Jalsa actor Shefali Shah: Need to learn from Vidya Balan’s confidence
The actor, along with director Suresh Triveni, talks about Jalsa, releasing on March 18 on Amazon Prime Video
Suresh Triveni’s Jalsa is a tale of parallel mothers. Rukshana (Shefali Shah), a domestic worker, is devastated after her daughter’s hit-and-run accident. Rukshana’s employer, Maya Menon (Vidya Balan), is a celebrated digital journalist. She gets tangled in a cover-up that topples both lives.
Releasing on Amazon Prime Video on March 18, Jalsa has all the ingredients of a grim investigative thriller. Its Mumbai backdrop naturally furnishes themes of class, privilege, gender, and religion. Ultimately, though, the focus is on human conflicts and contradictions, as Shefali points out in an interview with Cinema Express.
“It's about one mother versus another, and how one incident can make you question your morality and ideas of right and wrong,” Shefali says, pegging the film alongside multilinear classics such as Traffic, Babel, and Magnolia.
“Those are some big names to match up to,” laughs Suresh, who’d last directed the comedy-drama Tumhari Sulu (2017) starring Vidya. The director admits wanting to shift gears and challenge himself cinematically. There wasn’t a single triggering incident for Jalsa, he clarifies, but multiple reports that left ‘a sediment on my mind’. While he’d worked with Vidya before, he was equally adamant to have Shefali on board, even deferring the production to match her schedules. As it turns out, the actors don’t have many scenes together, the narrative panning out on parallel tracks of intertwining chaos.
“Our characters aren’t exactly in sync,” Shefali explains. “Rukshana and Maya are two sides of a coin. So, even though we had our laughs on the side, the scenes we have together are incredibly intense.”
Suresh recalls how, while reading a scene, Vidya suggested adding a line for Shefali’s character. She felt Rukshana should speak at that particular juncture. “That actually became a huge fulcrum to the scene and turned it on its head. In another scene, she couldn’t stop smiling because she knew Shefali will knock it out of the park.”
The appreciation, it turns out, is mutual. “Vidya is so open, honest, warm, expressive, and appreciative,” Shefali gushes. “The way she owns herself in a film is really commendable. It’s something I need to learn from because I’m so low on confidence most of the time.” Fans of Delhi Crime, Juice, Ajeeb Dastaans, and Human would disagree with the last bit.