Shalini Vatsa & the art of metamorphosis

Dhanya in ‘Peepli Live, Kanta Bai in ‘Sacred Games, ‘Karma Devi in Gurgaon and Lata Kutty in ‘Ludo — her quiet (and sometimes not so) intensity ascertains that the screen belongs to her no matter who is sharing the frame with her.

While actor Shalini Vatsa may prefer to stay away from the media glare, her following among compulsive OTT watchers has only grown over time. “Looking back — from my first film to now, it has really been an enchanting journey. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best filmmakers of our times and portray extremely interesting and mufti-layered characters on the screen. What else can an actor ask for?”

Vatsa, who has worked with thespian (late) Habib Tanvir’s Naya Theatre Repertory and was part of plays like ‘Charandas Chor’, ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Raj Rakt’, ‘Zahreeli Hawa’ and the classic ‘Agra Bazar’, and also director and acting coach Barry John says that working with the two duo helped her articulate with clarity her voice as an actor.

“Both boasted of tremendous integrity, knowledge and practice of the craft. I have been very fortunate to have experienced their worlds. Such amazing training grounds. There was so much traveling — from the villages of India to Europe. With John, I was part of improvising three full length plays for about five years – which we did every single day.”

Talking about ‘Ludo’, the actor says that for her it was foremost about working with Anurag Basu. “And that he was looking at me in a new light – I had not done a story, a character like this before – on screen. I loved his work process – which for me was like an adventure.”

Excited that the OTT platforms are offering a collage like content and willing to experiment with stories and how they are told, the actor says, “It is so heartening to know that the audience is appreciating original stories and intense performances. This is really encouraging.”

Adding that the digital medium has given actors like her a wider canvas to showcase their skills, she says, “The long format enables a deeper and a richer exploration of the characters by writers and directors, enabling the actor to explore more. My experience with ‘Sacred Games’ has been terrific and very enriching – both in terms of performance , reach and appreciation.

Stressing that the lockdown has been a reflective time for her with life suddenly stopping and uncertainty ruling supreme, she says, “We have been forced to look at things that would escape our daily existence. I never bothered to understand the health-care system earlier as I had the privilege to access it with a considerable level of comfort . However, now I want to know about it in detail. Also, who would have thought that lives across the globe were so intimately interconnected?”