Solo: Neha Sharma on her Tamil film debut, and working with Dulquer Salmaan, Bejoy Nambiar
It’s been almost a decade since Neha Sharma made her acting debut and now, after all these years, she has finally made her foray into Tamil and Malayalam cinema, thanks to Bejoy Nambiar’s Solo. The film is an anthology of stories with Dulquer Salmaan playing four different characters, each representing Lord Shiva in different avatars. Each of the stories also represent a different element — Earth, Fire, Water, Wind.
About her role, Neha Sharma says, “I play a character called Akshara; right from the word go, Bejoy Nambiar was extremely clear about what Akshara would be like, what colour tones she would wear, etc. My track in the film represents Earth, so you’ll see Dulquer and me in a lot of earthy colours like olive green and so on. Solo is all about love and rage, and it’ll leave you with a lot to chew over, after watching the film. The moment I heard the story, I was bowled over by Bejoy’s vision because no one makes films like these anymore. I knew I had to be part of the film without any second thoughts.”
Neha had met Bejoy a while ago for another project, which didn’t materialise in the end. The duo met once again when Bejoy pitched the story of Solo to her and once Neha understood what Bejoy was aiming for, she came on board. Having played glamorous roles for most part of her career, so far, Neha was thrilled that Bejoy had envisioned something else altogether for her. “When I had auditioned for another film, Bejoy wanted me to play a nerdy girl and I was really happy that he could envision me as someone who’s contrary to the usual glamourous roles that I’m offered. When it came to Solo, he was very clear that Akshara has to be spunky. She has a romantic and a passionate side to her, along with a crazy and rebellious persona. I have always believed that there’s a lot of the actor that comes into the character as well. There’s a bit of me in every character I play. So, naturally, there’ll be a shade of me in Akshara. There’s joy, bliss, madness, love, sadness in the character. It’s rare to find a role like this because not every film offers so many tones to a character,” she says.
Although she didn’t think twice before saying ‘yes’ to the film, the actress, by her own admission, had cold feet on the first day of the shoot. “All my lines were in Tamil. I clearly didn’t see it through after saying yes to the film [laughs]," she says. "Honestly, it’s really difficult to emote when you don’t know the language. You’ll always feel that you’re restricted to some degree. I don’t know how other actresses do it. I guess that’s why it took me so long to do a Tamil film. As an actor, you want to do so much more, but then the language is always going to be a barrier... The first day of the shoot was quite overwhelming. I even got into a zone where I started questioning if I had made the right decision. When I spoke to Bejoy on the first day of the shoot, he changed it from a scene where I had to say my lines to one with a cellphone text message conversation. Bejoy really knows how to put his actors at ease. Moreover, I should thank Dulquer for being extremely patient with me. This was an important film for everyone and they wanted me to give my best shot. I’ve become good friends with both Bejoy and Dulquer, and I can’t think of a reason why anyone won’t be friends with them. They are such wonderful people!”
Most actors confess to being influenced, at some level, by the characters that they play on screen. Ask Neha if playing Akshara has changed her life, the actress breaks into laughter saying, “I love myself way too much. So, I don’t see how can I become a better person after doing a film [laughs]. Every film is a new experience. Usually, there’s a lot of stress and pressure to finish the project. But on the sets of Solo, everyone was patient with me and they were so passionate about making a good film that it didn’t matter how many hours everyone was working. They were all there to help each other out, even hold your hand to pull you through. I love the compassion the unit had for each other…I’ll miss them. I’ve slowly become comfortable with the language and now, I sort of understand what people are talking around me.”
Over the years, Neha has acted in films like Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum, Tum Bin 2, Youngistaan and Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, to name a few. It’s not exactly been an easy ride for her, so to speak, and the actress agrees that she has had to really earn her roles. “I must say that I’m happy with my career. I’ve done everything so far on my own terms. I don’t have anyone backing me up. I love cinema, and it’s this interest that has kept me going all these years. I’m here for all the right reasons. It’s not an easy job because there’s a lot more to it than being talented or good at your job. You’ve to be good at networking, being visible in the media to become a so-called ‘star’. I’m learning. It’s been a slow process for me. Having said that, I am not questioning why have things turned out to be so slow for me. I’m happy doing one film at a time. Obviously, they weren’t the best films ever made, but those are the choices I had. So I pretty much chose what was good for me. And every film I’ve done so far has helped to shape me to become the person I’m today,” Neha says.
A decade ago, she had made her debut alongside Ram Charan in Puri Jagannadh’s Chirutha. Later, in 2010, she made her Bollywood debut with Crook and since then, she has acted in only Hindi films, until she said yes to Solo. Neha confesses that she was too young when she made her debut on screen and back then, she wasn’t mature enough to believe that she can speak another language. “You end up taking decisions too quickly [laughs]," she says. "I was really surprised with the kind of films which Tamil and Malayalam filmmakers have been making of late. This is a whole new world for me. If something good comes my way, I’ll definitely grab it. I’m not scared anymore!”