‘Everybody would say I should act like my sister’

‘Padmini and I are very different people.’
‘Our acting styles are very different. She’s from a different era.’

Photograph: Kind courtesy Tejaswini Kolhapure/Instagram

Despite her film outings with renowned names like Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam, Tejaswini Kolhapure remains a talent Bollywood has yet to recognise.

She is the youngest amongst the three Kolhapure sisters and aunt to Shraddha Kapoor.

Introduced to film audiences in 2003 with Kashyap’s Paanch, Tejaswini did only limited roles in her more that two decade-long career.

After her noteworthy performance in Hansal Mehta’s acclaimed series Scoop, Tejaswini is now eager to do more substantial roles.

“I stopped working and that was my biggest mistake,” she tells Mayur Sanap/Rediff.com. “Now in the last couple of years, I haven’t stopped. Irrespective of whether the film is releasing or not, whether my role is cut or not, I’m moving ahead.”

Why do we see so less of you on screen? Are you moody with your choice of work?

Yes and no. The kind of work that’s coming to me has not been very good.

I’ve also been taking breaks in between. That has made me look like I have vanished, but I’ve been doing other stuff as well.

I’m an entrepreneur. We have a production house.

I’ve been doing various things, so I’ve got my hands full.

IMAGE: Tejaswini in Yes Papa.

What made you say yes to Yes Papa?

The topic that it tackles. Also, the character I play is a very positive one.

I’ve been offered a lot of negative characters all these years.

Like, Ugly is not a positive character.

Even my first film (Paanch) was not a positive character.

In Scoop also, I didn’t have a positive character.

I’ve been always doing stuff which is slightly off.

My character has grey shades in Zindagi Kashmakash as well. So this one was one role, which was absolutely positive and clean.

Was there any situation or dialogue that you found particularly difficult to enact?

There was a fantastic monologue, which I had to speak in court. But the director has not kept that in the film.

That was a very sensitive and chunky monologue towards the end of the film, which speaks a lot about the character as well as about the person I’m fighting for.

IMAGE: Tejaswini and Kay Kay Menon in Anurag Kashyap’s Paanch.

Your debut film Paanch was unreleased. Few of your other films didn’t work out as well. You once said your role was significantly cut in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan. As an actor, do you feel short-changed?

Of course I do. Unfortunately, a lot of people have gone through this.

It really put me down in the beginning, and I think that’s the reason why I disappeared and re-appeared and disappeared again.

There were also personal setbacks. My mom passed away, and that kind of put me on the back foot for a long time.

Roles getting cut or films not releasing is a big deterrent in an actor’s life. But I think what I didn’t realise at that point of time was to keep going. I stopped working, and that was my biggest mistake.

Now in the last couple of years, I haven’t stopped.

Irrespective of whether the film is releasing or not, whether my role is cut or not, I’m moving ahead.

Your parents were not from the film industry. You were quite young when your older sister Padmini became a star. Were you inclined towards acting after seeing her stardom?

I never even thought of getting into acting.

I’ve always been inclined towards studies.

I wanted to follow my mother’s footsteps (her mother worked for Indian Airlines).

Both my sisters are much older than me and they got married early. I was raised as a single child.

My father was a classical singer and that’s how I got connected to classical music. My mom was in the airline industry.

IMAGE: Tejaswini with Parizad Kolah Marshall, left and Maria Goretti during their modelling days. Photograph: Kind courtesy Tejaswini Kolhapure/Instagram

What was your childhood like?

When my sister got married, I was very, very, young. I used to hate going on a set.

I used to go on a set when it was outdoors. I used to enjoy going out of the country. That was my vacation time.

When I was in college, I started getting offers because of my sister.

I wasn’t sure, so I got into modelling instead.

I had Gautam Rajadhyaksha as my photographer and Mickey Contractor did my makeup.

That was my introduction to camera and makeup.

I did a couple of auditions, but said no to them because I wanted to finish my studies. I have always idolised my mom and she was the only graduate in our house.

I wanted to follow her footsteps. I even wanted to get into the airline industry at that point of time.

So I gave half-hearted auditions and then said no to them, but then modelling happened.

Did you enjoy modeling?

I did when I was doing it, but then after some time, you don’t feel very productive as a human being.

Walking the ramp is probably for 10 minutes. The rest of the day, you have to sit and chat, do your makeup and all.

The whole not using your mind wasn’t very exciting.

I wanted to do something else.

