Shobha is a woman in her mid-40s wanting to live her own life besides being a mother. Although not moulded in the traditional cast of a mother, her feelings and experiences are universal. She wants to discover new avenues by following her heart and takes up cooking to become an entrepreneur. She also clicks selfies. Apparently, Shobha is on tinder and is trying to find a romantic partner.
In Anubhuti Kashyap’s directorial debut, Doctor G (2022), Sheeba Chaddha played Shobha.
“Career banaane ka to hamara bhi bahot mann tha. Humne to mann banaliya tha ki gira denge tumko (I too dreamed of making a career. I had decided to get an abortion),” she says in a dialogue in the film. This side of a mother is a rare occurrence in mainstream Hindi cinema.
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Sheeba’s vulnerable expressions, emotional meltdown and dialogue delivery have made the character natural and universal.
In Harshavardhan Kulkarni’s directorial, Badhai Do (2022), Sheeba had also played the role of a mother, Baby. It’s a film dealing with lavender marriage and also stars Rajkumar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar.
Baby is not an archetypal mother. She is slow, reluctant and lost in her own world.
In one of the scenes where Baby is reading out instructions to her daughter-in-law, Sumi (played by Bhumi Pednekar), we see a totally unconventional mother-in-law who is far removed from the life of her children. She is reluctant to take charge of things.
Ask Sheeba about her creative process and she laughs saying, “Honestly, I don’t have any process. I believe when a character is given to me, it automatically clicks and I play that part. I never sat down and worked on a road-map on how I should be playing aparticular role. Having said that, I do observe a lot of things around and then when I think about the character I am playing, it happens automatically.”
Sheeba bagged the award for the best supporting actor in the film Badhai Do in January this year.
Praises were showered upon her by critics. The 49-year-old also bagged the The Dadasaheb Phalke Award for best actress in a supporting role category for Doctor G.
Evidently, Sheeba has carved a niche for herself in the industry. In 2022, she did six noteworthy films which reaffirm the fact that there’s nothing she can’t do. Be it Baby in Badhaai Do; Pam in Maja Ma; Shobha in Doctor G; Sheela Thakurji in Khuda Haafiz: Chapter 2. She is a scene stealer and leaves us with the feeling of wanting to see more of her on the screen.
Talking about her character in Badhaai Do, the actress says, “I found the role of Baby really tough to play. But it’s also a character which I absolutely loved when I read the script. She is not that stereotypical mother who we have seen on television or cinema. She is somebody who likes to live in her own world, a bit lost but can’t be deemed as crazy. Generally, we see mothers making children the centre of their universe. But here’s Baby, who didn’t want to interfere in her son’s married life. She is happy in her little life and finds happiness in little moments like playing video games with a kid. She is reserved and a laid-back person. I was really excited to play this part but at the same time, found it very challenging.
“Today, when a script comes to me, there are obviously more nuances than before. There are details written about the characters. If we look at the characters of a mother in films or OTT, then there’s a lot that has changed. In fact, there are more nuances and layers to the character of a woman than a man,” says Sheeba to Patriot.
“It all started for me when I entered the world of theatre in Delhi. I clearly remember watching playwright and poet Sheila Bhatia’s Main Ladli Maina Teri at the Shri Ram Theatre. It was the first time I had watched something so moving. I was like mujhe bhi ye karna hai (I also want to do this). Then I went to Hansraj College and joined their dramatics society.”
By that time, the acting bug had bitten Sheeba. With more theatre in college,the interest started getting bigger and stronger. But getting into films wasn’t something that clicked her mind. She hails from a small business family in Delhi and it never occurred to her at the first place to go for acting in films.
“I was literally going with the flow and taking life as it came. You can’t plan certain things in life and in all these years, since I debuted in the 90s, all my focus was on how detailed a character can be.”
Getting nostalgic of her time in Delhi she says, “I miss the entire Mandi House area. Of course, the food. I joined a theatre group called Chingari. It was a fabulous experience and I do miss all of that.”
At one point in time, Sheeba had also thought of trying out other professions like interior designing and becoming an air-hostess.
Today, as we all are in awe of her amazing talent, it is important to note that she never thought of getting a centre-stage in her acting career. What she did, instead, was prioritise more layered characters.
Sheeba has acted in several TV shows such as Kasturi, Gubbaare, Hitler Didi, Pavitra Rishta, and many more.
“At that point, TV fiction shows were experiencing a boom and that’s exactly where an actor would have thought of beginning the career. Today, things have really changed and I must say, they have changed for the better. Although, there’s so much more that needs to improve but I am sure slowly it will,” explain the actor.
The 50-year-old signed her debut film with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali in 1999 and was seen in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. And since then, the actor has been entertaining the audience with every role she cracks. Sheeba also loves travelling and exploring new places as is evident from her Instagram page. Summing up the conversation she says, “I am looking forward for more nuanced writing.”