Shweta Nair, who was born and brought up in Dubai, will see her Bollywood dreams kick into high gear as the glossy heist film ‘Drive’, produced by Karan Johar, premieres on Netflix on November 1.
Nair, 28, plays Sushant Singh Rajput and Jacqueline Fernandez’s close friend in this thriller, directed by Tarun Mansukhani. In the trailer, Nair is seen playing a supporting role.
“I am a part of their inner circle … I am not able to speak about my role, but this experience of acting in my first film has transformed me … The Bollywood bug that bit me all my life has become stronger now,” said Nair in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
Nair, who studied in Dubai’s Our Own Indian School, has no industry connections and got her first Bollywood breakthrough based on merit and passion. She joins the likes of Kubbra Sait and Taaha Shah — who also grew up in the UAE — and are making inroads into the challenging world of films in India.
“I did a couple of auditions in Mumbai, but I had no idea that it was for this film ‘Drive’ and the next day I got a call from Karan Johar’s Dharma production. I couldn’t believe my ears and I said ‘yes’ immediately,” she said.
Nair, who currently works as an e-commerce content editor for a high-end homeware retailer, found the experience of working in a Bollywood film transformative.
“Just imbibing what the directors are telling me and watching the actors perform and to witness the smallest details of what the DOP [director of photography] does was incredible and nerve-racking.”
Her parents — who aren’t connected to the film industry — were her pillars of support. She describes her mother as her biggest cheerleader and her agent. Although she aspired to be a part of films from an early age, she was intent on securing a solid degree. Nair, who grew up on a steady diet of Aamir Khan, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan films, put her acting dreams on the back burner and studied in Canada, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“I cannot stress the importance of education. You are somehow more street smart and your confidence comes through if you have a solid education. I have seen many girls who come to Mumbai to break into the film industry after class 12. They have no plan B if things don’t work out and that isn’t a good idea,” said Nair.
Asked if she has ever swatted inappropriate advances by sexual predators, Nair said that the global #MeToo movement has empowered aspiring actors and women across India. She was one of the few lucky ones where she only met legitimate producers, directors and casting agents.
“Things are a bit shaky when you have no godfather in the industry. You don’t know whom you can trust and whom you can’t … But right now things are changing for the women in the Bollywood industry. #MeToo has streamlined it for girls like us.”
What helped her tremendously in her acting journey is being a part of WhatsApp groups who alert you about auditions that are authentic.
“You can totally know the difference between the good ones and the bad,” said Nair.
While she didn’t have a chance to interact with her producer Johar — who has launched careers of star kids including Alia Bhatt and Ananya Pandey — Nair cherishes her experience of observing seasoned actors such as Rajput and Fernandez. But it was veteran comedian and actor Boman Iran who impressed her the most.
“[Fernandez is] amazing and is filled with energy. She inspires you tremendously. But my experience with Boman Irani — with whom I had a couple of scenes — and the amount of professionalism he brings to the table is amazing. He’s such a cool guy.”
Nair intends to shift base to Mumbai if her career takes off in Bollywood after the release of ‘Drive’.
“Being an actor — no matter the medium or the platform — is what gets me excited,” she said. “And I hope to be a part of it for a long time.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Drive’ is out on Netflix on November 1.