COVER STORY

Marathi en­ter­tainer SHRUTI MARATHE gets talk­ing about break­ing the mould, shat­ter­ing stereo­types, and forg­ing ahead…

Citadel - - CONTENTS - BY SAPNA SARFARE sapna.ci­tadel@gmail.com

The Marathi en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try – whether it is films, tele­vi­sion or theatre – never ceases to sur­prise you with the sheer tal­ent it throws up. What mat­ters here is just ap­ti­tude and noth­ing else. And Pune has been a ma­jor cen­tre to bring up tal­ent more of­ten. It seems like there is some­thing in the wa­ter of the city that al­lows pure tal­ent to grow freely and well. Even in this, the act­ing tal­ent from the city has done re­mark­ably well and not just made the city proud, but also the state. Shruti Marathe is such a name that has been mak­ing waves not just in the Marathi en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, but also in Hindi and down South. For al­most a decade, her name has been syn­ony­mous not just with good act­ing, but also with glam­our and style. While she be­gan her ca­reer in 2008 with the Shreyas Tal­pade pro­duced Sanai Choughade, her ca­reer in the South created waves with films like Indira Vizha, Naan Avanil­lai 2, Guru Shishyan and Aravaan. Of course, she came back to Marathi films with Teecha Baap Tyaacha Baap, Satya, Sav­it­ree Ani Satyawan, Prem­su­tra, Tu­jhi Ma­jhi Love Story, Rama Mad­hav, Tap­ta­padi, and Mum­bai-Pune-Mum­bai 2. In re­cent times, she was also seen in the Hindi film Bud­hia Singh – Born to Run op­po­site Manoj Ba­j­pai. While she started with Pesh­wai, her se­rial Radha Hi Bawari created a sen­sa­tion for its bold sto­ry­line and made Shruti pop­u­lar amongst the masses. Now you see her in the pop­u­lar Jaago Mo­han Pyaare, a com­edy se­rial re­volv­ing around a ge­nie and a man in dis­tress. Frank yet thought­ful, bold yet sen­si­tive, and charm­ing to a fault, you are just en­am­oured the moment you meet her. And she is no holds barred when it comes to talk­ing about her choices, films and ev­ery­thing else. She is an in­ter­viewer’s de­light…

FROM THE START

Most Shruti Marathe fans want to

know more about her. We want her to tell us about her back­ground, right from her fam­ily and ed­u­ca­tion to ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing. Shruti tells us just about ev­ery­thing. “I was born in Bar­oda, Gu­jarat, and moved to Pune when I was just about one year old. That was be­cause my fa­ther wanted to start his busi­ness here. I did my school­ing and col­lege from St. Mira’s. I am a trained Kathak and Bharat­natyam dancer. And that is why I al­ways had a wish to do some­thing in the cre­ative field, be it dance, drama, act­ing or any­thing. So, I started do­ing theatre a lit­tle. And I did a cou­ple of plays.” One can say it was the step­ping-stone for the fu­ture. “I ac­tu­ally did my first se­rial when I was in the tenth. It was called Pesh­wai, which was pro­duced by Smita Tal­walkar and di­rected by San­jay Surkar. I re­mem­ber that I shot for the se­rial in the morn­ing and gave my San­skrit pa­per be­tween 3 to 6 later. I was re­ally ex­cited, or rather I was look­ing for­ward to start a ca­reer in this. But there was al­ways a con­di­tion from home that un­less I fin­ish my grad­u­a­tion, I am not go­ing to go any­where from Pune,” she re­calls. Fair enough! And the quin­tes­sen­tial good daugh­ter fol­lowed the or­ders and com­pleted her Bach­e­lor’s in English Lit­er­a­ture from St. Mira’s col­lege. Along with her stud­ies, she kept her act­ing pas­sion alive by do­ing a lot of theatre. “Since St. Mira’s doesn’t have a lot of theatre back­ground, I was with cer­tain groups who helped me do theatre. Once I grad­u­ated, I started look­ing for work in Mum­bai. And that’s how I did my first film, which was Sanai Choughade. It was pro­duced by Shreyas Tal­pade. And all of a sud­den, out of nowhere, I got an of­fer from the South. A pho­tog­ra­pher friend of mine said that there is a friend of his who is in Chen­nai and is cast­ing for a Tamil film, which is a re­make of Ai­traaz. And they are look­ing for cast­ing some­one for Ka­reena’s role. So would I be will­ing to do it?” Such an op­por­tu­nity comes rarely, and so Shruti jumped at it. Her only is­sue was hav­ing a lan­guage bar­rier. “They said that is not an is­sue as a lot of ac­tors who work there do not know

