Shivaay lead actress Erika Kaar in conversation with Team Box Office India
How did Shivaay happen to you?
The leading actress of Shivaay had to be European. The producers went to Europe to look for the actress and came to my hometown, Warsaw, in Poland. I got to know about it, I went there and I got the part.
But you must have had to audition.
Of course, and the audition was to be conducted in English. They sent us a scene in English and Hindi. It was bilingual but they told us to only prepare in English because no one speaks Hindi in Poland. I thought I would put in an extra effort and I learnt a few lines in Hindi for the scene. It was super difficult for me as it was really hard to learn the lines. So I acted in English and spoke only a couple of lines in Hindi. I think that helped because it showed the producers that I might be able to learn the entire script. We worked on the scenes and did variations, and then I got a call in a few months, saying I had got the part.
In January, after I got the part, we had the first workshop in Mumbai. I came here for two weeks. I took Hindi lessons, dialogue coaching, accent coaching. I had some costume trials and it took us over half a year to prepare everything. I took Hindi classes almost every day. I worked on the part and did some coaching on the character. So there was a lot of preparation, actually.
When you were told that you are doing Shivaay, what was your first reaction?
I felt shockingly lucky because this was my second project and I am Polish. My first project was British and the second one was Indian, so my family and I thought it was very fortunate. My second thought was huge excitement because it’s India. To me, it is a completely different world and a different culture. I was equally excited to acquaint myself with the culture as I was to be in an Indian film.
Did you have any preconceived notions about Hindi films and our industry?
I didn’t know very much about the industry but I had heard that the acting technique here was different and that it called for actors to be very expressive. I had never seen this myself but I prepared a back-up option of acting with really strong facial expressions. But acting with Ajay (Devgn) was normal and organic. It was like working with a natural character. I didn’t do anything different from what I had prepared.
Were you aware of Hindi films before Shivaay?
Not really. I knew about Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol but I hadn’t really watched a Bollywood film before. A few of my friends back in Poland are big fans of Hindi films and they were very excited that I had got the part. But it was all new for me. After I got the part, the producers of the film told me not to watch any Bollywood films so that my performance wouldn’t be influenced by them. Now I am trying to catch up.
It is very different. First, Shivaay is a big film, shot on a big scale whereas what I did in Britain was a mini-series for TV. It was also very professional but the scale was smaller than Shivaay. The British production for BBC was very tightly scheduled. For example, if my make-up time was 6:25 am, I had to be in the chair at 6:25 am. It was all counted down to the minute. In Bollywood, it’s still on schedule but it’s more flexible, like we would never set up a scene and have it exactly that way. Ajay would never restrain me in any way and I had a lot of freedom while performing. It was all very chilled out. It was done really well.