ANGELIC ACTRESS SHAH ON FINDING STARDOM AT A YOUNG AGE AND HER FUTURE HOPES

by ASJAD NAZIR

TALENTED actress Helly Shah has achieved a remarkable amount in a short space of time and despite being only 21 is one of the biggest stars on Indian television today. She landed her first role as a 14-year-old and has since taken on a number challenging parts, including an award-winning turn on hit serial Swaragini – Jodein Rishton Ke Sur.

She is currently winning mass acclaim for the title role in Devanshi and last year was the youngest star voted into Eastern Eye’s globally famous list of the 50 Sexiest Asian Women by a rapidly growing fan base.

Raised in Ahmedabad and now living in Mumbai, the rising star is taking all the attention in her stride. In a wide ranging interview, Eastern Eye caught up with Helly to talk about acting, her amazing rise, inspirations, future hopes and dedicated fan base.

How did you first get involved in acting?

I grew up in Ahmedabad and started everything from there. When I was in fifth standard I started doing theatre. It used to be children’s plays and was like an extra curricular activity outside studies. I used to study all the time and acting was something I did after school as a hobby. It was never my passion but then I was in ninth standard (I think) when I was just here in Mumbai for a holiday with family, gave a random audition and was selected. I was around 14-15 years old. That is how I got my first show.

How did you feel landing your first show at such a young age?

(Laughs) Even when I was doing my first show I didn’t want to continue, because it wasn’t something I enjoyed. I just wanted to go back home to Ahmedabad. But when the show went off air, I somehow started missing everything. So that is how I discovered acting is something I really enjoy and would like to continue it as a career.

Did you expect to become such a success?

I never planned or thought of anything like that. Acting was never something I thought of taking up as my career. I just went with the flow without making a plan. The moment it came I just worked harder and harder every time. I gradually became passionate about my acting and just wanted to do good work. That is the only thing that was there in my mind all the time. (Laughs) Then I just started accepting everything that came with it. I never thought about becoming a success and at this young age would get everything possible.

Swaragini was a turning point for you. Why do you think it was such a huge success?

Yes, definitely it was a turning point for me in my career and a big hit. When I took up the show I knew it was a family drama with two sisters and kind of a nice story, but never thought it would be so successful all across the world. I get messages from many countries. I never thought about it becoming a big success but am always very grateful for it. It’s nice because you have worked so hard to make it a success.

What is your fondest memory of Swaragini?

I think the shooting hours the entire team spent together. It was like a big happy family with all the actors, technicians and everybody else. For two years we were all together for 12-13 hours a day. We ate together, laughed collectively, talked and got up to jokes. So I think those were times I missed most after the show ended. I miss moments in between the shoots greatly.

What did you like about TV series, Devanshi?

So when I was offered Devanshi firstly it was about my association with Colors, so it was never a second thought about that. Also the character was quite different from what I had done previously and very challenging. It was a very different village type of a girl.

Did you feel pressure playing the title role in Devanshi?

I didn’t feel any pressure. But yes obviously I knew that there would be a lot of work-based pressure in my mind. We were telecasting seven episodes a week and there were lots of scenes to film. Initially I would work for 14-15 hours a day. We all worked really hard. Swargini was five days a week whereas Devanshi was seven days a week. We needed to deliver two extra episodes weekly so the pressure did increase and I knew it would be a little hectic in the initial few months.

You are natural in front of the camera. How do you approach a scene?

Thanks for saying that, Asjad. Firstly I think about the flow of the particular scene along with how it fits into the entire narrative. Its very important for me to think about what happened previously and what will occur next with the character. So I keep everything in mind all the time when doing a scene, especially the mood and continuity. That is really important for me. I can’t do a random scene without knowing everything going on around it. When there is some sort of confusion the director is always there to help. Everyone is there in the team to make things fall in place.

Who are your acting heroes?

I really like Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and nowadays have really started liking Alia Bhatt a lot. Alia is so incredible and doing such good work at the moment. I love Ranveer Singh as well.

What is your dream role?

I can’t say it’s a dream, but I have this desire to play a character who is blind or mentally challenged. A character like that would offer a new challenge and push me to work even harder.

What are your big passions away from work?

(Laughs) Most importantly, when I am not working I really like to rest at home. I like listening to music, I like to dance and really enjoy watching television. I also exercise regularly when I am not working.

What inspires you?

I think my passion for my work inspires me to do more good work. That is something that makes me feel alive and keeps me motivated. I think the kind of love I have been getting all these years and the appreciation for my work also inspires me a lot.

What do your fans mean to you?

Their dedication is overwhelming. That is something I never imagined because I never thought I would get such huge love from across the world. They really mean a lot to me because they make me feel special every single moment. If they get to know I am unwell they send me good wishes, prayers and supportive messages. They are really special because they love someone who they don’t even know and only see on screen. Hats off to them all for having such big hearts.

It must mean a lot to you that so many young girls look up to you.

I really don’t know who looks up to me, but if I am able to inspire even a single person that would be really great.

What is your favourite fashion accessory?

(Laughs) I think it would have to be anklets. That is something I just love and lots of my fans just know I love anklets and keep sending me them. I just love them.

How did you feel about being voted into 50 sexiest Asian women for 2016?

I read that I was the youngest one in that list last year. Being voted into the list was so shocking for me. It was a really nice surprise. I have never seen myself as a sexy lady. I just think it was great the fans took the time to vote for me. It’s all thanks to them. Their hard work and love that made me enter that list.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

My mum’s advice, which was never ever trust anybody blindly. I think that is something that is always there in my mind. People are good, but some people are not so good. So don’t ever trust anyone blindly is what she keeps telling me. Now I have grown up and am living in Mumbai alone I can handle all the things so maturely and sensibly. So I am pretty much sorted in life.

Finally can you give a message to your fans?

Firstly, this interview is all thanks to the fans. They requested it and then one fan connected us for the interview. To all the fans I would just like to say thank you. I think these words of gratitude are small and not enough to express how much you all mean to me. What you have given my life is far beyond these words. You make me feel special, make me happy always and bring a smile to my face whatever mood I am in. You are an important part of my life and I want to thank each one of you.