the lan­guage. But if I am in­ter­ested, he can go ahead and can con­nect with the peo­ple. So I said of course, why not? This is some­thing new and I re­ally wanted to try it. So he got me con­nected to Vi­jay, who later turned my man­ager.” Vi­jay ex­plained ev­ery­thing and again con­firmed if Shruti was in­ter­ested in the film. “I said yes and asked what I had to do. He said I had to come down to Chen­nai, be­cause they needed to do a look test of mine. That was be­cause there was no use of an au­di­tion, as I did not know the lan­guage. So what au­di­tion could I give? So I was like fair enough. I don’t mind go­ing to Chen­nai and so I went. I did a look test. And be­fore I left from there, they said I am on-board.” Ob­vi­ously Shruti was shocked at the very ease at which she got the film. “I was like, ‘Re­ally? Is it so sim­ple?’ I mean there was no look test. There was no au­di­tion. There was no try­ing harder. There was noth­ing. How sim­ple is that! He said I fit the bill and I was like, ‘That is great.’ So I fin­ished my first film and then got my sec­ond, third and fourth film. So I have done four Tamil films and one Kan­nada film.”

A COM­PLETE SHIFT

But she put a stop to her ca­reer down South. It was a de­ci­sion that con­fused quite a few since she had be­come pop­u­lar there. She re­veals, “And a lot of peo­ple ask me this ques­tion of why did I leave the South. What hap­pened was, I got a lit­tle bored be­cause I did not know the lan­guage. And as an ac­tor, I felt too de­pen­dent. For every small emo­tion or ex­pres­sion, I had to ask the as­sis­tant or direc­tor of what it is or the mean­ing of this word. And I felt hand­i­capped. So I felt I should prob­a­bly re­turn to Marathi. Though I wished to con­tinue with South and Marathi, it couldn’t hap­pen, be­cause it was dif­fi­cult jug­gling be­tween both the in­dus­tries. So after that, I con­sciously de­cided to come back to Pune and Mum­bai and start my ca­reer in Marathi all over again. Then I did quite a few films.” Her films in­cluded Teecha Baap Tyaacha Baap, Satya, Sav­it­ree Ani Satyawan, Tu­jhi Ma­jhi Love Story, Tap­ta­padi, Rama Mad­hav, Mum­bai Pune Mum­bai 2 and so on. “Mean­while, I also did a se­rial called Radha Hi Bawari and a re­al­ity show called Eka Pek­sha Ek. Cur­rently, I am do­ing an­other daily show on Zee Marathi – Jaago Mo­han Pyaare,” she lists out. In fact, Jaago... has be­come quite well liked amongst the masses, and has even been shifted to an ear­lier tim­ing of 9.30pm thanks to its im­mense pop­u­lar­ity, not just amongst the adult au­di­ences, but also amongst the kids.

STRUG­GLE & MAIN­TAIN­ING PO­SI­TION

The en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try is never known to be a sta­ble place. Strug­gles are a part ad par­cel of this world, how­ever es­tab­lished you are. Shruti has gone through that too. She is very frank when it comes to de­scrib­ing her ini­tial years of strug­gle and try­ing to get the work she wanted. “It was very dif­fi­cult, be­cause like I said, I had no god­fa­ther or had no one from my fam­ily who was part of this in­dus­try. So I al­ways had this ques­tion from where or how to start. For­tu­nately, I al­ways had good peo­ple in my life, who al­ways sup­ported me or sug­gested good con­tacts, and that is how I started.

And then there was no look­ing back,” she re­calls. How easy or dif­fi­cult was it to sus­tain in this in­dus­try, since it is not a sta­ble kind of a job. Shruti bluntly puts forth, “It is very dif­fi­cult. I mean, the rea­son I am telling you this is be­cause I re­mem­ber I did Radha Hi Bawari and a lot of peo­ple type­cast me in such a huge way that I am still strug­gling to come out of it. Peo­ple saw me in an older way or in a very ma­ture way. They thought I wouldn’t be able to pull off char­ac­ters that are very lively or bub­bly. And that hap­pened quite a lot. And it took me quite a lot of time to con­vince peo­ple that I can def­i­nitely do some­thing more than that. And it was kind of a breath of fresh air when peo­ple saw me in Jaago Mo­han Pyaare, be­cause I am do­ing some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what peo­ple had por­trayed me. I am do­ing some­thing of a gaon­wali wear­ing a kashta or a half nau­vari and speak­ing a lan­guage that has never been spo­ken by me. So I hope that was an eye-opener for a lot of peo­ple to know that I can do a lot of dif­fer­ent things. It is just that you need to ap­proach it.”

