EXCLUSIVE: Khuda Hafiz’s Shivaleeka Oberoi on insider outsider debate: There should be equal platform for all

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Shivaleeka Oberoi, who was recently seen in Vidyut Jammwal starrer Khuda Hafiz, has opened up on her struggles and the ongoing insider-outsider debate.

The COVID 19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown has not just changed the way we live but also our mode of entertainment. While the theatres have been shut for a long time now, the OTT platforms have been our rescue. Lately, several movies were released on digital media and joining them was Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi starrer Khuda Hafiz. The movie was released on August 14 and has opened to rave reviews from both the audience and the critics.

While everyone has been in awe of Vidyut’s performance, one can’t take his eyes off from Shivaleeka. The actress has been nailing it with her innocent looks and impeccable acting prowess. To note, Khuda Hafiz happens to be Shivaleeka’s second movie after 2019 release Yeh Saali Aashiqui and she has proved that she is here to stay. While the young starlet is basking in the success of the Khuda Hafiz, this stardom hasn’t come easy for her. Being an outsider, the actress did have her share of struggles in the industry. In an exclusive conversation with Pinkvilla, Shivaleeka spoke about the success of Khuda Hafiz, her struggles and the ongoing insider-outsider debate:

Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Khuda Hafiz has received a stupendous response. What do you have to say about the success of the movie?

I am truly overwhelmed because however my journey has been it all paid off after the release of Khuda Hafiz. The audience and the people from the industry have been appreciating the film, each and every character’s work. My social media is flooded. It’s really overwhelming.

Vidyut Jammwal is an actor known for his action movies and this time he is seen showing his romantic side. So, how was your experience working with him?

It was a great experience. Even I met him with the same ideology that he is an action star but we connected really really well. He is a great human being, really humble, down to earth and most importantly, there was an instant connection because he is completely self-made, he hasn’t had any help from the industry, he has never had a godfather. Nobody from our film has ever had a godfather. Everybody has the same passion and all of us came together to make this film. And it was an amazing experience working with everybody on set with Vidyut, with director Faruk Kabir sir, nowhere did I ever feel that I was working with someone so senior to me because he is super experienced. He has done many films before this, this is just my second, but he always made me feel comfortable.

While the movie is getting a good response, you have also become the new national crush and fans are also comparing you with Preeti from Kabir Singh. What’s your take on this?

I am super overwhelmed. I have been seeing the pictures going all over the internet. 2019 had Preeti, 2020 has Nargis is what people are saying. I saw it and immediately took a screenshot and sent it to my director. He had told me this when I was on the set and he had really liked that beginning shot of mine. He had told me then, “Shivaleeka, believe me, the way you are acting right now, you are going to be what Preeti was last year.”  He told me this and this has actually happened. I just feel like the audience has started recognizing talent, they have started appreciating good work. I am so overwhelmed right now that people have been calling me the national crush. It’s a different feeling altogether.

You made your debut with Yeh Saali Aashiqui wherein you played a character with grey shades and this time, it was a completely different role. What was your preparation for the same and which role was more challenging for you?

I never really thought that Yeh Saali Aashiqui has a negative character or a grey shade. The reason why I went ahead with Yeh Saali Aashiqui was because I felt that as an actor, I can show my versatility. There is so much graph in every scene that anyone who has watched Yeh Saali Aashiqui would say that this actor is a polished actor and not like somebody who is still trying to get there. Even when the critics reviewed the film, they clearly mentioned that this does not look like a debut film which is what I wanted people to know that I am ready to be where I am. I am not privileged to be where I am now. I have worked my way till there. That is what I wanted and that point very clearly went through when Yeh Saali Aashiqui released. That character had a lot of intensity. I was a completely different character to what I am in reality. So that kind of relatability for me was very difficult. So, I had a lot of homework, workshops to do, which is how I did justice to the role.

Coming to Nargis, she did have a certain relatability to me. I truly believe that living in Mumbai, I am a true-blue Mumbai girl, I am a very well-travelled person. but whereas Nargis haven’t travelled at all. She has not stepped out of Lucknow. She just goes to the call centre her workplace and back home. We basically built a proper history to her. She is a girl who ears her heart on her sleeve.

