If Masaan was a milestone in her career, she placed another with Haraamkhor, then Gone Kesh, then Made In Heaven, Lakhon Mein Ek, Mirzapur and now Cargo.
Sold as India’s first spaceship sci-fi film, Cargo stars Shweta Tripathi Sharma and Vikrant Massey in the lead. The Arati Kadav film takes the audience on a post-doomsday space journey, telling the story of Prahastha (Vikrant), a demon operating the post-death transition service on a space station orbiting Earth, and his co-astronaut Shweta.
Filmmaker Arati has managed to weave in humour in such a way that you try to introspect what you just saw once the laughter stops. A MAMI favourite, Cargo has been produced by Anurag Kashyap, Shlok Sharma, Navin Shetty, and Arati. The film is expected to release next year.
Here’s a brief chat with Shweta, the astronaut, before Cargo takes off at the theatres.
Cargo opened to huge applause at MAMI. Don’t you think budgetary constraints pull down such wonderful films?
See budgetary constraints will always pull a lot of things down. We always hope ki agli film mein aisa na ho but sadly if you don’t have a big financier, a producer or a studio then these are the challenges we are bound to face. So it feels a little heart-breaking because there’s so much effort and money. The money might be less compared to a big-budget film but compared to what we have and what we pull in, it is a lot of money. So the value of money is much more when you make a film like Haraamkhor or Masaan or Gone Kesh. And especially in a film like Cargo, the costumes, the equipment, every little details matter. Woh toh hota hi hain but yeah, we are so passionate about our work and that supersedes everything.
Do you think a bigger production house should have backed such a project because the content is unique?
Every writer, director, producer, actor feels their project is unique. But we definitely think our film is unique and keep hoping that there will be some magic, somebody who will step in and who will support you. And we are still hoping for that.
Why do you think Arati Kadav approached you? Do you believe in such after-life transitions?
I met Arati with a writer, I generally don’t do that but I went along with that writer friend of mine. And I met Arati and there was an instant connection. Even the character’s name was Shweta. So it was meant to be and I had to do Cargo. And what I love about the world that Arati creates… is I have not met anyone, as in writer-director, and in science fiction, who could see the world in a totally different way. The way she sees it, it is so fascinating. Not only Cargo, be it any other future projects, be it a short film, the medium, the length doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be part of her world. But about after-life, I don’t know what I am leading right now but that is the interesting part of the story. You see different versions. You take whatever you want from that story. And that will just grow on you.
People remember you as the Masaan girl, but you also have so many other films to talk about. Your personal favourite and why?
People remember me as Masaan girl, then Mirzapur girl and then there’s a small minority of people divided between Lakhon Mein Ek and Made In Heaven. Agar koi Made In Heaven ke liye (praise) karta hain, you know you have really bonded with them since I was in just one episode. So in such a short time you made people feel certain emotions then I think that’s great. I like when people remember me for different projects but yeah, Shaalu Gupta from Masaan is definitely one of my favourites. It’s a project I am very proud of and happy about. My favourite is always the last project that I have finished. When I finished Gone Kesh, that was my favourite. So now I just wrapped Mirzapur 2 so that is my favourite. But having said that I think Lakhon Mein Ek Season 2 will remain one of my favourites.
Has anything changed after marriage?
Well, my address. Earlier I used to stay in Bandra now I stay in Juhu (laughs). Earlier, I was Shweta Tripathi now I am Shweta Tripathi Sharma. Apart from that I really think I have started working more, I am busier after marriage and that feels great. And that is what I want to tell other girls that these limitations, these restrictions jo hum apne aap pe daalte hain ki shaadi ho jayegi, that dhamaka, ye ho jayegi, woh ho jayegi… That’s not true. Your life will be how you want it to be. If you have clarity then people around you will have clarity. So life has changed and life has changed for the good. I think you should get married but get married when you find the right person.
What are your next projects?
Ahhh!!! There are a few projects I’m reading, a few projects that I’m not allowed to talk. But I can promise each and every project is super-duper interesting.
The OTT platforms have come as a boon for several actors who could never make it to the mainstream. How do you look at this transition?
I wouldn’t say that without the OTT platforms many wouldn’t have made it to the mainstream because I don’t believe in that. Nawazuddin Siddiqui had once said this to me: ‘Talent ko koi daba nahi sakta’. Which I totally agree. If you are talented your time will come. Sooner or later it will. This happens internationally also and in our country. There are numerous examples. But yes, OTT platforms have not only given chances to actors, but writers, directors, musicians. Also to people to see the story in a different way. Earlier, our protagonists used to be very neat and clean. Now whichever show you pick up, for example Lakhon Mein Ek, she was not supposed to be a superhero. She is a girl who is having her samosa in the canteen but when she is thrown into this rural set-up and she has to do things there and when she gets into that situation she gets what she believes in. Or Mirzapur for example: If you look at Guddu Pandit or Munna Bhaiya, these are protagonists but there’s everything wrong with them. So I think OTTs have given a voice to a lot of stories.
After Sona Mahapatra’s Shut Up Sona made a mark at MAMI, the #MeToo campaign has gathered steam. Do you support the cause?
I definitely support the #MeToo campaign. I just hope the stories that have come out in the past, are coming out now and that will come out in the future, koi iska fayda na uthaye because it’s a huge responsibility. I just hope everybody realises the gravity and the responsibility be it a boy or a girl that it is nothing to gossip about. It is serious and all should respect that.
Have you ever faced such uncomfortable situations in your career?
Uncomfortable matlab…Garmi mein bhi uncomfortable hota hain. But aisi type ki thankfully I have not faced any situation. The people am close to, thankfully, they have not faced such situations. But I know of girls who want to speak up and I have told them if they want to speak up I will help them. But sadly it’s not easy to speak up. I hope we find that voice because it’s not okay to take somebody for granted. Not okay to let your emotions flow in whatever way you want to. This is a personal set-up. Even if you know somebody personally this is no way to behave.
How do you think this bias against women would end considering the industry is still patriarchal?
Not the industry, the entire world is like that. You can’t change the world alone. Your society has to change, the audience has to change, the films that we like has to change. So it is not a one-day, one-week process. It is when you see at home how your mother is treated, how your sister is treated, how your house help is treated, school mein. It has to start at the grassroots. Yeh industry akeli nahi kar payegi. But yes it can do a lot because it’s entertainment and the stories we are telling people influences them. Bias against women is everywhere. Look at your neighbours, look outside. It is so prevalent. But we have to fight it and emerge winners.