I want to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Hrithik Roshan, says Jungle Cry actress Emily Shah
The actress gets chatty about her debut movie, working with Abhay Deol, the influence Bollywood on her childhood and more
From Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandez, Amy Jackson, and Nargis Fakhri to Ali Lather, Barbara Mori and Sunny Leone, actors from the west have made their presence felt in Bollywood with their work. And now, joining the ranks is actress Emily Shah, who made her debut with Abhay Deol starrer Jungle Cry. Set to release on June 3 on Lionsgate Play the film features Emily as a physiotherapist for Rugby players. The players, underprivileged children from Odisha who go on to win the prestigious U14 Rugby World Cup in England.
Emily comes from a strong background in the entertainment industry having assisted veteran Clint Eastwood in the past and acted in Jennifer Hulum’s Fortune Defies Death. The New Jersey-raised actor is also the daughter of producer Prashant Shah and says she is all set for more Bollywood projects. The actress gets chatty about her debut movie, working with Abhay Deol, how Indian culture and Bollywood influenced her while growing up, and more.
What interested you to work in Bollywood?
I grew up in an Indian household and I always had a special place for Bollywood in my heart. I can speak Hindi and Gujarati and I love to dance and I am always playing music. I have always felt very close to my Indian side and was automatically drawn to the Indian film industry from a young age. I feel lucky to have a debut in Bollywood.
You have worked in the West and have had professional training for acting. How did it help you when you had to perform in a movie that is set in India?
Acting classes are a great way to keep up on your skills and brush up on your talent. I always thought I was going to be ready for the day I stepped in front of the camera on set, but you don’t really get that full experience and learn until you are actually on set. I have taken many acting classes. Whether it is a method, improvise, comedy, Bollywood, or acting in combat -- all these classes provided me with the tools I used on set. Especially improvisation. Sometimes, my best scenes are the ones I improved because I was tuned in and listening to my co-actors, and responding to them more than just following exact words. There were times on set that Abhay had said another word, or added a sentence to his lines, and I responded accordingly.
Do tell us about your experience of working with Abhay Deol.
Working with Abhay was great! We were able to respect and give each other our creative freedom when it came to our process of breaking down scenes and rehearsing. I am grateful to work with such a grounded and talented actor.
Are there any differences in the working style of Bollywood and Hollywood?
Because this is a British-Indian production, it was similar to what I’m used to in Hollywood. I didn’t feel much of a difference because, at the end of the day, production is production. I had shadowed a sports physio whose name is Purvi Desai in Denver Colorado. I was able to encapsulate her essence on and off the field as a physio.
You have a keen interest in sports. Which are some other sports dramas you like?
Two of my favourite sports films are Invictus (2009) and Million Dollar Arm (2014).
What are your future plans? Would you like to be a part of more movies and OTT series?
Yes of course! Whether it’s a Bollywood-Hollywood or any other film industry I think every industry needs more predominant women. I’m proud to say that Jungle Cry has highlighted and shown such a powerful female character. I hope to continue that in the work that I do in the future.
What kind of roles would you like to do in Bollywood?
I’m open to any roles. I would love to not only do Bollywood films, but Gujarati and South films as well. My dream is to act in movies, so I would love to bring a franchise film to India with a female action lead.
Who are some of the actors and directors in Bollywood that you want to work with?
I grew up in the era of Rani Mukerji, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan. It would be my dream to work with anybody from that era of Bollywood. As for directors, I just recently watched Gangubai Kathiawadi, and I fell in love with the story, characters, and setting. It would be an honour to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali.