Exclusive: Shweta Tripathi Sharma On Shooting ‘The Gone Game’ At Home And Lockdown Life With Husband, Rapper Slow Cheeta
The coronavirus lockdown has been a relaxing time for many, while others, such as healthcare professionals, the media or IT peeps, have been working as if nothing really changed. Some have said work from home is cool; others can’t wait to be back in their workplaces. For actors like Shweta Tripathi Sharma, the lockdown brought a unique opportunity for work from home. As part of an exciting new thriller on Voot Select, The Gone Game, Shweta along with actors Sanjay Kapoor, Arjun Mathur, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Rukhsar Rehman, Lubna Salim, Indraneil Sengupta, and Dibyendu Bhattacharya, got to turn their own homes into sets of the show! Shot entirely by the actors at their homes, The Gone Game had director Nikhil Bhat, DOP Piyush Puty and the producers steer the ship over Zoom calls!
Clearly, this would’ve been an unforgettable experience for the actors, with lots of learning, obstacles, and unexpected triumphs. The plot harnesses the very real fears of people that a loved one might catch COVID-19, walk out of the house to seek medical help, and might never be seen again if the infection causes them to pass. That’s exactly what the Gujral family is going through on The Gone Game when Arjun Mathur’s Sahil Gujral has been declared dead after he left home to seek medical assistance for his COVID-19 diagnosis. However, when his sister Amara’s phone flashes Sahil’s number, days after his death, the family begins questioning every thing that they know so far.
Sounds pretty darn interesting, no? The Gone Game dropped on Voot Select on August 20 And the show has been garnering praise across the board for pulling off this feat, and for keeping the audience at the edge of their couches with its mystery.
In an exclusive chat with us, Masaan, Raat Akeli Hai and Mirzapur actor Shweta Tripathi Sharma talks about what an actor’s work-from-home during the lockdown would be like. She also spills some candid deets about how her husband, Chaitnya Sharma aka rapper Slow Cheeta, helped her shoot the entire thing. Oh and a very interesting story about her delicious Instagram handle that I am glad I asked her about!
Q: In The Gone Game, you play Amara, a sister rendered helpless by the lockdown when her family needs her. What drew you to the character and the concept of the show?
A: When I chose any project, the most important thing for me is the script. What is the story that I am telling? Then, it is the team—the director, DOP, producers and then definitely the co-actors. What attracted me to this project was that I hadn’t read anything like this before! The lockdown was on and we know what COVID-19 did. The Gone Game was an interesting take on it, and quite challenging because the entire series had to be shot from home. I hadn’t tried anything like this before. With every character and project, I try to do something different because I think that if I were to get bored of something, then so would my audience. And I would never want that to happen.
For example, there was this film called Zoo, which we shot many, many years ago [it’s on Netflix] that was shot entirely on an iPhone. At that time, nobody else had tried this in India (internationally, it was done in ‘Tangerine’). So when I got to know about The Gone Game, it intrigued me. I was happy that it wasn’t a half-baked script. Even if there wasn’t a lockdown, I would’ve done it!
It feels really nice when you read something and it excites you. I like to think from the perspective of the audience—If I were watching this, would I enjoy it? And when I read the script, I was like, “I definitely would want to see this!”
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Q: How was it like, shooting without a director present there, or your co-actors’ reactions to feed off of?
A: There were different kinds of challenges throughout our shoot. Acting is a lot about improvising, timing, feeling and reactions. When you take the co-actor out of the equation, there’s a lot of pressure on the director—he’s not only looking at your performance but he’s also trying to match it with your co-actor’s. For example, in this one scene, Sanjay Kapoor as Mr. Gujral, my character Amara’s father in the show, is on a video call with me. If he were to say, “Hello Amara, how are you?”, my reply has to be timed perfectly, because there can’t be a lag. So it was very challenging not only for the actors but for the director and DOP as well.
I missed acting with co-actors! But our director, Nikhil Bhat, did a pretty good job! I mean, I was just doing my part as Amara, but he had to ensure that every one of us actors were in sync. The DOPs and producers were always present on a Zoom call, so we had to keep our devices all charged. It was quite comforting and, of course, very important to have them, even if on a screen, for our performance.
But yes, if there’s a Season 2, I’d definitely want to do it with people on set!
Q: A lot of people have been enjoying this lockdown-induced ‘work from home’. Did you as well? What were some comforts and inconveniences of shooting like this?
A: I’m very desperate to be on set! A set is a set for a reason. When you go on set, you feel different because it belongs to your character. Shooting at home was a great learning experience, and I am very happy I did this. But I want this to be special. While shooting, we realised that ‘home’ is a very special, sacred place of comfort, of love. And I wouldn’t want to over-expose it. I don’t want the world to see where I sleep, or keep my shoes! We had to change a lot of things in the bedroom and the living room, where we shot. And now that the shoot is over, it’s all rearranged. Because I wanted Amara’s room to be different from Shweta’s room. I even borrowed my sister-in-law’s bedsheets because I wanted to the room to not feel like mine.
We were even wearing our own clothes, instead of costumes that are custom-made by someone else for our characters. So I wanted Amara to feel as different as possible from Shweta.
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Q: How have you kept yourself motivated during the lockdown? Have you explored anything new during these months?
A: I tried a lot of new things during the lockdown. Everybody was cooking all over social media, and I can’t cook to save my life! So I tried making the… Dalgona coffee, is it? And my husband had an upset stomach after that! Even I didn’t like it too much. The other day, my father-in-law and I made peanut-butter ice-cream. I had one bite of it, and then didn’t touch it again! It was a disaster!
I realised that it’s not necessary that you’d enjoy doing what everyone’s doing. You have to do things your own way and find what make you happy. One thing I’ve started enjoying during this lockdown are adult colouring books, and I can’t tell you how therapeutic they are! In fact, I am gifting a lot of my close friends those, because it is just wonderful that you’re creating stuff!
I’ve even been reading, something I used to do a lot before. Currently, I am reading ‘Caged Skies’, the book which ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is adapted from!
PS: Definitely watch Jojo Rabbit if you haven’t!
Q: The show clearly shows that the lockdown has been hard on families. How has it been for you and yours?
The lockdown has been a difficult time for a lot of people, and a great learning experience as well. I’ve started practicing a lot of gratitude. One thing I have learnt is that every silver lining is very important. It doesn’t matter if it is a thin or a thick silver lining; you just have to hold on to it. The smaller joys in life are very important. The bigger joys are very exciting, and can make you feel all loved and bouncy. But these smaller, ‘chhotu-chhotu‘ joys are important to relish—that’s been my biggest learning.
I got to spend a lot of time with my husband. We’re both actors and he is also a musician, a rapper (Slow Cheeta). Before, either I’d be travelling or he would be. But this lockdown, we spent a lot of time together, and with our family. We used to play games after dinner, sipping on green tea! So there was a lot of quality time spent. I stay in a joint family with my mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and I needed a lot of their support for the shoot as well. It wasn’t like Cheeta and I live alone and could shoot at our convenience.
For example, when there was a kitchen shot, we had to inform everybody. Even the volume had to be kept low. So it wasn’t easy for them. But more than me, they’re excited to see this series!
Q: Do you think the lockdown hits men and women differently, especially with the existing gender roles in our society?
Definitely, because of what is expected from us. This I am hoping has changed. Men has also participated in household chores and cooking. I have a lot of couple friends, wherein the women are not that interested in cooking and the men are, and they’ve been coming up with amazing dishes. Most of my guy friends cook, so I’ve made a list of everything I am going to eat. Because even though I can’t cook, I love eating! It gives me joy, it’s a mood-setter for me.
I think it is very important to appreciate each other, even our parents, because they’re older than we are. Their immunity might not be as great as ours, but every parent I know is taking care of themselves and their family—from what’s happening in the kitchen to how to sanitise everything.
I’d like to say thank you to all the parents! Your job never ends, and as children we take you for granted. We might not say thank you enough but I’m sure we appreciate them and everyone who takes care of us.
Q: Turns out, the lockdown has been really testing for married couples stuck indoors with each other 24/7. How do you and Chaitnya keep things fun and light?
Cheeta [Chaitnya] is super entertaining. Touchwood! You can’t get bored with him. Also, he’s been creating music and it’s just so motivating. He’s careful about what he eats because he was shooting for ‘Maidaan‘ [Ajay Devgn starrer film about football], in which he plays [national football player], P.K. Banerjee. I can’t tell you how dedicated he is; he works out six times a week! Even during the lockdown, he is so particular and disciplined! His dedication that has rubbed off on me as well. I don’t do it six times, but I try to work out at least thrice a week.
So, he isn’t just entertaining but also inspiring. We both have a lot of fun. He is my best friend, and my favourite person in the entire world. In fact, when the lockdown opens up, we’ll miss each other a lot because of the quality time we spent together!
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Q: Did he help you with the shoot since it was happening at home? Since he has also released his debut EP, I have to ask. Do you both seek advice and critique each other’s works?
He shot all my scenes, except the ones that were on video call, which I had to. What was important for me when I got the project was to ask him if he would be interested. Because if he wasn’t, then the project would be quite different. I was doing something I love, but I was asking him to try out something for the first.
In fact, even the fee that I was charging for this show, in the middle of the shoot, I told Chaitnya that he should take it all, because of all the nooks and crannies he was getting into to shoot everything! Thankfully he is a very motivated and dedicated person! He was doing it for me, for love, but he loves challenges, so this became a project for him as well.
We both are each other’s biggest fans and biggest critics. Something my Dad told me is that you should always keep your critics near you because constructive feedback is important. It’s important for me that he has seen everything that I have acted in, and we wouldn’t take each other for granted. So when he would be happy about any scene or performance of mine, that made me really, really happy. And he’s very vocal about the things that he likes or dislikes. Same with me.
Actually, I wasn’t like that before. We spoke about this. We’ve been together for over 7-8 years now, and we’ve realised that growth is very important. And that growth happens when you’re honest with each other.
At this point, Shweta very kindly praised me for spelling her husband’s name right! Quick story: I wrote about her and Chaitnya’s adorable 2018 wedding for work, and what can I say, their chemistry left an impression! So did their wedding hashtag, #GoCheetaGetBattata, which is a marriage of Chaitnya’s rapper name, Slow Cheeta and Shweta’s Instagram handle, @battatawada! Since then, I have wanted to ask Shweta this supremely important question….
Q: I’ve always been curious about your Instagram handle name! It’s adorable! Backstory please?
I’ve come up with an interesting story I used to tell Cheeta about ‘battatawada’! See, I’m a very simple person and all my characters are layered, and grey and deep! But I wanted my life to be pretty straightforward, and the roller-coaster of emotions to be felt by my character when the audience is watching, not me.
So now, the answer that I have ready is… no matter what you eat, one thing that everybody loves is a potato. Which is batata! You can’t do without a batata. Be it french fries or pakoda, you add it in whichever dish, it takes on its flavour. So, I would like to believe that no matter what the character might be, I will take on that flavour and be that character, complete that dish and make it better! I think I’ve given my 100% in every project, and people who’ve worked with me so far seem quite happy with it. So I think I’ve done a decent job.
Oh, we’d definitely agree to that! Shweta Tripathi Sharma was all kinds of candid and forthcoming, and hearing her talk about her marriage just gave me major couple goals. What’s more, as someone who’s had enough experiences with work from home and the cluelessness that comes with COVID-19, her recent show hits the chords alright. We’re going to see more of her in October, with Mirzapur Season 2 date being revealed. And I cannot wait!
The Gone Game is streaming on Voot Select.