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Shweta “Spunky” Sharma @ Mausams

Shweta “Spunky” Sharma @ Mausams

Hello folks!

We’re back again with more updates on Mausams. And what better way to kick off telling you more about the movie, than by telling you more about the people behind the movie, eh?

So here’s the very 1st interview with a member of cast, Shweta Sharma (better known as Spunky), who plays Shalini in the upcoming Mausams.

I’ve known Shweta for about 6 years now and yet when I tell her I need an interview with her, she shifts ever so uncomfortably in her seat. Fidgety and nervous is something I’ve never seen Shweta look, not even before the most stressful of meetings at work. I’m amused but determined to not get in the way of her natural conversational abilities (usually read as: non stop chatterboxism)


She finally relaxes when I agree to put the pen and paper aside and treat this more as a chat, less an interview. I start organizing the questions in my mind, agonizing over how exactly I am to remember her words without any notes.

But all is well. Once Shweta opens up, the words flow automatically, and she barely registers when I pick up the pen once again and start furiously jotting notes.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is presenting to you, Shalini from Mausams.

Me: You’re a marketer by day and a regular 20 something year old by evening. How did you end up on a movie set?

Shweta: I know right! Life has its ways of taking you where it wants you to be. In June 2008, I was at the screening of Shilpa’s production, Kathaah, a series of short plays she had directed then. I thought what the group had done with a bunch of enthusiastic people and ZERO sponsorship was pretty darned incredible. And so I walked up to her, introduced myself and said I’d love to work with her some day.

I walked away and forgot all about our chat. Yet, wonder of wonders, Shilpa remembered me when she started emailing folks for the Mausam auditions. And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

Me: Auditions? Did you rock the stage with your performance? I remember receiving Shilpa’s audition script and thinking “Whoa! This sounds tough to memorize!”

Shweta: Hardly! I almost didn’t go to auditions. My husband was down with the chicken pox right before auditions and I hadn’t found a spare minute to read through the audition script, much less memorize it.

Now, if Shilpa’s past production was anything to go by, she seemed like a consummate professional, and I figured she deserved a well prepared audition, and nothing short of that. So I called her to apologize and say I wouldn’t make it because there was no way I could memorize the material with everything that was happening around me at home.

But she was surprisingly cool about it and asked me to come over anyway. My audition was eventually 10 minutes of memorizing followed by the best I thought I could do at that point.

A week later, Shilpa called to tell me I was in. And thus began the rollercoaster ride that was Mausams. :-)

Me: So tell us more about this roller coaster ride.

Shweta: Well, we were not all rank amateurs, having all done some form of college theater or another in the past. Yet, Shilpa wanted to ensure that when we did start shooting, we were all prepared enough to wrap up in optimal time.

You have to understand that this was a truly zero budget movie, so the money to rent locations over long periods of time was simply not there. The last few scenes were shot in a rented location that she just funded personally. Most other times we shot at someone’s house. Outdoor scenes had to be done at public locations like Vivocity. And with none of these, esp. the paid locations, did we have the luxury of infinite time or space to shoot. Even with unpaid locations, we had to wrap up in less than 10 takes for most part else there’d be a crowd of people who gathered to watch, OR a guard who tried to get us to leave.

And to get to such a level of performance, practice was necessary. So we spent Jan and Feb 2010 just practicing, getting the dialogues done assuming it would be an easy ride thereon.

Me: I sense a “but” around the corner here. Were things not as easy as you guys expected?

Shweta: I think we overestimated how much the practice would help. It did help make the dialogues smoother and some emotions more refined. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer amount of detail that goes into getting the angles right while the actual shoot happens.

When you’re working with one camera (not 4, like in most big productions), everyone in the scene needs to find a way to not have their back to the camera, yet not look at it – all this while emoting as sincerely as possible. And the continuity was my biggest personal AHA!

Me: Continuity? Meaning?

Shweta: Meaning when you do one scene, but use several different shots to complete it, you have to ensure they seamlessly blend into each other. It sounds simple and intuitive. But the amount of effort that goes into making it happen! Oh My God!!! I remember this one scene where we did about 15 retakes because my bangs kept settling down in the wrong place on my forehead vs. the previous scene. That was when it really hit me how much hard work it is to make a movie just seem consistent from scene to scene!!! And the funniest part is that I now notice this on TV ALL the time. I’m constantly yelling “continuity issues” as I watch dramas on television.

And, as if it’s not bad enough that I’ve ruined TV for myself, my sis in law has now taken to yelling this with me after spending 3 days at shoots with me. They say I’m infecting the whole family one by one :D

Me: Now to the most clichéd question of them all. What were your best moments on set?

Shweta: I have to say the most special high during the making of this movie was each time Shilpa looked pleasantly surprised by how well we performed and wrapped up a take. She’s an utter perfectionist and getting a WOW out of her would just make my day.

There’s this one scene I remember quite distinctly. It was with Naren who plays my brother in the movie. In this scene, we have a huge argument and there’s a lot of anger going around. We wrapped up what was a fairly emotional scene in less than 3 takes and at that point Shilpa just looked at us and went “Guys, that was SO good!” and Naren and I looked like kids who’d been handed candy. J

We were once shooting this fairly serious scene where I break down and cry and when we wrapped up the take, I noticed that young RamC, our cinematographer was crying too. That has to be one of my personal favorites. Never thought I could have done that!

Me: Wow. Sounds like a lot of this was easy peasy. Were there bits that weren’t?

Shweta: Of course there were. The one that stands out in memory is a lot of the scenes where the affection between me and my on screen husband (Shilpa’s real life husband) has to be palpable for the audience. Although Shivaanu and I bonded off screen and got along brilliantly well, these scenes would make us both pretty uncomfortable. And when Shivanu looked at Shilpa with a beseeching look of “Come on! YOU’re my wife. I cannot do this!”, she’d just give us this unforgiving look of “Be professionals!”. I have to say though, that usually got us thinking of inventive ways to look affectionate without having to get too cozy and we did manage to appease her eventually.

If delighting Shilpa is a huge reward in itself, disappointing her always felt like a personal failure!

Me: Any more movie plans for the future?

Shweta: Maybe a few months later? I’ve had a weak back for about 2 years now and a combination of being extremely busy both in and out of the office recently took their toll with a slip disc. I’ve been recommended to take things slow and that’s exactly what I plan to do (until the next offer comes along, that is :-) )

And that’s it from the Mausams team for now. We’ll bring you more tidbits from the cast as the months go by, so stay tuned

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