For someone who shot to fame in the Telugu film industry with her debut offering Arjun Reddy (2017), Shalini Pandey’s Bollywood journey hasn’t been what she expected. The actor’s maiden Hindi film, Jayeshbhai Jordaar (2022) opposite Ranveer Singh, had all the makings of a dream launch, but had an underwhelming run. She admits it left her “heartbroken”. “Some people liked the film, some just didn’t—as simple as that. I cried for many days. It was a big deal for me to be part of a Yash Raj movie, to have a co-actor like Ranveer and to work with the best cast and crew. I don’t come from a film family. I didn’t know it would break my heart so badly. I was not prepared for it,” says the actor. However, she views this experience as a crucial lesson. “When I look at it now in retrospect, it let me loose [and I realised] that nothing is in my control.”

A still from Jayeshbhai Jordaar

With this learning, Pandey is moving forward to her upcoming projects. She has a big-ticket film in Maharaj, which marks the debut of Aamir Khan’s son Junaid. Director Siddharth P Malhotra’s period drama is based on the 1862 Maharaja Libel Case. Does she fear being sidelined as the focus would be on Junaid? “I don’t think I will [be sidelined]. When you see the film, you will know that everyone is important. I can’t say anything about my character right now.”

The actor views Maharaj as a project that brought her new experiences every day, as she worked with a first-time actor in Junaid as well as with senior artistes. “Junaid is a sweet supporting co-actor. He is a very hard-working human being so much so that sometimes he works a little too much so I had to tell him that he had to slow down a bit. Technically, it was one of the best teams I worked with. I’m a curious person, who is all over the place wanting to know [how things work]. I got to work with DoP [director of photography] Rajeev Ravi sir. His lighting sense amused me, and I have now learned the science behind it.” The actor also has a Prime Video show and a Netflix offering in the pipeline.

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