After a dream debut with a commercially and critically acclaimed blockbuster like Arjun Reddy, it is natural for any actress to cement her position in the industry that provided her the successful launchpad. However, Shalini Pandey does not believe in any linguistic barrier as such. She has already forayed into Tamil cinema, completed a romantic comedy opposite actor-composer GV Prakash, has started shooting for another film with Jiiva and is in talks for Dulquer Salmaan’s next untitled travelogue.
Asked if she is being choosy about her characters since she has not signed any film in Tollywood after Arjun Reddy, Shalini, in an exclusive chat she said, “I’m not a choosy person and even for Arjun Reddy, I didn’t decide how I should look on screen. What is important is the narration and if I can visualise my whole character and its placement in the movie looks convincing, then I would definitely go for it. Also, I won’t take my decisions in a jiffy. I will sleep over it and the next morning, if I feel good about the story, I will do it.”
That Shalini hails from a strong theater background reflects in her decisions. “It’s for the passion for acting I entered the industry, not for money or fame,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Before Arjun Reddy’s success, I was Shalini and after the success, I was Preethi. It’s very different when you are a public figure suddenly. People wave at me and take selfies. It’s all sweet but I think it’s my job and I’m doing it just like everyone else. Otherwise, I’m a very private person since my childhood but considering the love and the success these audiences gave me, I’m bound to reciprocate it.”
Arjun Reddy, directed by Sandeep Vanga and starring Vijay Deverakonda in the lead role, raked in the moolah at the ticket window when it hit screens last year and emerged as a true-blue box office phenomenon in both local and overseas markets. The film grossed nearly Rs 50 crores at the worldwide box office and ended up as a profitable venture for all the stakeholders involved. However, the film’s massive success didn’t affect any of Shalini’s decisions. “The overnight fame has never gotten into my head. Even before I did Arjun Reddy, when people used to smile at me, I would smile back. I would talk to them. That has been my nature. But now, when people call me Preethi, I get emotional and it’s the overwhelming love that makes things different,” she avers.
Shalini’s next Telugu release would be Mahanati, the biopic of yesteryear actress Savitri, on 29 March. “I signed Mahanati before the release of Arjun Reddy. It’s a biopic and every one has got a real life character to portray on screen. I liked my part very much and there’s no need to worry about how many stars are part of the film. It doesn’t matter if it is a two-month schedule or just a few hours shooting. What I do should excite me. So I never had apprehensions about a multi-starrer or the screen space,” she said. Mahanati has Keerthy Suresh playing the titular character and Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Dulquer Salmaan and Vijay Deverakonda essay pivotal roles.
In her first Tamil film 100 Percent Kadhal, Shalini has co-starred with GV Prakash. The movie, directed by MM Chandramouli, is a remake of Telugu hit 100% Love which starred Naga Chaitanya and Tamannaah as leads. Showering praise on her co-star Prakash, Shalini said, “GV is extremely talented and I didn’t know that some of the music that I used to listen was his composition. He is a very chilled-out guy and a real kid. During our shoot, I grew closer to GV and his wife Saindhavi. We have become good friends and we used to hang out and I stay at their place when I come to Chennai. His 100 % Kadhal music has also come out really well. The film will be released in April.”
Currently, Shalini is shooting for her Tamil heist comedy Gorilla, where she pairs up with actor Jiiva. “We have completed the first schedule in Pondicherry. The movie features a real chimp and we will start a month-long schedule in Bankok from February 20.” Gorilla is being directed by Don Sandy, known for his work in crime thriller Mahabalipuram, and produced by Vijayaraghavendra of All In Pictures. Vikram Vedha-fame Sam CS has been signed to compose the music for the film.
Despite Telugu being an alien language, Shalin walked the extra mile and dubbed in her own voice for Arjun Reddy. Asked if she would also lend her voice for Tamil projects, she said, “I’m yet to decide about dubbing on my own in Tamil. Because I’m not finding it as comfortable as Telugu. It might take some time I guess.”
On the occasion of Valentine’s Day this year, Shalini unearthed another talent of hers. She made her debut as a singer with an independent single ‘Naa Pranamay’, a Telugu romantic song. She collaborated with the Indian pop-rock band Lagori for the track. Talking about rendering her vocals for the first time, Shalini said, “Though I’m not a trained Carnatic singer like my mother, singing is something I always loved to do. I have known this pop-rock band Lagori for years. Four years back, when I was in college, I went to Mumbai to meet them to be a part of their band and now they are like my family. They have done incredibly good work in independent music.”>