About Me

As legendary actor Jack Nicholson rightly said, “The minute that you are not learning, I believe you are dead.” I too started my journey based on this very principle, and still follow it. Born in the land of the exquistite Ajanta and Ellora caves at Aurangabad, in a middle class Maharashtrian Deshpande household, I was a keen observer and  complete entertainer of the family.

At the age of six when other girls nurtured the dream of getting latest dolls or toys, I was more interested in entertaining everybody around me by mimicking people and dancing soulfully on famous songs of Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit.

However as I grew up, my ultimate goal was to explore myself…explore life and learn. For me every phase of my life till date has been a learning experience, an experience that defines me… the person I am today…

The Early Years

Rajshri Deshpande, theatre and film actress.. became intrigued by the world of acting and dance when she was barely six-years-old. Her parents had a simple government job and they lived a homely, middle class life.

 

Mimicking actors and dancing on popular Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit’s songs as a child, she would perform at school events and in front of guests who visited her residence. The biggest encouragement and support during those days came from her indulgent father. Eventually, the tiny, sleepy town proved too small an arena for someone with so many wishes and dreams.

Ambitious , strong willed Rajshri left home at the tender age of 17 to pursue law in Pune.

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Pune: Begnining of a struggle…a challenge

While it was a law degree that beckoned a move to Symbiosis institute in Pune at just 17, the finances were a challenge to deal with and her father wanted her to return home.

While in Pune, she was fortunate to attract work in short films made by students of the prestigious Film & Television Institute of India (FTII).

However, in the real world, only pursuing your passion might not always take care of your expenses.

This time it was her mother who believed in her, supported her decision. Her mother however encouraged her to earn her own living in Pune, a task Rajshri was unprepared for at that moment.

A trained Kathakali dancer, Rajshri initially decided to become a part time dance teacher. By doing this Rajshri managed her finances single handedly and continued to pursue her degree in law. However little did she know where her journey and her aspiration to explore life would take her next.

The vibrant theatre culture of the city inspired her to join assorted drama groups. These groups performed street plays at various avenues including schools, colleges and  even theatre festivals.

Rajshri says: “Money was always a big problem in those days. Many a times I didn’t know what I am going to eat for the next couple of days. I got a job in an advertising agency. It was a small firm, so I had had to take care of everything. From taking briefs from the clients to making ‘chai’ for my boss, I was the one who was responsible. I worked a lot. I learned a lot.

Rajshri started her own company, with the help from a friend  and named it ‘Czar Content’. She invested a lot of hard work, efforts , hope and her company started flourishing.

However, those bitten by the acting bug can never stray too far from the stage and the spotlight.

Rajshri says, “Life was almost set there, but something was amiss. All the while, as I was pursuing my degree in law at Symbiosis at Pune or my stint  at an advertisement agency, one thing that kept me going was the hope to make it big. I knew I wanted to do something else. And even though every thing was set, my dreams of making something big started haunting me again. I was worked up with the same old routine every day. I asked my business partner to take over the agency and just decided that “Ab Mumbai jaana hai.”  (Its now time to go to Mumbai)

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Mumbai….an unprecedented journey

She shifted to the bustling city of Mumbai and experienced the longest and toughest struggle. But there was no looking back for her

After she shifted her base n Mumbai, Rajshri joined Whistling woods International, which changed her life forever. “ It was a diferent world out there, and everyday I got to learn new things,” Rajshri said.

Following a two years training at Rob Reese (actors studio) and renowned actor Naseeruddin Shah’s Method school, Mumbai, She even signed up with Naseer’s Motley Group for handling production for over a year. This stint with Motley taught her all the aspects of backstage production and slowly led to work with other theatre groups.

Living in India’s financial capital was a dream that largely comprised of auditions, meetings, rejections and even exploitation.

The word “struggler” is commonly associated with budding actors in Bollywood and Rajshri’s days as a “struggler” also became the period of her training ground. Reading literature, watching world cinema, learning the dance form of Kathakali, sword fighting and spontaneous travelling became a part of her journey. It also led to her foray into television, a medium that was her stepping to the big screen, while paying for her living expenses in the city. Rajshri continued to face this struggle and worked hard to turn it into an opportunity… Her Television assignments include ‘Kuch to Log Kahenge’ and Anil Kapoor’s hit TV show named 24:India (2014) where she played the character of Agent Veena.

Tete-e-tete with theatre

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Even Rajshri has had her ‘turning points’ in film and television assignments, the 15 years that she was associated with theatre helped her in becoming a complete performer. It not only boosted her as an actor but connected her directly with the audience and role/character she played…

Rajshri: “I remember standing behind the curtain backstage whispering to myself and collecting my thoughts. My heart would be racing and my stomach would be filled with excitement, it was such a thrilling adventure, and still is whenever I am performing on stage. When I am doing theatre…I put all my heart and soul into it, I avoid any other assignments that time. Theatre has impacted my life in many ways and it continues to do so.”

