He didn’t tell me about the kissing scenes: Shalini Pandey
The Arjun Reddy actress talks to CE about her role in the film and about how she did not have any inhibitions performing the initimate scenes required of her
With appreciations pouring in from across languages for Arjun Reddy, and Shalini Pandey’s portrayal as Preethi Shetty, a medico, winning 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 a success of this magnitude but is confident that it will make them all feel proud. “We made the film with sincerity. It’s not a superficial story and wonderfully depicts how a guy feels for a girl. The audience is relating to our characters.” Shalini says they definitely knew that it was going to be big. But, did not expect that the success would defy their predictions. “When Vijay and I were watching the film for the first time, we were in no position to judge. But, we enjoyed it from the second show onwards only after seeing the audience's reaction. I feel 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 had no inhibitions as he didn’t objectify women and portrayed my role in a sensible way.” The actress adds 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 great scope to show my acting prowess and I did everything 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? “I have faced bits and pieces of Arjun Reddy 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.” Her father works for the MP government and her mother is a homemaker. “My father insisted that I should complete engineering before taking 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 glamourous role and tries to objectify me, 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 matters to me.”
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 about being part of a live-in relationship, albeit with some prerequisites. “I’m a difficult person. I don’t have any apprehensions about being in a live-in relationship, but I don’t think I can 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 that she’s even been asked to act in the remake of Arjun Reddy across languages. “I'd love to live in Preethi’s role another 20-30 times even. 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.