ROLE PLAY

When it comes to Shruti, her films in the South are still spo­ken about. And the rea­son is that her work in the films down South is very dif­fer­ent from the work we see in the Marathi in­dus­try. One can call it quite bold. The ques­tion does arise – was it a con­scious de­ci­sion for her to do those kinds of roles there, and do some­thing dif­fer­ent out here? She is quite quick with her an­swer, “Not at all! First of all, I was very young when I did South films. And I am def­i­nitely not ashamed of what I have done in the South. A lot of peo­ple ask me – oh God, how did you wear a bikini down there and all that? And I al­ways tell them that I am not ashamed that I wore a bikini. But prob­a­bly be­cause of lack of knowl­edge then as I was so young, I couldn’t an­a­lyse how they are go­ing to take it, or how they are go­ing to show or pic­turise it. And that prob­a­bly went a lit­tle bit wrong. But still I feel that wear­ing a bikini down there was quite all right.” When it comes to choos­ing one’s work, the cri­te­rion is dif­fer­ent for every ac­tor, whether it is a film or TV or a par­tic­u­lar role. Again, Shruti quite can­didly states, “I think I am par­tic­u­larly very greedy as an ac­tor, ir­re­spec­tive of whether the role is small or big or any­thing. It has to, you know, kick me as an ac­tor. It has to be dif­fer­ent from what I have done be­fore. It shouldn’t get repet­i­tive and I al­ways look for that. Is it some­thing dif­fer­ent? Have I done this be­fore? If no, I would love to do it. That is how I se­lect my roles.” Speak­ing about be­ing type­cast, be it Radha Hi Bawari or the films she did in the South, one as­sumes it is a con­scious thing. Maybe she wants to change that im­age. Was that some­thing in her mind or did she not look at it? “Def­i­nitely! What hap­pened was, when I did South films, and then came to Marathi, no­body Googled me. But when I did Radha Hi Bawari, all of a sud­den when I was a house­hold name, all of a sud­den, a lot of peo­ple started Googling me and the first pho­tos that came on was the South films, and then there was a lot of chaos about it that look ya­han pe kaisi hai aur wa­han par kaisi hai. But I was like it is ab­so­lutely fine. There, it de­manded a glam­orous kind of Shruti, and here you do not de­mand that. So those are two dif­fer­ent things that I have kept.” Since both are dif­fer­ent medi­ums, one as­sumes that Shruti might see her work to­wards movies and TV dif­fer­ently. Shruti agrees with the claim. “For me, tele­vi­sion in Marathi for me is stronger than what it is in films. Sadly, con­sid­er­ing the way our films are go­ing right now, tele­vi­sion is so pow­er­ful that in a night, you reach across so many peo­ple at home and con­nect to them. You are pop­u­lar amongst them. And the story and the way you look at ev­ery­thing changes ac­cord­ing to the TRP that comes. So tele­vi­sion is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent medium. Films, for me, are more sat­is­fy­ing as an ac­tor. Of course, if it does well, there is noth­ing like it. But if you ask me in terms of sat­is­fac­tion, then films are what sat­isfy me the most.” Maybe that is why we do not see Shruti do­ing too much of TV. “Ab­so­lutely! Also I don’t like the rou­tine that goes on tele­vi­sion. Every morn­ing, you get up and go for work and then come back. You get tired as an ac­tor. It gets too repet­i­tive.”

In terms of pick­ing up any project, she has be­come choosy. Maybe ear­lier she was greedy for roles. Now, the cri­te­ria for pick­ing any role must be dif­fer­ent. “It has to be good. It has to be noth­ing else than that. I am done do­ing char­ac­ter roles. I am done be­ing a char­ac­ter artist. I want to do roles that make peo­ple no­tice it. Even if it is a two-scene role, I am still fine. But peo­ple have to talk about it. Oth­er­wise I am not tak­ing it,” she as­serts. Shruti is now se­lec­tive, one can say.

