Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma

By Bandook - April 10, 2020

Interview by VAISHALI BHANUSHALI

‘The Tiny One’ (as singer Shirley Setia likes to call herself) has taken a big leap with her maiden Netflix release Maska. With a nationwide lockdown in effect and people ‘Netflix and chilling’ in the literal sense, Shirley’s performance is being talked about.

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma
Shirley Setia

The self-styled ‘Pyjama Popstar’ is all set to make her Bollywood debut soon with Sabbir Khan’s Nikamma, though and that’s gonna be a different ballgame altogether. But with aforesaid lockdown still in effect for the foreseeable future, Shirley managed to squeeze in time with this writer (a self-professed fan of the artist) for some candid heart-to-heart.

Excerpts from our chat…

Everyone knows you’ve always wanted to become an actor but how did this happen? First break and that too with Netflix!?

I had auditioned for the role after the producers of the film reached out to me. Post that, I had a detailed meeting with the director who told me I’d have to work on the my English and Hindi accent as he did not want it to sound like someone who had been abroad and back. He wanted it to be more authentic and true to the character. So I researched and trained my diction through the workshops, and also did a workshop for photography from Vaspan Shroff who was the still photographer for the film.

How much do you think is Maska’s Persis like Shirley? 

I have similarities, but also differences from the character. I can relate to the part where she is so passionate about stories as I love to read and know about them too, it can be truly inspirational. However she is more confident in speaking with people when wanting to know about their lives.. and I feel she is still a little more mature than I am also. It was truly amazing to live as Persis on set, and I feel I have learnt a few things from her, one of which might surely stay with me, and that’s diction! 

You had a short role in Maska, but you’re the lead in Nikamma. So more screen time means more criticism. Are you nervous? 

Nervous, yes! I would be lying if I said no. But I’m equally excited. I’ve waited and worked hard for this for so long and it feels surreal now that it is finally happening. I feel like no matter what work we do, it will always be welcomed with some praise, some criticism, and also, trolling. But what’s important for yourself to know is that you are trying your best, and that with every experience, you can only learn to better yourself.

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma
Shirley Setia with her Nikamma co-star Abhimanyu Dassani

You had talked about how you were so nervous before Maska came out because it was Netflix, and to add to it, such a stellar cast. Now that the movie is out, the reviews are amazing… how do you feel? 

It surely does feel great! I am extremely grateful that so many people have liked the film, and that it could bring smiles to faces during the lockdown. Everyone’s hard work, sincerity and love put in together made it to be how it is.. A lot of my parents’ family friends are also watching it around the world, and it just feels good to know that your family is proud of the work you are doing. I feel for me that’s my win. 

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma
(L-R) The Maska cast Prit Kamani, Manisha Koirala, Shirley Setia and Nikita Dutta

What side of Shirley do we get to see in Nikamma?

A new side! I wish I could tell you more about the project, but thoda aur wait karna padega to know more. 

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma
Shirley Setia with her Nikamma co-star Abhimanyu Dassani

If you had to describe Nikamma in one word, what would it be?

#FamilyEntertainerFilm

When you got that first call for Maska, what was going on in your head? Did you pinch yourself? Your dream had finally come true!

It felt great, and it all happened quite fast. Neeraj Sir (Maska director Neeraj Udhwani) had let me take my time to read the script and and discuss it with my parents who were at that time in NZ. Right after everything was good to go, we started workshops, and training, and we shot immediately after.

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma
Shirley Setia with her Nikamma co-star Abhimanyu Dassani

However, even before I had auditioned for Maska, I had met Sabbir Sir and started workshops for my role in Nikamma, as he wanted to see whether I would fit the character or not. So, I think my ‘Pinch me, is this real?’ moment had happened here itself!

Is there a particular incident that you can recall of that finally gave you the push ki karna hi hai ab ye, let’s do this?

I feel after my classes at New York Film Academy, I felt a lot more motivated to try and pursue this goal with more seriousness. 

Your binge list?

Currently, Money Heist Season 4 on Netflix.

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma

Persis is a photographer and a storyteller. Is Shirley a photographer in real life?

I could maybe pass as an amateur photographer, but most certainly not a professional one. My usual style is very casual, and I keep my vlogs also very much like that. 

Since it’s quarantine time, there’s no shoot happening and you are home. Can your fans expect some new music?

I just sang a song for Maska, its called I Wanna Hang With You composed by Mikey McCleary and Parth Parekh, written and co-sung by IP Singh. It felt so great to finally collaborate with Mikey. Also. It was even nicer as he is also a fellow Kiwi!

What was Team Shirley’s reaction to Maska

They are soooooo excited and happy for me. They had been waiting for the film for the longest time, and so when it was finally out, they all decided to get Netflix accounts just so they could watch Maska. It was honestly the sweetest. 

You had tweeted about your fangirl moment with Salman Khan, about how you went from making covers of his songs to being a guest on his show? How surreal does that feel?

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma

It was truly surreal. I think it all sank in when I watched it on TV the day it aired, and that was just… amazing. He even sang with me! It was a milestone moment in my life for sure, and I’m grateful to the Sony TV team and Sabbir sir for making it happen. 

Shirley Setia is ‘nervous’ and ‘equally excited’ about Bollywood debut in Nikamma

You share a great bond with your fans. And they are pretty cool. They make memes on you and you often share them too. What is your one all-time fav meme of yourself? 

Oh, there are so many! But very recently, they made one from my dialogue in Maska, and merged it with biryani and its calorie count. (Laughs) It was quite funny and I could most certainly relate to it.

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