In Yeh Saali Aashiqui, I had to go higher with my intensity for Mitee Deora and with Nargis, I had to completely tone down. Honestly, I would say high intensity comes very naturally to me but, toning down was a task because I really talk a lot and Nargis does not.

You did get a lot of appreciation for your performance in Yeh Saali Aashiqui but the movie didn’t fare well at the box office. Did it affect you to some extent?

Honestly, I feel for a debutant and moreover for an outsider, a complete newcomer who has no godfather, for me, I don’t look at box office numbers at all. As an actor, I don’t think you have any control over the box office numbers. All you can do is, do your work the best, people appreciate what you have done and your job is done. You have done justice to what you have been told to do. Yeh Saali Aashiqui didn’t do well in the theatres as much as I think it was a complete change on OTT. During the theatrical release, we didn’t get that kind of response but whoever watched the film really appreciated my work and the film as well. But box office numbers are something an actor can’t really have control over. I just did my work, gave it my best and the audience and critics loved my work. I was very happy. Interestingly, I had started auditioning for my next project even before the release of Yeh Saali Aashiqui and that is when I got Khuda Hafiz. And I am really grateful to the makers of Khuda Hafiz because they showed immense faith in me and that too when they had seen just one audition of me.

Also Read: Hrithik Roshan gives a shout out to Vidyut Jammwal after watching Khuda Haafiz; Says ‘Really enjoyed it’

This success and recognition haven’t come easy for you and you did have your fair share of struggles. From working as an assistant director in Kick and Housefull 3, and now playing the female lead, how has been your journey so far?

It’s not been easy at all. Whatever I have achieved in life is all because I have put in years of hard work in it. When I went on to be an assistant director, it did not just magically come to me. I did a lot of auditions and ads. I started working at 16 and at the end of the day, all I wanted was to be in front of the camera on the big screen. And the best way to debut and if I want to properly debut as an actor, my entire work should go into being an experienced actor and work behind the camera before going in front of it. This was my ideology and I completely stuck by it. I went on to assisting on Kick and Housefull 3. I put all my effort into learning as much as I could, knowing every aspect of filmmaking. It was after Housefull 3, I decided to focus on my debut project and I didn’t know it is going to take me a year to get it. That one year was very difficult giving as many auditions as possible. For an outsider, it is a task to even get in touch with the casting director, giving an audition was difficult, getting to know about the project was difficult. Everything started from scratch even though I assisted on films. A lot of times, when I used to get to know that a particular film is coming out, I used to go out of my way to audition for it. I did get a lot of offers but I waited for the right script wherein I can showcase my acting skills. I was really happy when Yeh Saali Aashiqui came to me as it was what I wanted to do and what I wanted to showcase as an actor.

There has been a lot of buzz about nepotism and the ongoing insider-outsider debate in Bollywood at the moment. And with you being an outsider, what do you have to say on it?

My journey hasn’t been easy at all. I truly believe there are really talented actors who made it big despite being an outsider like Ayushmann Khurrana, Sushant Singh Rajput. But there are both sides as there are insiders who are extremely talented. I believe there should be some kind of recognition for outsiders. There needs to be an equal platform given to both. It should not be like anyone’s work is getting stopped. There should be an equal platform irrespective of whether the person is an insider or an outsider. There should be an audition for all.

What’s your take on Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, the case and now SC’s verdict about transferring the case to CBI?

It was a big day for everyone when the case got transferred to CBI. I think everyone deserves that closure because I think everybody is quite disturbed since last two months. Everyone has a big question mark as to why and what happened to him. So that needs to be clarified. I have always looked up at Sushant as someone who made it big as an outsider in the industry, he was really talented and I will always remember him for all the good performances he has done. It’s a very emotional period for his family, fans and friends. So, the entire decision of the case getting transferred to CBI, hopefully, the things will process faster and people will get closure soon.


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