Sheetal Thakur, Miss Himachal Pradesh 2011, is no longer an upstart in the acting world. The actress — playing Jaya in Netflix’s Upstarts and the lead in Vinay Pathak-starrer Chappad Phaad Ke streaming on Hotstar — is arguably the best bet for producers making features for streaming platforms right now. Why? Fresh out of modelling, this actress knows how to face the camera and in response, the camera loves her too. Currently known in tinsel town as Vikrant Massey’s girlfriend, here’s a chat The Telegraph had with the digital platform’s glam girl.
From beauty queen to acting. Was it planned?
I never planned to be an actor. I was a mechanical engineer… while pursuing my engineering this pageant thing happened and I won it, and then this modelling offers came in. Later I found I wasn’t satisfied with modelling as well and wanted to do something creative. So the acting kira happened and I smoothly shifted my gears to acting.
How did you land up in Mumbai?
I am from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh and I was working in Delhi after my engineering (and) doing modelling side by side. Someone spotted me on Instagram. His name is Punit Prakash and he is a big art director today. So he spotted me for a film that he was making and he asked me to come to Mumbai and we shot the film. Unfortunately that film never came out but that was my journey from Delhi to Mumbai.
Girls from smaller cities face a lot of issues in Mumbai while trying out for roles. Have you faced any such thing in Mumbai?
The scale is bigger, the pace is bigger, so you sometimes lose your way. But at the end of the day what matters is what kind of a person you are, your choice always matters. I think difficulties are everywhere, in every situation, but what matters is what you choose to do.
What about casting couch? Have you faced it?
Not exactly casting couch I would say but yeah, I have met some indecent people in some meetings who made me uncomfortable but at the end of the day it’s your call and as a girl you can gauge the vibe and if you are not feeling comfortable it’s a straight no-no from my side.
Are you happy with the role in Upstarts?
Jaya is a very headstrong girl, very clear-headed about what she wants to do with her life. She has an idea of a start-up. She doesn’t have friends who are working for her or with her and she is standing alone with her idea. She wants to bring a difference to the world because she really, really believes in that. The kind of conviction Jaya has, the kind of headstrong she is, really brought out liberation in me.
People say you are too glamorous for a middle-class template film like Chappad Phaad Ke. So what kind of role are you playing in it?
People’s imagination is really lazy. They want to slot you in a particular bracket. That is why I wanted to change the palette. I wanted to experiment with my looks and the characters that I play because I did not want to stick to the glamorous role I played.
Once you are acting with Vinay Pathak, you are automatically taken as a good actress. How did you prepare for the role?
Vinay Pathak sir is an amazing actor we all know that. I worked with him earlier in a short called Dark Blue and this is my second collaboration with him. I was just ready to go. When you are working with actors like Vinay Pathak, Ayesha Raza — who have such a theatre background and are such senior actors — and when you are put in the same frame with these guys you are compelled to pull up your game.
Upstarts and Chappad Phaad Ke are two different cultures. Was it a conscious decision?
They are different definitely but was it conscious? I don’t know because at this point in my career I can’t pick and choose as to what I want to do with my career.
People often refer to you as Vikrant Massey’s beau. Does it hurt or do you enjoy it?
Yes they do refer me as his girlfriend but I want to say that Vikrant is someone am very proud of, really proud of his journey, really proud of the person that he is. Having him around is such a support. Yeah, it’s a happy feeling. It doesn’t hurt (laughs).
What are your next projects?
Am doing another film for a streaming platform, which we will start shooting from November 3. I am not sure if I can talk about it in detail. But you will also see me soon in January in another OTT platform with a fun ride.