the courage that was displayed by different people in different professions on that day. This is not so much about the terror that happened but the people who fought, did their job and were brave despite so many gut wrenching things,” Shreya added.
Claiming that she never judges her characters on moral grounds, Shreya said, “But having said that, I like to choose characters that are nothing like me.” So what did she like about Mansi Hirani? According to her, Mansi is “intrinsically tied to the story” and is the only one who got to share screen space with every actor in the show. “There are so many other characters who never meet. But Mansi crosses paths with every single one in the show. The audience is going to feel something strong.”
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Shreya, who’s been giving back-to-back hit projects including The Family Man and Scam 1992 calls herself “energiser bunny” on sets. She says she loves to interact with her co-stars and learn things. After being part of only ensembles, she however is tad nervous yet excited to go solo in her next project with R Balki.
“Leading that and to go solo will be more tough for me because I’ve always had wonderful people to share that (pressure) with me till now. But it’s interesting. I’m glad I’m getting such opportunities,” she said.
Shreya, who’s been around for over a decade found a new fame in the last one year. Does she feel success came to her late? Shreya said, “I’m very surprised it came! I’m very happy honestly. I don’t want to judge it by worrying about the timing. Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen. And I hope it continues. I feel all the mistakes I’m going to make will be in the future (laughs).”
Be it Zoya (The Family Man) or Sucheta Dalal (Scam 1992), Shreya is lauded for playing strong women characters. But what according to her, who is a “strong woman”? “I assume that’s because of the professions that my characters are in. I don’t think strength comes from saying something in a certain voice or being determined. Strength comes in different forms. I assume the next role that I play is a strong role too, but not necessarily in the same way you’ll expect to see me in,” Shreya opined.
So how does she pick her roles? Stating that for her script comes before her character, she said, “So far, most of my limited judgement comes from reading scripts. If I find the script is not engaging, I don’t even go towards the character. I read something twice. First I see if it is a world I want to be a part of. Then I read it selfishly as an actor to see if that part calls out to me. If the first stage is not interesting to me, there’s no point in going to the second stage.”
Looking back at a performance she thought was perfectly done recently, Shreya picked Konkana Sen Sharma‘s role in Ajeeb Daastaans’ short Geeli Pucchi, directed by Neeraj Ghaywan. “Konkana was unbelievable. I sent Neeraj a big fan letter. When people tell stories so beautifully, it’s a treat. The thought of me doing something that perfectly, comes very rarely. Rather more often when I see a bad performance, I think even I could’ve done that,” Shreya concludes with a laugh.
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