Actress Shubhaavi Choksey has done great work in many popular shows. Her most recent role of Nandini Kapoor in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain 2, still has the fans and viewers talking! We managed to chat to the talented actress about her acting journey, her work and looking ahead at the future!
Could you briefly tell us about your journey to becoming an actor? Where did it start, and how did the journey follow?
A friend of mine in college was going to a video test to the studio called Famous Mahalaxmi, which is in Mumbai, and it was extremely hot. I remember it was summer time and I said okay, I wanted to get out of college for a bit. I went along with her for her audition and the woman over there who was taking the video test asked me if I would like to give an audition and I said well…okay and then she offered me 5000 rupees and my eyes lit up! I said I don’t mind because my pocket money was 3000. That’s how the journey actually began of modelling.
From modelling then I was in college when I realised I would love to pursue this as my career (when I was in my last year in college) and I wanted to do theatre. I did a play called “Creeps” with Atul Kumar from The Company Theatre. Later on, I went on to do television. My first show was Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, and from then the journey with a lot of sabbaticals happened because I got married, I shifted to Dubai, then I came back and then I went back, and then I had a child and took a very long sabbatical of five and a half years. Then I did two iconic shows of Indian television-both in fact were remakes.
And right now I am doing a play with Rehaan Engineer. It’s called “Don Juan Comes Back From The War”. So my journey has been completely like a wave which goes up and down as per my convenience or as per what I feel like doing and things like that. I think it’s in 2018 that I actually decided that that wavy line or curve should actually start escalating and it should go into a triangle. So I’m on learning new things, trying new things as much as I get, as much as I can, and yes, this is my journey.
Your portrayal of Nandini Kapoor in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain 2 attracted a lot of appreciation from the audience and critics. How fulfilling was the whole experience as Nandini?
The experience was completely fulfilling to a very very different level. There are many reasons. One being the team that I was working with, I had already worked with them before so there was a level of comfort. Then the new team of actors that I bumped into and stumbled upon in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain was phenomenal. I have learnt a lot from Mr Nakuul Mehta. I have also had amazing scenes with Disha (Parmar). I love Ajju (Ajay Nagrath), he’s my brother from another mother. There are a lot of people I have learnt a lot from and Nandini Kapoor for me, as a character is actually one of the most favourite and fulfilling characters till date, from the beginning to the exit. Well in the nick of time, they made a negative character like Nandini Kapoor positive and I think this is the best exit I ever got on a show. It’s been beautiful, I have made new friends. I have enhanced a little in my performance also, because watching them and doing scenes with them is a different ballgame altogether. The entire scenes go from 5%-10% to 1000% because of the dedication of the artists on the show and the director that we have.
You have been part of iconic shows like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, and then part of 2.0 versions of iconic shows Kasautii Zindagii Kay and Bade Achhe Lagte Hain 2. What are some of the differences you have found in terms of the stories of then and now?
Yes I have been fortunate to get iconic shows and be a part of the 2.0 versions as well. The differences I think would be of course as far as the actors are concerned. Except for Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, which I was part of the first and the second one, the difference would be the scenario of being natural has come in. Yes we do a little OTT for drama scenes but nonetheless having said that, I would also like to say the language has changed. A lot of things have changed in fact and it’s good. It’s good because it’s going the more real way in a way. Of course, to pull the audiences, yes, there is a lot of drama sometimes and it’s completely hitting the roof, but it works at times so I think that’s great.
You have done full justice to every role you have played, but which character stands out for you?
Nandini Kapoor from Bade Achhe Lagte Hain 2 is one of my most favourite characters. The shade card that was provided to me by the creatives, with the help of the actors and director, went to a level where my canvas was a different level. It was humongous, you know, I had so much to play with and I had so much to emote, I had so many things that could be layered as a character. So Nandini Kapoor is by far one of my most favourite characters to perform and the best part is the exit that was given to Nandini Kapoor- a negative character on-screen, made positive just in the nick of time was the icing on the cake!
You were in the premiere episode of Bekaaboo, which is your first show from the fantasy fiction genre. What was that experience like?
Hats off to the people who actually do a historical , or mythological or a fantasy show. Little did I know that it is much, much, much more difficult to do any of these kinds of shows mainly because of the attire. I had about 45 pieces of hair wigs on my head- that is one weight. The jewellery is something completely else. I mean I had jewellery much more than Kasautii Zindagii Kay. Even the clothes, I had a tail which was about 5 metres long, so every time I would walk here and there I would need the help of others. Plus we were shooting in a place called Karjat which is not a typical air-conditioned studio. So walking up the stairs, going down with all that jewellery and all that piece of garment was definitely not easy.
The language is something that I haven’t spoken for many, many years because it was shudh Hindi with a lot of Sanksrit words. I think overall, it was a great experience and really, truly respect to all the people who do all these kind of shows and genres. It’s a very difficult genre. When you watch it, you have a lot of fun and you think that that it’s going very smoothly but it’s quite difficult to do something like that. So yes, I was just shooting for about 3 days and I had a very different experience.
