Talk Time: Bollywood Bound
Indian-American Shruthi Mathur has high hopes as she turns to acting in films. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Mathur was a television reporter and a screenwriter before she set her sights on Bollywood. In the recent film Banjo, she plays the part of an American friend, a role that was a dream come true for this Virginia native.
You’re an actress, a TV reporter, Johns Hopkins
graduate, Nickelodeon screenwriter. How does that
all play together in your life?
I come from a family of artists and entrepreneurs and dreamers and doers. From a young age, I saw my parents fight for every single opportunity. So it really motivated me. I’m kind of like a many-jobs-at-once type of girl. It fuels my creativity. But I do have one overall passion, which is storytelling. The way I like to look at it is that when I’m a writer, I can create worlds from above. As a reporter, I can look in from the edges. As an actor I can sort of live within.
The work that you do now, was that a natural progression
from what you studied at JHU?
I guess again it comes back to the storytelling aspect. When I left college, I had a really cool opportunity to work as an international TV correspondent on air for channels that are based in the Middle East and Africa and Asia. Reporting on stories every single day, it makes you so hungry and so interested in the world. The rest was a natural progression, kind of going where my interests led me.
You had a really good resume even before your
work in Bollywood, so what made you decide to take
that on, how did that come about?
Ever since I was a child, I loved acting. I loved the immediacy and the physical aspect. I think that actors are like chameleons and you’re just time travelling in a sense, living through hundreds of different lives, and that was something that I always wanted to do. For Banjo, I was working on a commercial, and the casting director said, “Oh you would be perfect for this movie,” and I was short-listed, along with 40 others. Ravi Jadhav, the director, chose me and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I got to play an American New Yorker.
How important was Bollywood for you when you
were growing up? Did you guys watch a lot of it?
My grandparents lived with us when I was growing up, so I have so many fond memories of just crawling up in their bed on a lazy summer evening and watching these old Bollywood films. As a kid I loved the pageantry, the colors, everything. I learned Hindi through watching those movies.
Many of our readers watch Bollywood movies.
What don't they know about what's going on behind
Just how dedicated the people are behind the scenes. Our cinematographer, for instance, spent hours putting together these beautiful shots. Just the spectacle of the production is amazing. Every little thing is so carefully thought out, and everybody really wants to come together to tell this beautiful story at the end of the day. I think maybe what people don’t realize sometimes is just how hard working and passionate and dedicated, that they really are artists behind the scenes. And that it takes hundreds of people.
Have your parents seen the movie?
Yes! My parents saw the first show on the first day and they filled the theater with their friends and family, which was so sweet. I got family and friends and even fans from around the world from Sydney to Singapore, and Bahrain to Bangkok, so many people writing to me. I was really surprised by how much of a global impact Bollywood has. The fact that I can work on a project that’s seen by millions of people from all different countries...that connection is what I crave, that’s what fuels my creativity and excites me the most.
Whether it’s Hollywood or Bollywood, there’s so much scope for storytelling. I don’t want to limit myself. I’m not sure what the future holds but my new motto is, “On to the next adventure.”
What would your advice be for kids who want to
follow your path?
I can’t stress enough the importance of creating your own opportunities. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you that you can do something. If you believe in it, you have to dream, but then you have to do. Take those first steps. You’re the star of your own story.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor. Learn more at WordCumulus.WordPress.com.
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