Once upon a time, there was a bubbly, talkative girl called Zenia Khan on a Disney show called Kya Mast Hai Life, striking enough to leave an impression in a cast of five. 11 years later, the bubbly Zenia has donned one too many avatars, the latest being the transformational character of the year — Golu of Mirzapur. When I get on a call with Shweta Tripathi Sharma, I can hear the chirpiness of Zenia (this show was really good, you guys), and I can sense the responsibility that she’s taken on, for her audience. Reminiscing about her start in the industry, we gush about how far she’s come. “Kya Mast Hai Life was a great place to start, as it was a Disney show, and it was about kids, Majority of the actors on the set were really young. The energy on the set was really vibrant, it was literally Kya Mast Hai Life (laughs). All of us still occasionally talk, and there’s so much warmth,” she says.

Tripathi Sharma’s Shalu in Masaan is still so memorable, and she has only bettered herself with every role. From playing a schoolgirl who falls in love with her teacher, or Enakshi, the strong-headed girl who loses her hair because of alopecia, you see the character first, and Tripathi Sharma second. It’s a conscious thing, she explains. “I’m a very instinctive person, and it also has a lot to do with my upbringing. While growing up, your moral compass develops, and the kind of stories that excite you, shape these choices. My intention has always been to never let my audiences get bored. I want to have that surprise element. When they see me on screen, I want them to see my character, and then me. The common element is me, but the journey that they take while watching a project of a film or a show, I want them to take the journey with my character,” she says. As a child, Tripathi Sharma attended theatre workshops because her parents were very supportive of constant learning. “My upbringing and the thinking, and the stories that you keep hearing, is the real education. For example, the dowry scene of Made In Heaven is something I’ve heard about since childhood. My family has always said that caste and religion do not matter, case in point, Masaan. I’ve been taught what matters is the kind of human being you are. I think that definitely defines the choices that I’m making now,” she adds.

Shweta Tripathi

But let’s talk about the elephant in the room — Mirzapur 2. Season 2 of the madly successful show brought to light a completely new side of her character, who is forced to step up and protect herself. Tripathi Sharma knew that this evolution of Golu is going to happen. “When your situations change, then you will change. I was literally giving myself a pat on my back. I was so happy, because Mirzapur is one of my favourite projects,” she exclaims. Coming back to do the second season was also a lot of responsibility that she felt towards the audience. “It was so special that all of us felt so blessed to be a part of that project. It’s like we wish to continue doing something like this, like one more Masaan, or one more Mirzapur. You’re not trying to recreate what you’ve already done, you can pray that the projects are as special as those. In Mirzapur, our crew was also interested in the story, like who is doing what and how are dialogues delivered. So, it was almost like a live performance. We were literally our characters throughout, because I remember I was in my vanity, and the crew was like Golu’s van is here, Guddu’s van is here, in that sense,” she recalls.

I want to ask her about the prep, because all her roles seem so character based. Even in a thriller like Raat Akeli Hai, with strong actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui And Radhika Apte, Tripathi Sharma’s performance as the deceased patriarch’s pregnant daughter is noticeable. Tripathi Sharma has a playlist for all her characters that she listens to, to get into the groove. “It helps a lot to feel that emotion and to be on that emotional rollercoaster. For me, costumes are also very important. The colour of a lipstick, of a nail polish, are very important to me. Along with this, the perfume, a character’s smell, is very important to me. The hairstyle is also very important. I always try to change my hairstyles. In Mirzapur, our director said, “Baal kaat dete hai” and I said “chalo kaat dete hain”,” she says.

As an actor, Tripathi Sharma is very committed to her audience. Even during this interview, every answer somehow redirects to her audience liking her work. She believes that her only parameter when choosing a script is entertainment. “When the Mirzapur 2 script came in, I was so excited. It’s not just what’s happening in Golu’s life, but other characters’ too. All of this is very necessary. People are not watching just for you, they are watching as a show, or a film,” she explains. The best part about characters on OTT, Tripathi continues, is that they’re not dry cleaned. “In OTT, our characters are not dry cleaned. They don’t have to be somebody that you need to hero-worship. You might love Guddu Bhaiya, but he comes with his own set of flaws. You still connect with the characters because of who they are. I think OTT has done this, which was absolutely necessary. There’s a shade card between black and grey, which is necessary to show, and I think OTT does that a lot,” she adds, and we discuss Sobhita Dhulipala’s character in Made in Heaven to reference the same.

Shweta Tripathi

There are a bunch of clips of her Made in Heaven episode, as the bride who walked out of her mandap when she learnt of her fiancé taking dowry. Is it important to her to bring out narratives to have these supposedly uncomfortable conversations? “I think it’s a subconscious thing, which is very important to me when I’m approaching the script. At the same time, it doesn’t mean I’m looking for an agenda. It’s not like I’ll shoot in a certain way so that people will talk about it. An actor’s job is to do justice to the character. Then, how the audience is going to receive or perceive, is not in our control. All you want is people to associate and connect, and make them feel. Even with Gone Kesh, I did it because the story excited me. I had no clue about alopecia. Hair is something that we have, and we take it for granted. I realised all shampoo ads are all about silky, strong hair, but don’t talk about these realities,” she says. While we’ve all seen her play hard and soft, hot, and cold characters, Tripathi Sharma is really looking to do a mushy, happy love story. She feels she’s done a lot of drama, but the love drama is something she wishes to explore.

Tripathi Sharma has also gotten back to the sets after the setback that is Covid-19, and like, most people, is happy that things are restarting slowly. “I woke up at 6:30, shot for 12 hours, then got back home, and was still energetic. Everybody was so surprised, like where is this energy coming from? Truth is I love being on sets. It’s one of my happy places,” she excitedly quips. Her 2020 line-up was impressive, and she has a bunch of things happening next year too, including her cameo in Rashmi Rocket. Tripathi sounds happy, satisfied, and content with how she’s pulled through the year, and her resolutions for 2021 may sound small, but are really the strongest to pull through. She wants to be a better person, and be green. She also asks me, and all of you who are reading this, to please think of the environment. To a better 2021, and a lot more of Shweta Tripathi Sharma.