THE TELE­VI­SION TRADE

One can say Radha Hi Bawari was Shruti’s very first role on tele­vi­sion as a lead. The se­rial be­came big and she be­came a bonafide star after that. Ob­vi­ously, after Radha Hi Bawari, she must be get­ting quite some re­ac­tion, as the se­rial was on a very touchy topic of a suc­cess­ful older wo­man fall­ing in love with a younger man and vice versa. It was a very dif­fer­ent con­cept. The au­di­ence feed­back must be dif­fer­ent too. Re­call­ing her mem­o­ries of the se­rial, Shruti nar­rates, “I re­mem­ber be­fore Radha Hi Bawari start­ing, I was known to some peo­ple but not to a lot of peo­ple. So the first pop­u­lar­ity I got was from Radha Hi Bawari. Peo­ple came to know that I am Shruti Marathe. I was not used to get­ting so much attention. So the first feed­back after watching the episode was – Arre yeh kitni moti hai. And it broke my heart. I was like, how can peo­ple be so mean? Is this all you can see? Yeh kitni moti hai, patli hai or what­ever? And I re­mem­ber cry­ing the whole night. I also re­mem­ber get­ting over it and start­ing to deal with it. And then it changed. And then peo­ple started look­ing at my work. They no­ticed that she is not only moti. She may be a good ac­tor. Let’s watch her for some time. And that’s how the pop­u­lar­ity in­creased for the se­rial and it did very well.” Com­ing back to her present se­rial, Jaago Mo­han Pyaare, it is an in­ter­est­ing con­cept again on Marathi tele­vi­sion, and one won­ders what ex­actly made her ac­cept it. She must never

have dreamt that it would be so pop­u­lar, not just amongst the older au­di­ence, but also the younger one. She re­flects, “I liked the con­cept of the ge­nie thing. I re­mem­ber, as a kid, I used to watch I Dream of Ge­nie and I used to dream about it or was fas­ci­nated by the se­rial. When I heard the story, I said, ‘Oh, it is kind of sim­i­lar. I would love to do some­thing like that.’ I mean ini­tially they told me I was only go­ing to be a ge­nie, and later they de­cided that I was go­ing to be Bhanu – the kaamwali. I was like, ‘This is damn in­ter­est­ing, yaar.’ I have never done a gaon ki chhori speak­ing with that kind of ac­cent. And I think that was a great op­por­tu­nity. Be­cause some­how peo­ple from the in­dus­try or out­side al­ways have that im­age that some­one from the gaon or vil­lage has to be dusky look­ing or dark look­ing. So I never got of­fered films, which were vil­lage-based or those kinds of films. I thought it was a great op­por­tu­nity. So I just grabbed it.” It has hit bull’s eye and has risen in pop­u­lar­ity. The feed­back must be dif­fer­ent con­sid­er­ing the genre of the se­rial. Shruti is quite happy with the feed­back, “I am get­ting lovely feed­back, es­pe­cially from the kids, be­cause it is their kind of se­rial. They like all this jaadu tona. When Mo­han is in dan­ger, I am the one who is res­cu­ing him and all that. They love to see that. Be­cause the kids see it, it be­comes com­pul­sory also for the par­ents to see it. So it has be­come a fam­ily en­ter­tainer.” She gush­ingly speaks about work­ing with tal­ented ac­tors Supriya Pathare and Atul Parchure. She calls the ex­pe­ri­ence lovely. “They are far more ex­pe­ri­enced than I am. And they are ab­so­lute en­ergy bombs. They have so much en­ergy, so much of tal­ent and so much of ex­pe­ri­ence. It is ab­so­lutely great work­ing with them.” Funny in­ci­dences re­lated to the show are a must to dis­cuss. “I have lit­tle girls com­ing up to me with their par­ents wher­ever they meet me some­where. They are like, ‘Shruti tai, can you please do me a favour?’ I am like ‘What?’ They say, ‘My birth­day is to­mor­row. I want a jacket. So can you please click your fingers and get one?’ I say I will try but can­not prom­ise. It is sweet. So these kinds of things I do get from young girls,” Shruti nar­rates with a smile.

HER JOUR­NEY TILL DATE

Shruti’s first film was in 2008, and it’s been a decade for her in the in­dus­try. She must have seen her­self change as a per­son and as an ac­tor. She agrees, “As a per­son, I am much calmer right now. I was very hy­per in ev­ery­thing in the be­gin­ning. ‘ Yaar, yeh shoot kab shuru hoga yaar? Yaar, yeh shoot kab khatam hoga.’ I didn’t know the process. The wait­ing process is as im­por­tant as the shoot­ing part. There is the process of hair and make-up, and the process of get­ting dressed. And I used to get hy­per. Yeh kab khatam hoga? Main ghar kab jaungi? When will I sleep? I have to get up the next day and come to shoot. When will all this fin­ish? But once you get the ex­pe­ri­ence, you be­come calmer and I have be­come that right now. As an ac­tor, I see a growth in me, be­cause every project teaches you some­thing and every co-ac­tor teaches you some­thing. So I feel I have grown as an ac­tor in a bet­ter way, and I want to keep grow­ing.”

