Tracing her nautanki roots: Shilpi Marwaha

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The Yellow Sparrow recently got in touch with Shilpi Marwaha, a very well known theater and cinema actor who is a part of Arvind Gaur’s ‘Asmita’ theater group. She is popularly known for her in the movie Raanjhanaa as Rashmi, Abhay Deol’s sister. In our exclusive interview with her, she speaks of how theater gives you a chance to look beyond yourself. How now times are changing and people are becoming aware of the power of theater and how it can bring a change in you. Doctors, engineers and people from a myriad of other professions come to learn theater. Why? To find themselves, to look beyond themselves, to reach out. Follow up on our exclusive interview with her!

Shilpi Marwaha

Shilpi Marwaha

How did it all start?

When I was in my second year in college, I read a notice about a workshop by Arvind (Gaur) sir which said that anybody could join. I had stage fright. I went and spoke to Arvind sir and told him that I wanted to join his theatre group but did not want to give an audition, to which he replied, “Did I ask for one?”. The one thing that I really liked is that I did not face any rejection. If he would have held auditions, I wouldn’t have been here in the first place. Here, they stress upon teaching more than they stress upon talent.
Another thing, I believe that if someone has the will to do it, then they can do anything. All they need is a platform.

Did you have to convince your parents into letting you pursue theatre professionally?

Not really. I am an only child. I was only 8 years old when my mother expired. My father is very happy and proud of what I am doing.

Did you face any challenges? What hardships came your way?

We all face challenges almost every day. As an actor, I derive a lot of motivation from the challenges I face. A child died without any medical attention in the same hospital my mother was admitted in at that time. That was the first time I saw beyond myself. Such things disturb me even now. They don’t let me sleep. They motivate me to work. To reach out. They motivate me to think beyond myself.

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You acted in Raanjhanaa alongside big actors like Abhay Deol and Sonam Kapoor! How did it feel?

Raanjhanaa was the result of my 8 years as a theater actor. It was a very good experience. Everybody from Anand sir (Anand L Rai, director) to Sonam Kapoor were very nice and welcoming. Raanjhanaa was a learning experience as an actor in front of the camera.
But my journey has been with Arvind sir. He strengthened my roots. If he wasn’t there, then I wouldn’t have been part of the film.

Do you think theater is seen as a stepping stone into TV serials and movies?

Theater is more like your parents. Parents bring you up. Theater has brought me up. If today I start getting work in the industry, it doesn’t mean I will leave theater altogether. Yes, one learns a lot whilst acting in serials and movies but nothing teaches an actor as much as theater does. It never lets you become stagnant.

Did you notice any difference between the making of movies and plays?

There’s a huge differences between the making of movies and plays. There is no retake in a play. It solely depends on how much you’ve worked on yourself. You don’t get a chance to cover up your mistakes. On the other hand, in a movie, even though it does depend on your hard work, you get a second chance. You can cover up your mistakes. Also, through cinema you can reach out to a lot of people.
Theater is way more challenging. But the way theater gives you a chance to find yourself, no other medium can provide you a chance like this.

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Do you prefer acting in movies or in plays?

Plays! Especially Nukkad natak (street play). It strengthens your roots as an actor. And it takes shape on stage. Through nukkad natak though, you can reach out to people who can’t reach out to you, who can’t buy a ticket to watch a movie. And when you reach out to those people, it is unreal how much you get in return!

Are there any drawbacks to theater?

Theater is not given the attention it needs. Actors can’t practice much. Their families often ask them “what do you do besides theater?”. Theater is not considered to be a profession. Also, there’s not much money in theater.
But now, actors have started teaching theater in schools and other institutions. Doctors, engineers, lawyers and people from a myriad professions are coming to learn theater. Why does a doctor need to learn theater? People think those who want to become actors join theater. This is not true. People join theater in order to become aware of themselves, the society, to learn to look beyond themselves.

Did your initial plan fail at any point?

I never made any plans. I never think. I just do what I do. The one thing that I learned from Arvind sir is that it is important to work. It is not necessary that I will gain something every time. In the past 8 years, I’ve slogged for five years and started seeing the results in the last three years. It is not that I witnessed failures, I just learned at every step.

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Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

I see myself doing theater, learning and exploring myself. I will work in cinema if required.
In the next ten years, want to build a platform for all the upcoming theater actors. I want theater to be considered as a profession. I want to build a place, a stage where anybody can come and practice theater without facing any hurdles.

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