It’s always a delight to get candid with a passionate actor who is excited to talk about her film and how much she enjoyed working on it. When I spoke with Mrinalini Sharma, she went all out to tell us about her upcoming suspense thriller/horror mix of a film, Shawn Arranha’s Hide & Seek. The Awaraapan debutant, who is just four films old, plays Jyotika in this story of six friends, who are fighting for their lives in a game of Hide & Seek. Read on to get all the scoop about what went into making what she calls a “fast paced racy thriller with its elements of horror”!
To begin with, tell us bit about how you came to debut in the Hindi Film Industry?
Well, I was modeling and my pictures happened to make their way to the Bhatt camp. They called me and asked me to audition for a film they were about to begin production on. The audition worked out fine and I ended up landing the role in Awaraapan!
Was acting something you always wanted to do?
I think it was a natural transition, because how much of a 30 second ad film can you keep doing. It gets boring beyond a certain point, so this was a next step. In that way it wasn’t planned. I hadn’t gone into the modeling industry thinking I wanted to act. It just developed into a fondness for the camera, which further developed into films.
And so how are you finding the journey so far?
I am not going to deny that it’s had its ups and its downs, but for what it’s worth I would say it’s been worth it, every little bit. The modeling industry was a cakewalk compared to films. The film industry is a totally different experience. A whole new learning curve. It has its ups and downs, but I enjoy it. I like this place and I am happy to be here.
Now coming to you upcoming release, Hide & Seek, how did this film happen for you?
Well, actually they hadn’t finished casting for my character yet, Jyotika, and I got a call and walked into the casting. It all seemed to work out and everything fell into place!
What was it about Jyotika’s character that attracted you to the role?
Umm…if I actually was to get into this question and my reasons, I would in fact give a lot of the film away! Considering the film and genre I don’t think I should talk much about that, but I think every character in the film including mine had its own challenges. There was a lot of breaking down I had to do for myself personally, for the character. There were challenges because a lot of Jyotika isn’t in me and yet there are bits and pieces of me in there. So, to find myself in this character was a process. I had a lot of workshops with the director and other actors. I went in really prepared. As I said though I don’t think I’ll tell you why I said yes to this role, because it would give the film away!
Okay, can you tell us a bit about whom she is, what she is about?
Well, you all know the story, which is that it’s a story of 6 friends. She is one of them and she is Purab Kohli’s romantic interest in the film. They’re childhood sweethearts. For what’s its worth, they’re all very close friends with their own quirks and personal relationships. She’s more of the simple, quiet and subdued person in the entire scheme of things.
How was it working with Shawn, the director?
I think he’s an extremely talented director and I think he’s going to go places here after. One didn’t get the sense when working on this film that this was a debutant director, because you got to see how sorted he was – in terms of shot breakdowns, what he wanted for the characters, how he wanted each character: down to your body language, tonal quality, everything. He came with his homework done and expected ours to be done too and in fact ensured that it was done! So, that made the film very smooth sailing. We wrapped the film in 27 days, how many people can say that!? Actually it was 27 nights!
Oh yes! Speaking of 27 nights, how was it shooting all nights in a mall?
We all used to report to makeup around 8pm and there was a lot of hustle and bustle and people were going since mall was shutting down. We had our own little cabin for makeup and hair so we retired to our areas. When we came back out it was dead silent and really, really eerie. As the night progressed the entire mall was dark, except for the parts we were shooting in. It was dark, shadowy and it wasn’t a place you wanted to explore on your own at night. It was eerie and scary especially with weird mannequins starring out at you, especially for someone like me who has an over active imagination. In fact, I am someone who hates horror films; I will not watch them on my own and always drag a friend to stay back with me. So, for someone with that overactive imagination I pretty much stayed where the shooting unit was.
Since it is an out and out thriller with portions where you’re portraying emotions of fear etc…
Yes, it is suspense thriller with elements of horror.
Then tell us how do you put yourself in a place where you’re scared and in a situation that touchwood you’ve never experienced or will experience.
I guess that’s why they hired us as actors! (Laughs) I just have to envision how it would be because I would hate to be put into some situations that Jyotika is in, in the film. So, I imagine and translate my reaction on screen and the rest of course is up to my director who has to pull it out.
Did you find it difficult to do scenes like that?