Many times when actors play a negative role, they face personal attacks and trolling in reality. Have you faced this? And how do you suggest other actors deal with this?
No I have never faced any kind of trolling on social media or even in person. The one thing that I have always heard when anyone has approached me, in India, or even outside India, is that “we all hate Nandini Kapoor but we love you Shubhaavi, you are such a great artist”. I only have had compliments, and with all due respect, I am not the kind of person who’s going to tell another actor or any other person what they should do and what they should not do, unless they are my close friends. And if they are my close friends, then I’ll pick up the phone and I’ll tell them so this is out of the question for me. I would really like to take this opportunity to thank all the audiences who genuinely appreciate my work. You know I don’t even think I can use the word ‘critically’ appreciate because each and every time they have always just told me this one statement which I mentioned before, so I think I’ve been very fortunate.
You are also a Bharatnatyam dancer, which very few people know. Do you plan to somehow bring this talent to the fore soon?
Oh yes I have done Bharatnatyam throughout my life but because I was a rebel child, I was running away from it, so 10 years of Bharatnatyam and I didn’t manage to finish my Arangetram because I would always run away from class and things like that, but thanks to my father who instilled the whole rhythm in me. When you learn a form of dance, when you are young, you don’t realise that how it’s just instilled in you- the rhythm and the dance beats and everything. So thanks to him that I learnt Bharatnatyam. Maybe my expressions on-screen are also because of that because you have to emote a lot when you’re doing this form of dance and I have no idea when I will be able to perform on stage or in front of the camera. It would be lovely whenever it happens.
I really loved the reboot of Kasautii Zindagii Kay and it’s one of my all-time favourites. Are you still in contact with the rest of the cast?
Definitely yes! Not only the cast, but even the crew. I would really like to proudly take this moment to say yes, touchwood; we are a very cute family. We might not speak each day, I mean I don’t speak to everyone each day, but the 25th of September-marking the day when the show began, I normally try to get everybody on Zoom and make a call. Sometimes, I think last year also, we did a live, but it’s very inconvenient when there’s such a big cast. I actually told everybody that when the 25th of September comes each year, in that month, or the month after that or before that, we should meet up but it always happens in splurts you know because most of the people are travelling or shooting or working or something else. So that has not happened with the entire cast but yes in small groups I have been in touch and they are in touch too.
Celebrities have to be present on social media daily and some are even entering new forms of connecting with their audiences like vlogs. Do you ever feel the pressure of having to constantly make your presence felt on social media?
In all honesty, initially yes, I did feel the pressure and then I realised that I am not so cut out for this. Apart from being a professional, I am also a mother, I am also a homemaker, and I’m also an individual. So 24 hours really feel less for me and squeezing in social media sometimes really becomes extremely difficult so I am not that social media savvy. I’m not so present on social media but yes, whenever I am, or whenever I do make a post, it is concrete and in my entire reach, however nicest and most honest it can be, it is. As far as vlogs are concerned, I am quite a private person; I am not somehow cut out for vlogs. It’s a talent that unfortunately I don’t possess (laughs), but the ones that do, I love it and enjoy many people’s vlogs but I am not so comfortable doing that for my life.
Is there any particular type of role you would like to do next?
I’ve always said this in each and every interview, I think this should be my patented line; I’m a very greedy actor. I want to do everything. Especially because I took many sabbaticals and breaks in my career, now, since 2018 actually, I’ve been constant about my profession so I want to do everything. I want to dance, I want to maybe sing. I want to also do some stunts. I want to romance someone on screen, I’ve never done that. I want to play a character who is weak, I’ve always played very strong characters and roles. I want to also maybe do comedy. I want to do everything!
How do you relax and unwind to deal with stress and busy routines?
I meditate a lot. Even when I have busy schedules, during my commute I meditate, or in the night. I normally have a couple of guided meditations from YouTube I will just pick out and I will just hear them either while sleeping or when I have a break. First thing in the morning, normally happens when I’m commuting but yes this is the way and there are other things too. I like to work out, I like to dance. I’ve not had the opportunity though because I’ve been busy but yes there are a lot of things I do to unwind. And I actually love to meet my folks, I love to meet my friends. So that also is actually a lovely stress buster to relax and have fun and unwind. So yes that is also one of the things that are very, very important for me in my life.
Finally a message for all your fans and viewers worldwide?
Thank you very much to each and every one of you, to shower all the love and the respect. Even in this interview there was a question, “you’ve played a negative character, what about the trolls, what about people coming up to you and telling you things”. I must truly admit, it’s my pleasure when somebody comes up to me and smiles and just tells me “ma’am I’m a big fan of yours, and I’m a big fan of your body of work”. And I love the fact that they can differentiate between Shubhaavi and the character that I play. So thank you very much.