In Shlok Sharma’s debut feature Haraamkhor, 30-year-old Shweta Tripathi plays 14-year-old Sandhya, who has an affair with her school teacher Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Unsurprisingly, their illicit love affair has grave consequences. The taboo subject ran into trouble with the Censor Board of Film Certification in July 2015. The examining committee declined to pass the film, after which producers Guneet Monga and Anurag Kashyap approached the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. The tribunal cleared Haraamkhor and gave it a U/A certificate, paving the way for its January 13 release.
Tripathi first came to attention in Masaan (2015), in which she plays the upper-caste lover of Vicky Kaushal’s Dalit character. Haraamkhor was meant to be her debut, and she explains the reasons behind its delay in an interview.
How long has ‘Haraamkhor’ been delayed?
It has been over three or four years. We started filming on June 16, which is director Shlok Sharma’s birthday. It was an important and emotional day for all of us. Actually I think it’s been four years since Shlok has not celebrated his birthday because he has been waiting for the film’s release.
How did you get the part?
I had done a short film called Sujata, which Shlok had directed. It was part of an anthology feature called Shorts . I played the younger version of Huma Qureshi’s character. I had to dress like a school-going young girl. On the first day of the shoot, Shlok told me that he wanted to make his first feature with me.
Was ‘Sujata’ your first acting job?
I was assisting casting director Mukesh Chhabra when I was cast for a 30-second role in Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna (2011). It just happened that Winterbottom asked me to play Freida Pinto’s roommate and I could not say no to him.
I have always wanted to act and produce. I have never wanted to write or direct. During the making of Trishna, I met a lot of people, including director Anurag Kashyap, producer Guneet Monga, Shlok, Vasan Bala, and eventually Neeraj Ghaywan as well. That’s how Neeraj cast me in Masaan and Shlok cast me in Haraamkhor. I shot for Masaan after Haraamkhor.
Did the success of ‘Masaan’ open doors for you in the film industry?
Yes, people started recognising me after Masaan. I also got the tag of an actor, so it became easy for me as I did not have to prove that I could act. People began to consider me for parts where I would fit in based on the look of the characters.
I never thought that I could be an actor. My dad is an IAS officer and my mother is a teacher. At home, education was very important. I studied design in college, at NIFT. My father told me that if I want to do acting, I should study and learn the craft simultaneously. I never consciously came to Mumbai to act. I came here on an internship for Femina magazine and then one thing lead to the other.
How did you prepare for the role of Sandhya, a minor who falls in love with her teacher?
I did not do any special preparation for the part. Shlok told me to interpret the character however I wanted to. I met up with girls of that age as shown in the film. I read up online material about a lot of young, school-going girls in love with older men.
I have personally not been through such an experience, and I am glad it never happened with me because I have had a much simpler life. I don’t like to draw from my personal experiences when I am preparing for a role. I like to observe the people around me.
Did you foresee the trouble ‘Haraamkhor’ had with the censor board?
When Shlok narrated the story to me, it did not feel like a controversial subject at all. Even after we had filmed it and people saw the rushes, everybody went gaga over it. We shot the film in 16 days and we thought it would be a smooth run with the censor board. That’s why when the censor board refused to pass the film, it came as a shock to us. We were heartbroken. We didn’t understand why this was happening.
What are the other projects you are working on?
Right now I am busy with my web series, The Trip. It’s a 10-episode series about four girls bonding on a road trip from Delhi to Thailand. I have also completed shooting for Good Morning Sunshine. It is directed by Sanjoy Nag. It has four women leading the story – Revathy, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Rituparna Sengupta and me. Shabana Azmi has a cameo. It’s an exciting role and something I am keenly looking forward to.