Adah Sharma
Adah Sharma Image Credit: Supplied

Indian actress Adah Sharma, who made her Bollywood breakthrough in 2008 with the horror film ‘1920’, has survived her share of brutal rejections.

“I have gone for so many auditions and I have gotten rejected for weirdest things ever … Rejection hurts and there’s no possible way of it not letting it touch you at all. While you should feel bad as an actor, you should know how to get out of it too,” said Sharma, 28, over a Zoom video call.

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The self-made actress, who is the star of the recently-released short romantic comedy ‘SoulSathi’, streaming on Eros Now, hasn’t let those rejections define her and has continued to work her way up in Bollywood with films such as the hit ‘Commando’ series with actor Vidyut Jammwal.

She’s equally pragmatic when asked about her take on her workplace getting a bad rap following Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. His suicide has unleashed a torrent of criticism against Bollywood for its toxic work culture and debauchery.

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In ‘Commando’ with actor Vidyut Jammwal.

“The world has both the good and the bad. It has not pertaining to one industry alone. We see good people and bad people who do bad things … The world can’t have only a certain type of people and the same goes for the industry. I have met all kinds of people in the industry and in life also. I think people should be open to the fact that there are all kinds of people in the world,” said Sharma.

The self-confessed loner, who isn’t a fan of socialising, claims she has never felt like she ever belonged to Bollywood.

“But I can’t blame it on the industry … I am not a person who socialises a lot and it’s not a skill I possess. I may be trained in dance, acting and playing the piano, but I have never been really taught how to interact with people or socialise at a party … I have not learnt it on the either and so I never felt I really belonged,” said Sharma.

This artist prefers to let her work do all the talking. In her latest romantic comedy, Sharma plays the 20-something Preethi who is pushed to meet eligible young men by her mother who wants to see her married and settled in life. But Preethi yearns for a man who loves her inside out.

Excerpts from our interview as we talk love, life and the minefield called dating apps …

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Tell us about your new short film ‘SoulSathi’?

I play a double role, but it’s not your usual double role that you see actors play. I don’t play identical twins, but I play my body and the other is my soul. So all the boys on the dates can see her body because she is all well-dressed, but none of them can see her soul. Honestly, that’s usually the case when it comes to dating.

So this short film is a portrait of modern day courtship scenario where many are desperate to find love. So how does the series reflect our times?

Everyone will identify with this film, especially all those girls who have gone on blind dates or met annoying boys. It’s a short film that will appeal to everyone across all ages. Even girls facing an arranged marriage set up are often asked to meet boys they don’t know. I have friends who have gone through that process and how she felt like punching that man on the face. All of this stuff is frustrating, you might meet the person that you are meant to live with for the rest of your life amid all that chaos. So you never know.

Personally, have you ever gone on a blind date or signed up on a dating website? I have heard some horror stories from my single friends about dating …

No, I haven’t been on a dating site because I don’t really have the guts. Even though I don’t know what it takes to be on a dating site, I have friends who share screenshots of things that happen to them on the sites and we laugh. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there on a dating site and I feel like I don’t have it in me. I get anxiety just thinking about being on a blind date with someone I don’t know. On a regular day, I avoid meeting people I even know.

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In the short film 'SoulSathi'.

The world is fascinated by Indian arranged marriages and the way they function. A recent reality show, ‘Indian Matchmaking’ even tapped into that space. Is that what drew you to this short film?

We shot ‘SoulSathi’ way before that series. We didn’t shoot this film during the lockdown. But you are right, the West is very intrigued by the concept of matchmaking in India. Honestly, I am not opposed to it. What’s a dating app, if not a version of Indian matchmaking? In the West they have dating apps to meet people, but in India a human being gets two people to meet who they think will get along. In this film, I am this girl who goes to meet boys because her mother is insisting that she get married.

But aren’t arranged marriages, where you marry strangers, a bit archaic? Do you subscribe to that thought or do you think there is romance in not knowing the other person wholly?

But aren’t you meeting a stranger on a dating app too? He could turn out to be serial killer. Maybe, your mother has done a background check on the guy she wants you meet and he may not be a serial killer or he may just be a closeted serial killer.

Or he could just be a regular bloke and not a serial killer … Are you always this pessimistic in love and life?

I am giving you options (laughs) … Maybe he could be the love of your life too. I am just being a realist and not about being a pessimist here.

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In 'Hasee Toh Phasee'.

True, dating apps often get a bad rap for being all about instant gratification … In fact, a popular dating app was famously described as a McDonalds for love …

Stay celibate for life. Wouldn’t that be the safest option? Remember, he could be a serial killer. But jokes apart, I am very uncomfortable meeting people in that way. I feel awkward with people. I was telling someone recently that I have been practicing social distancing since I was born.

So corona or no corona, I have been practising social distancing from day one. Dating is not for me unless I know that person well and he has accepted me for being weird. I want to continue being who I am and I don’t have to mask it. Ideally, for a first date I would take him to a movie theatre where you don’t have to interact much with that person.

How did you get into acting when you are so socially awkward? Doesn’t the world of celebrity demand that you put yourself out there as a public figure?

Don’t ask! I have no idea. Fortunately, I have gotten to work with some amazing people who have tapped into my awkwardness and given me some amazing roles … I didn’t really think it through. And honestly, I was never that star who went for audition with my friend and somehow got selected instead of her and nor did my mother send my pictures to Miss India contest.

Even though I sat at malls and coffee shops, nobody told me I was beautiful while handing over scripts saying ‘you should do our movies’. That didn’t happen with me although I have read a lot about that happening to other people in my industry.

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So how did a filmmaker discover you?

Nobody discovered me and I had to go around asking to be discovered. I auditioned a lot for films and got rejected brutally. But ‘1920’ was one audition that I didn’t get rejected from and that’s how I got started.

Do you think that film was an ideal debut for you? Horror films in Bollywood don’t have an amazing reputation in general …

Yes, it was a great launch for me because actresses spent their entire career in the industry but often don’t get a chance to prove themselves. I got to do that in my first film and I feel fortunate. I got huge audience acceptance and people are now kind to me when I do something different. I have a huge audience support after that film. So, whatever role I pick or whether I wear a weird outfit on the red carpet or post a funny Instagram video, people support me and I have to credit ‘1920’ for that.

Are you happy with the opportunities you got as an outsider?

I have been brought up and taught to be happy. I don’t peg my happiness on where my career is heading, love life or external factors. You would never be happy if you did that … As far as my career is concerned I love doing roles like the one in ‘SoulSathi’ but until last year I believed that only two per cent of my potential was exploited in movies. I have so much more that I can showcase, but I haven’t gotten the opportunity to do so. But last year has been incredible with ‘Commando 3’ and my debut web series ‘The Holiday’.

My web series was about a girl who goes to Mauritius for her bachelorette with three of her best friends, but they happen to be boys … My next film, called ‘Man To Man’, is directed by my ‘SoulSathi’ director Abir Sengupta. It’s a tale of a boy falls in love with a girl. He gets married to her, but after they are married he finds out that she is a man. I will play that man in the film.

Don’t miss it!

‘SoulSathi’ is streaming on Eros Now.