After working for three television shows and almost 50 short films, it was time to move again. This time into the world of Cinema – the big screen.

Cinema: Lights! Camera! Action!

Rajshri who originally hails from Aurangabad, is now based in Mumbai. Her Film credit includes award winning film “Angry Indian Goddesses”, where she played the character of ‘Lakshmi”. The film received first runner up People’s Choice award in TIFF and people’s choice award in Rome Film Festival (RFF). She played a double role in a Malyalam feature film “HARAM” as Ameena and Roop, both the roles were critically acclaimed.

She did Cameo in Aamir Khan starrer 2012 film “Talaash” and  Salman Khan starrer 2014 film”Kick”.

The journey doesnot end here, Rajshri has a number of exciting films slated to release in 2016 – including Multilingual film “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani?” –Late Bappaditya Bandopadhyay’s Bengali film as a insurgant.

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One woman…different roles

A woman with many facets, Rajshri also plays multiple roles in her personal life apart from being a professional actor…

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An Actor:

To explain the kind of actor she is and wants to be…Rajshri quotes Annette Bening – “ Acting is not about being famous..its about exploring a human soul.” As an actor, she pours herself into her characters and often drowns in them, she laughingly admits. Rajshri says, “I love this profession — acting, the art of getting transformed into another self. Actors are blessed, as they get a chance to live many many selves in this one lifetim. Becoming a new person each time, is a big challenge.”

A Danseuse:

Travelling being another hobby, Rajshri’s journey also led her to Cheruthuruthy in Kerala where she began learning dance from Kalamandalam John sir and became part of their group Kalatarangini and the Kathakali school.

An Adventurer:

Apart from acting and dance, Rajshri is trained in sword fighting and ‘KalariPayuttu’ – a form of Martial arts that originated in Kerala.

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An Activist:

Rajshri has been inclined towards community services. She has been associated with organisations such as : Dharavi Dairy, Boodhnoor Vaidyashala and SOS papa with whom she worked in Nepal after the massive earthquakes. She is also associated with project ‘Beach O Beach’, where she joined hands with citizens and professionals of all walks of life and across the city who gather every Sunday morning to clean up city beaches. Currently Rajshri is trying to get work for girls of Rescue Founation (an NGO that not only rescues but rehabilitates and repatriate girls from human trafficking). Rajshri is negotiating with a New Delhi based fashion brand Pero for the same. Not to forget her efforts to highlight and address the issue of  violence against women. To mark her protest against this growing violence against women, Rajshri initiated a dance drama called – Bahula.

An avid traveller:

Journeys are a quintessential part of Rajshri’s calling. A spontaneous traveller who prefers unknown, unexplored destinations to the familiar, she loves to simply take off without any advance preparations or undue cautions.

An explorer and a learner: 

To me life is an unprepared journey to unknown places. Uncertainty is the most inevitable thing. Whatever station comes, I get off, take a look around, enjoy being there and move on towards a new location.

The joy of being there is the joy of my life. The geographical, mental, emotional journeys are the things which define me. I wish the journey goes on and on. Life is an ongoing process of learning, and I wish I never stop learning.”

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Filmography… at a glance

Every character I have played, whether it was a cameo, or a lead, it has always taught me something and I grew with these roles—as a person and as an actress. I just put my heart and soul into my work and try to understand my character.

Film / TV Year Director Character/ Role Awards
Sexy Durga (Filming)( Multi Lingual) 2017  SanalKumar Shashidharan Durga
Justice (Bengali film)(Filming) 2016  Bappadity Bandhopadhya Shruti
Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani (Multi Lingual) 2016  Jiju Anthony Ganga
Mumbai Central (Hindi) Released 2016  Karan Radhakrishnan Gauri
Angry Indian Goddesses 2015  Pan Nalin Laxmi  TIFF – 1st Runner up people’s choice award Rome – People’s Choice Award ( RFF)
Haram ( Malyalam film ) 2015 Vinod Sukumaran Ameena and Rupa
Kick ( Hindi ) 2014  Sajid Nadiyadwala Sharma
Talaash 2014 Reema Katgi  Priya
24 ( India TV Series) 2013 Anil Kapoor Production Agent Veena
Kuch Toh log Kahenge(India TV Series) 2012-13 Rajan Shahi Suhasini  Sony Channel Award for the best show
For Hire(Short Film) 2012 Varun Chawla Maya  Part of Cannes Short film Circuit
More than 30 short-films with Film institutes and Indepedent Directors