Appreciations pouring in from across languages for the latest release Arjun Reddy. And Shalini Pandey’s portrayal as Preethi Shetty, a medico, has won laurels, too. The actress says the biggest appreciation was from her father.
“My dad did not approve my choice of being an actor. But, he watched Arjun Reddy and was all praise for my performance and the rawness it had. He liked the honesty in the film and didn’t find anything vulgar. Although he didn’t say these words to me directly, my sister conveyed the message. I was really thrilled to hear such sweet words from him.”
The actress admits that the team didn’t predict the success of this magnitude but are confident that it will make them all feel proud.
“We made the film with sincerity. It’s not a superficial story and wonderfully depicted how a guy feels for a girl. The audience is relating to our characters. We definitely knew that it’s going to be big. But, we didn’t expect that the success will defy our predictions. When Vijay and I were watching the film for the first time, we lost the judgment. But, we enjoyed it from the second show on wards only after seeing the audience reaction. It feels proud when people say that they haven’t seen something like this before.”
The film has 16 kissing scenes and Shalini was not told about them during narration. “Sandeep narrated the script block wise and he didn’t tell me about the kissing scenes. When he briefed us about these scenes on the sets, I didn’t feel anything weird and have no inhibitions as he didn’t objectify woman and portrayed my role in a sensible way. Adding to that, the love story between Arjun Reddy and Preeti Shetty is pure and emotional. Despite coming from a conservative Tulu family, she is independent and bold. I knew that the role gave me a great scope to show my acting prowess and did what all my director asked me to.”
Shalini finds similarities between her and the character she enacted in Arjun Reddy.
“Preethi doesn’t express and talk much. If I was in her situation, if something happens to me, I would do exactly the same. Preeti is as stubborn and bold as me in real life,” she reveals. The actress asserts that she can accept and value the other person for who they are in her real life too. “I will accept a partner who is fearless and is free-spirited as Arjun Reddy. Otherwise, I don’t get connected.”
Did she get to meet someone like him for real, she adds, “I have faced bits and pieces of Arjun Reddys’ in my life and as for Preethi, no. Personally, I would relate to Arjun’s character a lot. The protagonist has anger management issues and one needs to have guts to pull it off.”
Shalini was not new to acting as she was a theatre-artist in her hometown Jabalpur and acted in a TV show Mann Mein Vishwaas Hain. It was only after completing her engineering that she signed her first feature film.
“I did my engineering and come from a theatre background. I come from a culturally rich family. My father works for the MP government and my mother is a homemaker. My father insisted me to complete engineering before I took up acting. Two months after I completed my studies, I was approached by director Sandeep Reddy with Arjun Reddy’s script, for Preethi Shetty’s role.”
The stupendous success of Arjun Reddy has increased the starlet’s confidence and she is looking forward to acting in quality films. “If someone offers me a glamorous role and try to objectify it, I will not do it. I will definitely attempt any role which is meaningful and sensible. I have an urge to perform and personally, neither the screen time nor the length of the role doesn’t matter at all.”
Shalini believes that Arjun Reddy has carried an effective message to the society.
“We always believed in showing a character in a good light. If Arjun slaps Preethi it’s not that he is humiliating her. And in another scene, Preethi too slaps Arjun and both were shown emotionally. That’s how love works and I’m really happy that people are seeing it like that. After the film’s screening, I overheard a 50-year-old woman saying that the director seems to be a feminist. With all respect, that speaks volumes about how a woman was shown in Arjun Reddy.”
The actress has no inhibitions to initiate a live-in relationship, albeit with some prerequisites. “I’m a difficult person. I don’t have any apprehensions to be in a live-in relationship. I don’t think I get along well with anyone. There are hardly two-three people who are close to me. I’m quite an introvert and I like being that way.”
Shalini is happy too, for she’s been even asked to act in the remake of Arjun Reddy across languages. “I love to live in Preethi’s role for 20-30 times. But, as an actor, I get a kick portraying challenging and different roles. I have initiated talks with a few filmmakers and I’m in no hurry to sign my next film,” she signs off.