Aurangabad girl Rajshri Deshpande will be seen in India’s first, all-out female buddy movie project by internationally-acclaimed director Pan Nalin
She came to Pune to study law against her parents’ wishes and even ran an advertising agency here for a few years before the acting bug bit her. While most actresses prefer staying single, at least at the beginning of their career, Rajshri Deshpande began her stint as an actor after marrying her childhood friend. In fact it was her husband who saw the ‘fire’ in her and encouraged her to join an acting school in Mumbai.
Recalling her early days when she first came to the city, Rajshri talks about how difficult it was for her to convince her over-protective parents to let their daughter to begin a life of her own in a strange city. “I still remember the first day of my college. As soon as we entered the gate, there was a sea of students from different cities and backgrounds. Some wearing clothes shorter than my mother could even imagine, walking freely and talking to girls and boys alike. It was a cultural shock for her, but I somehow managed to comfort my mother by saying that everything is going to be just fine. Surprisingly, it was my mother who wanted me to do something different from the usual. She has been a government official and led a rather monotonous life. She wanted me to do something different, but my father, like most middle-class parents, wanted to me to become either a doctor, engineer or a lawyer.”
Always drawn towards the creative field, Rajshri started working as a media planner in an advertising agency to earn some extra pocket money so she could fund her extensive travels. She also participated in theatre in the city and eventually started her own advertisement agency. By this time, her family had started pressurising her to get married and settle down like her other siblings. “I was not prepared to get married so early, but my father wouldn’t hear any excuses and that’s when I decided if at all I had to marry, it would be to someone I knew well. After marriage, I moved to Mumbai and seeing my passion for acting and the performing arts, my husband pushed me to join an acting school. I joined Whistling Woods International, which changed my life forever. It was a different world out there, where every day was a new chapter and there was so much to learn. I have always been an ardent learner, be it any field. So even after finishing my course at the institute, I joined Naseeruddin Shah’s Method School, which was a great experience altogether.” While Naseer may look a bit sombre, he is a great mentor and brings out the best in you, says Rajshri, who has also handled production work for the senior actor’s theatre group ‘Motley’ for over a year.
But, like every budding actor, Rajshri too, had to go through testing times and struggle hard to get a break. “I would audition at multiple places to get a chance, and if things wouldn’t show up, I would just pack my bags and head out. I love travelling and consider myself a gypsie. It was also because I travelled extensively across the country that I met interesting people and learned different art forms apart from languages. In Kerala, I trained in Kathakali and Kalaripayattu.” Apparently, that’s one of the reasons that got her a prominent role in the upcoming film The Angry Indian Goddesses. “When the casting director, Dilip Shankar (Life of Pi), called me to come for an audition, I was thrilled. At the meeting they asked me several questions about how and why I started acting, what are my hobbies, etc., and when I told them about my interests in dance, travels and social work, they looked at me quite thoughtfully, as if they were trying to gauge something. I instantly knew that they didn’t just wanted someone who likes acting, but someone more substantial. Luckily, I was amongst one of the 200 girls who were auditioned to play the role of Lakshmi.”
Rajshri’s role, as a housemaid, is a very challenging one in the film, the actor says. “I play Sarah Jane Dias’ domestic help, whose family has been serving in the house for generations. She is not just a regular maid, but a prominent part of Sarah’s life — more like a sister, friend and companion. Almost every day, I would reach the set and make tea for everyone to get into the skin of my character.” Rajshri will be seen sharing the screen with Anushka Manchanda, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sandhya Mridul and award-winning actor, Adil Hussain, besides others. The film was recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it finished second for the People’s Choice Award. Being billed as the first Indian female buddy film, it also marks Pan Nalin’s debut in mainstream cinema.
Rajshri has also appeared in a couple of television shows before getting into films. She was last seen in a Malayalam film called Haram and will soon be seen in a Bengali film too.