Shweta Tripathi’s latest film is her most ambitious yet: she plays an adolescent dancer who develops alopecia and loses her hair and her self-esteem in Gone Kesh.

Tripathi is 33 years old, but her youthful face and petite frame have led her to being cast in roles much younger than her real self. “Till date I haven’t played a character that is more than 24 years of age,” she joked during an interview. “Life is so much more fun and frivolous in that age. Through my characters, I am also living that age. I would love to be under 25 for the next ten years in films.”

Qasim Khallow’s debut feature also stars Jitendra Kumar (TVF Pitchers), Vipin Sharma and Deepika Amin, and will be released on March 29. “Alopecia is such a serious thing, but Qasim’s way of storytelling is very light,” Tripathi observed. “You will smile and cry. It’s a warm, heartwarming story that is very rare.”

Tripathi sports a bald pate in the film’s poster, and she was prepared to shave off her hair for the role. Instead, prosthetics were used to suggest Enakshi’s hair loss. “They wanted my real hair in a few scenes,” she explained.

Gone Kesh (2019).

Tripathi met alopecia patients and hair specialists to understand Enakshi’s condition. “I started following a lot of people on Instagram who have alopecia,” Tripathi said. “That becomes your window into their lives. You get to know about their bad days, good days and information about what they eat and everything else. It’s amazing, the amount of messages I am getting from people with alopecia. People are connecting with the film.”

Gone Kesh aims to start a conversation around body positivity. “As actors we do have responsibilities, that is why I will never do a fairness cream advertisement,” Tripathi declared. Films and commercials create unattainable beauty standards, she pointed out.

“The heroine’s hair is shown to be very strong and they depict people as if they do not have bad hair days,” she said. “I get that it is aspirational. But I want people to know that we put extensions and we have stylists who check every strand of our hair. We put a lot of emphasis on appearance, and I want people to know that dreams are not based on appearance. I hope the concept of beauty changes.”

Gone Kesh (2019).

Tripathi’s credits includes shorts, web series and films. She played Zenia in the television series Kya Mast Life Hai in 2009, and appeared in one of the chapters in the anthology film Shorts in 2013. The year 2015 thrust her into the limelight: she played a college student who falls in love outside her caste in Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan and a school-goer who starts a romance with her much older teacher in Shlok Sharma’s Haraamkhor (2017).

Tripathi has featured in two important Amazon Prime Video series: Mirzapur, in which she plays Golu Gupta, the daughter of a corrupt police officer, and Made in Heaven, in which she plays a bride who walks out of her wedding over a dowry demand.

“Even if it’s a small episode in Made in Heaven, it needs to have an impact,” Tripathi said. “I am not insecure about any character in terms of screen space. It can be for two seconds or two hours. But it’s important to understand what the character is upto. Even for Mirzapur, I was very excited because I just loved the world they had created. I am not even introduced in the first episode, but I just knew that I had to do this.”

Mirzapur (2018).

The deceptively bookish Golu Gupta is one of Tripathi’s most interesting characters to date. “In terms of appearance, I wanted her to wear a big, manly watch,” Tripathi observed. “Her comfort zone always remains with her. These small details matter.”

On Tripathi’s bucket list are the roles of a mafia queen and a teacher. “I haven’t consciously planned out my films,” she said. “Even if the character is grey, I have to fall in love with it. In Masaan, Shalu is pure white and very cloud-like. I don’t expect every character to be that way. But I need to know why the characters do the things they do.”

She will make her debut in Tamil cinema in Saravana Rajendran’s Mehandi Circus. Tripathi plays a circus performer in the film. “It’s a love story about a boy who sets a music shop near the circus,” Tripathi said. “It’s set in the 1990s and it’s been shot beautifully. My director did not speak in Hindi or English and I did not speak in Tamil. But he directed me throughout the film. Language is never a barrier.”

Mehandi Circus (2019).