Not really and full credit to my co-actors and to my director. It wasn’t so difficult because we walked into it with our homework really well done. Then it wasn’t so difficult primarily because we were so prepared and our director was also so prepared. When you have great direction, it’s very easy for an actor to perform.
And so how was it working with the rest of the cast?
They’re all fantastic! All of us at some point have known each other or met each other or even worked with each other. Purab and I have worked together in my first film Awaraapan, although our characters were never actually together in that film. Samir is an old buddy. Ayaz is someone I have gotten to known through the film. Arjan is someone I know socially. Amruta is someone I did some work with quite a while back actually, a photo shoot. The thing is no one carried baggage, no one had any hang ups, there was no tension. It was a fun gang of people. Everyone was jolly and happy to be there!
So do you have any special memories?
There are many memorable moments! In terms of pranks etc. I don’t think we did much of that because we were focused on working pretty much. When we were shooting on the outside of the mall there was this one dog that kept us company every night for that entire month. So, we’ll surely not forget him! We had chat sessions; sing song sessions, games behind the camera etc. So, we definitely had our share of fun, but we were very focused.
Especially when you have only 27 days to do the shoot in!
You know what used to happen is we couldn’t sleep in early in the morning and by early I mean 8am, so we used to stay back a lot of times ‘til 10, 10:30 or 11am. By the end of it all our body clocks were completely out of whack. Because we couldn’t sleep at that time, so early. We used to go back to the hotel and jump into the pool or play some sport. Breakfast was mandatory. So we would then get into bed at about 11am and roll at 6pm. That was our life for that month!
I bet that was some adjustment to do when you got back…
It was hilarious because we just couldn’t sleep by night and wake up early. Late at night and up on the internet I’d find the boys, all wide awake – one is going on a run, one is going out somewhere etc. – all miserable and whining that they can’t get any sleep now.
So now coming to the fabulous soundtrack of the film. What is your favourite track from the album?
I actually have two ‘Maula’ and ‘Kaise Jiyu’.
How would you describe Hide & Seek to audiences?
I would say it’s a young film. It’s got a fresh perspective. It has an original script although a lot of people say it looks much like I Know What You Did Last Summer, it’s not at all, which I’m sure they’ll find out when they see it. There is a lot of young blood and a lot of enthusiasm in the film. It’s a fast paced racy thriller with its elements of horror. There is no moment to breathe or be bored. There are so many points were you’ll jump in your seats for sure! So, if you want to see a good thriller – go watch it!
Do you think the Indian film audience has grown and evolved to become more accepting of this genre?
I think so definitely! As it stands right now the Indian audiences have evolved, are more accepting and are aren’t just accepting anything that producers will shove out to them. Case in point being that many big budget big banner films are not doing well. There is a particular strata of the audience that is looking for an intelligent film that will grip and hold them. With a lot of fresh talent coming to an industry, I think that is the strata that is more accepting. Even in terms of general audiences there are so many smaller films that have now have gone to become huge hits like A Wednesday, likeBheja Fry. Hide & Seek is one of the better films in a genre that has not been done as much in Bollywood. There have been many who have tried it, but not delivered. This one is true to its genre. This film really brings something to the table. I do have a lot of a faith in the audiences that they are accepting new fare.
If you had to describe one favorite element about Hide & Seek what would it be?
I wouldn’t know where to start! I love the film, I loved shooting it, I had a blast on set. I’d have to say that I just loved the whole experience. The most wonderful thing about the film was working on it!
The film has adopted a very fresh way of promotion through Twitter and Facebook and it seems the whole team of Hide & Seek are actively involved be it the director, the actors or even the music directors. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s a fantastic way because more and more people are using the net and I think it’s a whole different medium to reach out to the audiences with. We are all so involved in the promotion because we’ve all enjoyed so much of being a part of the film – it was fantastic. So, we’re doing our very best to promote the film as much as we can. Anything or everything that will help the film reach out!
In addition fans tend to feel more connected to a film when they’re connected directly with people behind it…
Absolutely and to a large extent I have to say Twitter is more fantastic like that even more than Facebook, because its more one on one and more personal.
Okay, well my last question; what will we see you in next after Hide & Seek?
Umm…I am being a bit superstitious and not opening my big mouth about it right now but if you give me a couple of weeks I will! So nothing I want to report on right now!
Since the actress is clearly on the verge of something big, here’s wishing her all the best for all that’s yet to come and especially for Hide & Seek which releases in cinemas March 12th!