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Life’s good

After the hectic shoot schedule of Maharaj, Shalini Pandey has some time to unwind before she begins working on Prime Video’s Bandwale and Netflix’s Dabba Cartel

Life’s good

A still from Maharaj



Gurnaaz

Shalini Pandey’s journey through the cinematic universe has been about some highs and much happiness. From her breakout role in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Arjun Reddy to her transition into Bollywood with Jayeshbhai Jordaar and the recently released Maharaj, Shalini knew she belonged to this world even when she didn’t know how she had travelled the distance from Jabalpur to Mumbai.

For Shalini, it all began with a mix of uncertainty and unwavering determination. “Leaving home to pursue acting was a leap of faith,” she recalls. And this initial leap led her to a role that shaped her career. It set the stage for her breakout role in Arjun Reddy. “It was a defining moment for me,” she reflects. “The movie changed everything for me and for so many of us who were newcomers. Arjun Reddy worked as a miracle for all of us. Sandeep was new, so was I… Vijay was also a relatively new face. Every technician and crew member, we all got a chance and then a validation for our efforts.” After a few Telugu films, Shalini touched another significant milestone when she got signed by Yash Raj banner. Even though Jayeshbhai Jordaar didn’t do well, it was a matter of gratitude for her. “Working with Yash Raj Films was a dream come true,” she confesses.

Bonding with co-stars

Her memory of Maharaj is about hectic times, where deadlines meant serious business and being safe was a priority. And when it comes to her co-actors, if she found a friend in Junaid Khan, being with Jaideep Ahlawat was a learning experience. “Junaid and I clicked instantly,” she shares. “There was a natural rapport that made working together effortless. This bond has extended beyond the screen and I can safely say we are good friends now.” About Jaideep, Shalini says, “Everybody knows he is a brilliant performer. So, when you work with such a good actor, then your own effort elevates. At the same time, you don’t worry about the scene because there is this sense of confidence that everything is going in the right direction.”

Challenges and growth

If all sounds fun, Shalini says she has had her fair share of challenges, which she has faced head-on. “I am an engineer from a small town, who knew from that start that she wanted to be a heroine. From being a part of audition groups to finally landing my first role in a Telugu film, may look like an easy start but I really struggled with the language. I cried because I wanted to say that same thing in my language. I prepared over and over again to make it look natural. When I did get my first Hindi film, it felt so liberating to perform. When you can express in your mother tongue, it becomes so much more natural.”

As the conversation draws to a close, Shalini says, “I had dreams, but I also knew the road ahead wouldn’t be easy.” Even though her family didn’t agree to her choice back then, today, when they see their daughter has made a life for herself, she says, “They are only too happy. My mother is my pillar of strength and my father has also come around.” For Shalini, it’s all about looking ahead and following her passion.

Looking ahead

Set to feature in Amazon Prime Video’s Bandwale and Netflix’s Dabba Cartel with Shabana Azmi, Shalini looks at the future with optimism and is driven by new opportunities. “I’m excited about these projects. While I can’t reveal much, I just want to tell you that these are very close to my heart.”

#Bollywood


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