TALK OF RO­MANCE

Her per­sonal life is quite in­ter­est­ing too. She is mar­ried to fel­low ac­tor Gau­rav Ghat­nekar. One wants to know how her ro­mance and even­tual mar­riage with Gau­rav came about. She re­calls, “Well, we did a film called Tu­jhi Ma­jhi Love Story. Yes, how­ever clichéd it sounds, we did a film like that. And we fin­ished shoot­ing. And we didn’t start dat­ing un­til shoot­ing fin­ished. We fin­ished dub­bing and the post­pro­duc­tion got over. And al­most after the film got over and six to seven months after the film, we re­alised that there was some­thing more than friend­ship be­tween us. We took it a lit­tle slow and steady then. And we got mar­ried on De­cem­ber 4, 2016, where we were dat­ing for four years be­fore that. And then we got mar­ried.” If you ask her the best thing and worst thing of mar­ry­ing a fel­low ac­tor, she quickly ex­plains that the best thing would be him un­der­stand­ing her work. “He will un­der­stand when I am shoot­ing for long hours. He will un­der­stand why I am cranky, be­cause I am so tired. Prob­a­bly, the neg­a­tive part is that there can be a time when we are both out of work. And that is scary, be­cause, how­ever you think, we still have to run a house. And it is scary to know that we both might not have work at one time. Touchwood it has not hap­pened as yet.

But that is the scary part of mar­ry­ing an ac­tor.” There are ob­vi­ously quite a few in­flu­ences on each other in terms of pick­ing a role or a project. “We def­i­nitely dis­cuss, but even­tu­ally the de­ci­sion is our own. He kind of takes his own de­ci­sion. But yes, we kind of dis­cuss the good and bad thing of a project. And we take our own calls.”

A DIF­FER­ENT AC­TOR TO­DAY

To­day, an ac­tor needs to have a pres­ence in terms of so­cial me­dia. Shruti too gives sig­nif­i­cance to it. And she does draw a line too. “I think it is im­por­tant for you to keep con­nect­ing with the au­di­ence and fans. You are keep­ing them up­dated about the projects that you are do­ing and all that. But yes, there is a thin line. You can­not keep putting ev­ery­thing that is hap­pen­ing in your life, like, ‘I am climb­ing stairs’ or ‘I went to the bath­room’. You can­not tweet that. There has to be a limit to it. But oth­er­wise I think so­cial me­dia has gone in a very good way. It’s a boon. So let’s not make it a curse.” One does need one’s private space, but an ac­tor can­not get it due to so­cial me­dia. Shruti has a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion to that too, “There is not much of a prob­lem in Pune or Mum­bai. Even we go out or are on so­cial me­dia, many peo­ple don’t re­ally dis­turb you. But when we got to other cities, it kind of hap­pens. That is how our pro­fes­sion is. We re­ally can­not do any­thing about it.”

CHANG­ING TIMES

Shruti has spent a decade in the in­dus­try. She must have no­ticed that kind of change that has hap­pened in terms of in­ter­act­ing with col­leagues, etc. She re­veals, “It is very friendly. I mean, the girls and boys who have started with me have also reached the same level as I have. And we have seen each other’s jour­ney. So the con­fi­dence level is high now. We know how to talk to each other. We are more of friends now. When we started, we were just col­leagues or ri­vals. But it is much de­cent now.”

MORE IN THE KITTY

The chit-chat is com­ing to its end. And we want to know about Shruti’s fu­ture projects. She ex­plains, “Well, Jaago Mo­han Pyaare will con­tinue for some time. There is a film that I did with Su­bodh Bhave last year, which is due to re­lease, though the name is not fi­nal as yet. But it will re­lease around June or July. And it is based on mar­riage and is an in­ter­est­ing film. I did an English film last year also called Wed­ding An­niver­sary. I don’t re­ally know the sta­tus of it, but am look­ing for­ward to it.” Quite a few ac­tors are turn­ing to­wards theatre, while some are re­turn­ing to their roots. We don’t see much of Shruti in theatre. She sim­ply tells, “There is no par­tic­u­lar rea­son. I am just not find­ing the time to give one to two months to re­hearsal right now. And if I do get the time, I would love to do theatre. I re­ally like theatre. Cur­rently, I do not want to do any­thing that is com­edy in theatre. If some­thing dif­fer­ent or se­ri­ous comes my way, I would love to do it.” Web series too are at­tract­ing a lot of ac­tors. This too is some­thing that is on Shruti’s radar. “As long as the sub­ject is in­ter­est­ing, I would love to it.” The more you talk to Shruti Marathe, the more you re­alise that she is who she is, with­out any fil­ters. The real Shruti is im­mensely lik­able as she is lov­able on screen. Till the next meet, we want more of Shruti Marathe on screen.

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