When you started out in acting profession, did you imagine your career to be like your sister’s?

Padmini and I are very different people.

Our acting styles are very different. She’s from a different era.

The thought process is also very different, so comparisons are out of the question.

I got into theatre much earlier and thoroughly enjoyed it.

A couple of years ago, she started doing theatre and we keep discussing, like, ‘How did you do this?’ or ‘How did you do that?’

IMAGE: Shraddha Kapoor with Tejaswini and her daughter Vedika. Photograph: Kind courtesy Shraddha Kapoor/Instagram

What’s lovely is the bond you share with your sisters, Shivangi and Padmini. What advice did they give you when things were not working out in your favour?

I totally love them. We are always nagging each other, but have each other’s backs.

My eldest sister Shivangi thinks I am too ambitious and that I should be at home, not working. (Laughs.)

Padmini feels I am in between, like I am ambitious, but at the same time, I am casual, which is true.

I have a daughter now, so she is very particular about how I am with my daughter. Like my career shouldn’t take over my daughter’s upbringing. Both my sisters feel that.

What was the reason that Shivangi left her acting career?

Both my sisters used to sing.

They used to sing with R D Burman, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle… They have done a lot of songs.

After that, Padmini transitioned into acting and Shivangi did her styling.

Then Shivangi was offered a movie called Kismat with Shakti (Kapoor), in which she was playing Mithun Chakraborty’s sister.

There was a scene where Shakti kidnaps her and he actually kidnapped her and they got married. (Laughs.)

She was going to be launched in a film called Laila by Saawan Kumar Tak. She was signed and everything.

Her story would have been different, but she got married.

(Poonam Dhillon was eventually signed up for Laila).

Did you ever consider singing as career option?

I didn’t but I have been learning classical music for the last six years now.

I’m hoping to do something with music in the future.

IMAGE: Tejaswini as Rambha Maa in Hansal Mehta’s Scoop.

What was the lowest phase in your career and what did it teach you about this profession?

The lowest phase in my life was when my first film Paanch didn’t release.

Everybody put in so much effort and we just knew that it was a fantastic film.

The kind of responses we got way back then were not very good because the film was way ahead of its times.

Producers were shocked when they saw it.

But when we showed it to my modeling gang, they were blown away. That was the kind of audience the film was targeting.

Anyway, the film didn’t release and it was a big setback.

The other thing was when I used to go for auditions, everybody would say that I should act like my sister, which was ridiculous. I used to come home dejected, not understanding what they wanted of me.

I didn’t want to ape her, I had my own way of performing.

Somebody once said ‘Speak with your eyes’, and I could never understand what that meant.

When you’re a young actor, you don’t understand this. When you work a little bit more, you understand what speaking with your eyes means.

I used to wonder if I was in the right profession.

But this profession has made me strong. It has made me understand that you have to keep doing something, you shouldn’t take a break.

You must have heard about people waiting for their first film. Like Arjun Rampal waited seven years for his debut film to release.

At that point of time, everybody used to just keep waiting and waiting, and that frustration used to be so much.

Times have changed now.

People don’t wait for something brilliant to happen. If it happens, great, but they still have a Plan B.

That was something which I didn’t have; I didn’t have a Plan B.

Thankfully, I had my family’s support. I’m grateful that I was born in Mumbai and my family was here.

Young actors, who leave their small towns, don’t have that kind of backing. It’s very, very tough for them.

Today you get a project, tomorrow you don’t know whether you’re in it or not. That’s what happened to me in Raavan.

What was told to me and what eventually happened was completely different.

I was so overwhelmed with the kind of feedback I got for Scoop. I never thought it would happen.

IMAGE: Tejaswini with her daughter Vedika, sisters Shivangi, Padmini, and niece Shraddha. Photograph: Kind courtesy Tejaswini Kolhapure/Instagram

Shraddha Kapoor is this generation’s superstar from your family. How’s your equation with her? As her aunt, what kind of advice does she come to you for?

Shraddha has such a personality that she is very receptive to listening.

All of us, Padmini and me, we sit and speak to her about a lot things, with regard to her life and career.

Of course, at the end of the day, it’s her life and her choices.

But she is ready to listen.

She is ready to change things about herself, about what she wants to do.

Do you think you would have done better had the situation been any different in your case?

I don’t know. But I don’t have regrets.

The very fact that I’m still around and still working, I’m thankful for that.

I don’t know how many people can say that about themselves.

I am moving ahead and that’s what is important for me.