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Actor, Artist, And Now A Restauranteur—This Is Shefali Shah Like Never Before

A name that resonates with powerful acting, Shefali Shah's first restaurant Jalsa, has several dining experiences for food lovers.

Bindu Gopal Rao

Shefali Shah is an actor, artist, designer, and restauranteur. At the launch of her restaurant Jalsa in Bengaluru—that she has designed and co-owns—it is the eclectic interiors and hand-painted walls that make a compelling statement. Naturally, a peppy and fun conversation with this powerhouse of talent had to ensue. In an exclusive chat with Zee Zest, she tells us about how she follows her passion.

Edited Excerpts

1. Congratulations on the launch of Jalsa.Tell us about the concept of the restaurant?

Jalsa, like the word, is all about celebration. Celebration is incomplete without food, family, friends, music, dance, and other fun stuff. The restaurant just encompasses all of this and all the places we could not visit since 2020, and hence the spaces here have a different vibe. So, whether it is the Moroccan area or the carousel, each space is designed differently. This is our second outlet after we launched in Ahmedabad. 

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Shefali Shah at Jalsa, Bengaluru
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Indoor seating area at Jalsa Bengaluru
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Interiors of Jalsa, Bengaluru

2. You complete almost 27 years in the film industry. How do you look back at your journey?

To be very honest it was not very eventful, to begin with. But in the last two years, it's been amazing and touchwood—I am finally doing work that inspires me. 

3. Was acting something that you always wanted to do?

It was not planned, and I just stumbled upon it. In school I did a Gujarati commercial play as a teacher's husband was a playwright. After that, there was a break, and then I got back into acting. 

4. Are there any actors that you admire?

Yes, my god, there are so many! Meryl Streep is someone everyone admires, she's God. I also love the work of Olivia Colman and Cate Blanchett. Actually, there are so many good actors, it's just amazing.  

5. You have an impressive body of work. Is there a dream role that you aspire to do?  

Well, I am a greedy actor, so I want to do all kinds of roles. In fact, any role that really turns me inside out is what I will do.  

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Stills from Kayoze Irani's short 'Ankahi' in the anthology film Ajeeb Daastaans, featuring Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul

6. You have worked across theatre, television, films, and OTT. Which medium do you like the most? 

Well, these mediums are all very different, but for me, they are not the reason I choose my roles. For me, it never really matters where my work is going to be screened. The reason why I pick a role is the script—what kind of role I have and who the director is. So, I don't really care too much about the medium of its screening. If I had to choose, I would say films, theatre, and OTT are what I focus on. Television is what I started with, but it's not the kind of work I want to do now.

7. You have received a lot of well-deserved appreciation for your role as Dr Gauri Nath in the Disney+ Hotstar web series, Human. How was the experience?

Everything about this series was very consuming and very exhausting. And it took everything out of me. But at the same time, it did not have any outlines and I could go crazy with my imagination interpreting the character. And it's a role that I have never done before, so it was very challenging. But I must add it was also very exciting for me as an actor. It was a risk, and I am so glad I took that chance.  

8. How was it working with Vipul Shah, your husband after a long time?

It was very good. I mean I respect him tremendously as a person and as a director, and vice versa. So, it was great and I chewed his brains, as I do with every director. 

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9. Tell us about your love for food and your favourite cuisine?

Oh my God, food means everything to me. I love food! I am a complete foodie and love all kinds of food. But if I had to pick, I would choose meen gassi (Mangalorean fish curry), kori rotti (Mangalorean chicken gravy served with crisp dry rice wafers), kanji, and my mom's dal as these are all linked to my childhood memories of food.

10. Tell us about your work as an artist and what led you to art?

My art journey started when my kids started going to this amazing teacher, and I also started learning. It kind of developed from there. I used to draw as a child, and I went to an art school in Barcelona to do a course. I have painted a few walls in the restaurant and all the artwork in Human is mine. I also displayed and sold my art pieces at a group show at the Jehangir Art Gallery. But I have not really focused on it.  

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Shefali working on an art piece at Jalsa

11. There is an explosion of content on OTT platforms. Do you believe it is a good time to be an actor?

Absolutely yes! And not just for an actor, but also for any creative person. Because there is so much you can create, explore, experiment, and express.

12. How has life changed and what lessons have you learned post-COVID?

I think we all started treasuring our relationships as we learned how unpredictable life is and how incomplete it is without the people you love. Life is so unpredictable that it is important to celebrate every single moment.

13. What's next for you? 

With movies, I have Jalsa, the film. There are also Darlings, Dr. G, Delhi Crime 2, and Three of Us.  

Photo: Jalsa
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