‘Television actors are people who play with fire.’

Photograph: Kind courtesy Smriti Kalra

Television actor Smriti Kalra, known for playing the female lead in the Star Plus show 12/24 Karol Bagh, will be seen in the coming Hindi film, Kaagaz 2.

Set to release in theatres on March 1, the film, co-starring Anupam Kher and Neena Gupta, is the late Satish Kaushik’s last directorial venture.

Remembering him, Smriti tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh, “When we were shooting for the film, he used to say, ‘Tum mujhe Sridevi ki yaad dilati ho’.”

What could you tell us about Kaagaz 2?

The film talks about the right to freedom, the right to life, and the right to personal liberty.

We have all been stuck due to some rally or procession, but we are so used to it that we say, ‘Let’s wait for a while’.

But for some people, it can be life threatening.

This film is based on true incidents, but the best part is that it talks about the problem and comes up with a solution.

When did you become a part of the film?

I was actually the last member to be cast.

I was unaware of it but later, I learnt that the casting for the female lead took a year-and-a-half.

After I gave the audition, I got a call back saying someone else had been finalised.

Weeks later, I got a call saying that Mr Kaushik would like to meet me.

Whenever I post a picture of mine on Instagram, I always write notes along with it. They are poems, sometimes thoughts.

So when I met Mr Kaushik, he asked me to read out whatever I had written.

I remember sitting in his office and opening my Instagram handle.

There was this post of mine which had the caption: ‘Aaj phir unse mulaqat hui aur hum dono ki na baat hui.’

It was kind of a series that I had made.

It’s about two people who meet each other but don’t get the opportunity to speak to each other and what happens during that encounter.

I read out aloud and he liked it. He was like, ‘She is the one. She is our Tanisha.’


IMAGE: Smriti Kalra with Satish Kaushik. Photograph: Kind courtesy Smriti Kalra/Instagram

Satish Kaushik passed away in the middle of the shoot. How did that affect you?

I was shell shocked.

I had just messaged him the day before. I had showed him an ad and he had really liked it.

I replied to him, saying, ‘Sir, I will always make you proud.’

He was very fond of me.

So yeah, it was shocking. When the news flashed online, for a moment, I thought the name must have got misprinted.

I saw the news but did not register it.

But when I got the message and when it sunk in, it was very shocking.

I had just known him for a few months but there is a great deal of pain when you get to know about a colleague going like this.

I realised that I was close to him when I went for his last rites because suddenly, I was crying so badly.

I had developed a close bond with him without even realising it.

When we went for the promo launch on February 9, I felt really bad and cried as soon as I reached home.

Did he give you any tips or advice during the filming?

When we were shooting for the film, he used to say, ‘Tum mujhe Sridevi ki yaad dilati ho.’

You know, Sridevi ma’am was my favourite actress, and when he said that to me, I remember how happy I was.

My role was not prominent in the original draft, so he rewrote it.

My opening in the film has been shot by him.

He was like, ‘Give me a smile; your smile is really beautiful.’

He used to say, ‘Everyone gives in their 100 percent. Someone who gives more than that is what takes them ahead.’

Photograph: Kind courtesy Smriti Kalra/Instagram

How did you become an actor?

I was a science student but I knew I wanted to get into media. Not acting, but journalism.

I have done my Honours (degree) in Journalism.

Months into my college, I understood that I will not understand a thing if I only attend class.

I wanted practical knowledge, so I started interning.

I did editing and PR (Public Relations) for pocket money.

I became an RJ on Red FM and was earning good money, but got bored.

So what did you do next?

One of my friends was in a play and she asked me to tag along.

I just went with her and landed my first play in Delhi.

Then, someone told me that casting for a show (12/24 Karol Bagh) was going on.

I was a bit sceptical about going for an audition but one of my work mates said he would drop me there.

I remember being dropped at Lodhi Garden and meeting Producer Sudhir Sharma.

I probably looked a bit shabby because he asked me to comb my hair.

But after giving the audition, I did not want to play that role because the character was crying a lot.

I said that I want to play the second girl, the happy one. I wanted to play the character that eventually Sargun Mehta played.

But the producer was told me to play the role I had auditioned for.

I was not mentally prepared for it but I wanted to do something new and the shoot was in Delhi. So I was like, okay, let’s do it.

That’s how my acting stint started.

I did not expect it to be so difficult and tiring.

Television actors are people who play with fire. When you shoot for a film, you feel it’s a do-able job, but TV is very tedious.

IMAGE: Sargun Mehta, Smriti Kalra and Hunar Hali in 12/24 Karol Bagh.

Did you earn well those days?

Initially, I was offered Rs 2,000 per day and I said, ‘I don’t work for peanuts.’

Then the producer raised it to Rs 5,000 per day.

That’s what I started with.

You have worked for one-and-a-half-decades now. Did you have any bad experiences?

When I look back, maybe people were trying to say something that I did not understand.

My ignorance and sheltered life helped me sail through.

Very recently, someone was trying to say something. I didn’t understand at first, but when I did, I gave a befitting reply.

It depends on how you carry yourself.

I don’t like people messing with me.

But having said so, it is not easy, as there are all sorts of people.

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