She could have easily been on the other side of the table and be writing this story instead of giving an interview. A degree in journalism is not something everyone can boast of.
She could have continued her job as a radio jockey. A successful prime time radio host is not something anyone and everyone can aspire to be.
She could slip into a corporate suit and control the proceedings at a board room at ease. After all, a degree from IIM, Kolkata, is stuff in dreams for most of us.
But the young and gritty girl shunned all of this and decided to create a career in acting on television. Her first show 12/24 Karol Bagh on Zee is already creating waves in the TRP charts. Meet Smriti Kalra – the latest phenomenon on Indian television. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with TellyChakkar.
Tell us something about yourself.
My father is a senior officer of the Indian Army. Currently he is posted in Chennai as a Brigadier. I have a brother who is a software engineer and my mother is a homemaker. Being part of an Army family, I have roamed around the entire country, thanks to my father’s postings and am currently residing in Delhi.
I completed my graduation in journalism and was pursuing a course in business management from IIM, Kolkata. Besides this, I was also hosting radio shows on Red FM.
How did an aspiring journalist become an RJ?
There is an interesting story. During school and college days, everyone does a lot of things for fun. One day in our college there was a radio jockey hunt going on for a radio channel. Out of 35000 contestants, I got selected and was chosen to host shows. Since I was doing this entire thing for fun, I got a bit scared and declined the offer. Somehow a competing channel got to know of this and some time later offered me a job. And to my utter surprise, I said yes to them! That is how I became a radio jockey.
Frankly, I really liked my job as an RJ. Every day I could speak to so many people and know so many things – there is definitely a great charm associated with it.
And, how did the successful RJ become a television actress?
(smiles) The transformation happened in the coffee shop! In fact, I tell all my friends who aspire to become an actor to go to this coffee shop in Green Park and sit there.
Jokes apart, I was sipping my hot coffee there when suddenly some people from the production house (Sunshine Productions) approached me. Apparently they had observed me for some time and felt that I suited the character best. They passed on their business card to me and requested me to contact them if I was interested in playing a role in their forthcoming serial.
Expectedly, my first reaction was not very good. I thought it was a trap for me and felt slightly offended knowing that they had been observing me for some time. But then when I saw the business card I noticed a real address, a known logo and a real company. I decided to take a chance and contacted them later. I went for the audition and everything happened the way it should I got the lead role of Simi Shetty in the show.
What is so unique about Simi Sethi that drew your attention?
Well, there is nothing unique about Simi Sethi! I had rejected this character twice before saying yes to the production house. Firstly, I am 22 years old in real life and will be playing the role of a 28-year-old lady. Then I will have to play someone who is overweight. My mother asked me to decline the offer since she felt this would not be a good launch vehicle.
But then I realised, Simi is a typical Indian girl whom you can find in every nook and corner of our country. Plus the characters in this show are not at all melodramatic. And that is what appealed most to me. My character’s name is Simran Sethi, lovingly called Simmo by her father. She is the eldest amongst three sisters and a brother and has a very peaceful family life. Simi is not getting married because she is slightly overweight, thereby increasing the worries of her parents.
She falls in love with a guy younger to her and that is when problems start. Since, even today, a girl falling in love with a younger guy is a taboo in our society.
Is it true that you put on weight for this role?
Yes! I had. Otherwise how could I play the role of an overweight Simi. I ate a lot of junk food and stopped playing squash my favourite pass-time. Even earlier, I never used to do workouts, neither do I do now. I feel junk foods and stopping of squash did the trick. I gained a lot of weight in the last couple of months. Please don’t ask me my weight now. I happened to stand on a weighing scale few days back and was shocked! I am looking forward to getting back to shape soon.
How is the experience working in this serial? 12/24 Karol Bagh is one of the few serials being shot in Delhi.
It is a fantastic experience. Since I am also from Delhi, it is very comfortable for me. I can work without having to displace myself to a different city. In fact, almost all the actors of this show are from Delhi. Since the story is based in Delhi, shooting at the locales instead of sets is making the show much more authentic and good to watch. Bengali Market, Delhi University, Karol Bagh …it is proving to be a great experience for me. Since the producers believe in authenticity, I do not think they will move away from Delhi.
Does this mean adieu to radio jockeying?
I don’t think so. I really love hosting shows on radio. My radio station has still not accepted my resignation. I am in discussions with them for hosting a weekend show. I really love the way a radio jockey can directly connect with the listeners and get instant feedback. At the same time, I am enjoying acting a lot. I was connecting with my listeners from behind the cameras, now I have come in front and they can see me as well. The only thing which I hate in acting is make-up.