For Chandigarh-based Sheena Chohan, life is always about putting her best foot forward and harnessing the power of dreaming while having a positive approach towards life. This approach has not only helped her become a successful actress but has also led her to make an impact on the society through her human rights initiatives. Read this exclusive interview to know more about her!
Introduce yourself briefly to our readers and also tell us about your Chandigarh connection.
I was born in Chandigarh, to a family from Bathinda, Punjab. I went to school at the Lawrence School Sanawar, Shimla, which is when I first caught the acting bug, that I still have to this day (there’s no vaccine for it!). I had a lot of success at a young age with modelling but wasn’t fulfilled by it so went to Delhi where I did five years of theatre under the esteemed director Arvind Gaur where I learned my craft. I was launched as the female lead in an action film opposite South Megastar Mammootty, directed by National Award Winner Jayaraj and then played the lead in two films with another National Award winner, Buddhadeb Dasgupta. I then played the lead in a feature film called Ant Story, where I was nominated as the Best Actress at the Dubai and Shanghai Film Festivals in competition with Hollywood actresses Kiera Knightly and Kate Beckinsale. Recently, I shot a Hollywood film called Nomad (which broke Guinness World Records for being filmed in the most countries) and just appeared in Fame Game on Netflix, City of Dreams season two, and have a starring role in the forthcoming The Good Wife opposite Kajol. I also just wrapped a feature where I play the lead opposite Marathi superstar Subodh Brave, directed by the amazing visionary, Aditya Om.
As we step into the new year, what new year resolution are you swearing by?
The most important thing for me is collaboration, commitment to cinema, creating new characters and being a part of amazing stories that entertain and ignite imaginations, so my New Year’s Resolution is for every character that I work on with a director, I will delve even deeper into my research than ever – like for this last biopic film, I read every single book that I could find about the 17th-century woman whom I played. Even if some of the books were in a language that I couldn’t read, I had them read to me; then I went out to the village fields and spent time with the women who have the same type of jobs that the woman I play had – to learn dialect and mannerisms – I was doing this in-between shoots and every time it gave me new ideas to bring the director who wondered where the hell I was getting all this from! Honestly, I’ve done this kind of research for years, but the resolution is to find ever more ways to get deeper into creating characters and working with talented directors who inspire me to tell amazing stories.
What are your goals as the human rights ambassador this year?
I’m the South Asia ambassador for humanrights.com, the world’s largest non-governmental human rights awareness campaign. Recently I created a podcast where we worked with stars like Preity Zinta, Sonakshi Sinha, Raveena Tandon, Sonu Sood, Imtiaz Ali and more, to help spread awareness of basic rights and equality. Our media partner, the incredible Rohini Iyer who owns Raindrop Media, helped us reach over 100 million people in India in a year! In fact, because of that work, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Volker Türk’s office personally reached out to me to help them promote the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year. So, my goal this year is to reach the highest levels of spreading awareness about basic rights and equality, which anyone reading here can get by doing this free online course: www.humanrights.com/course.
Tell us a little about your latest comedy-drama series, your endeavour- Ex Mates. What motivated you to take up this role?
It’s a story which many of us face – how we can be affected and dragged down by those around us, and what choices we make to ensure that doesn’t happen, and that we don’t let it make us make wrong choices. I play a hard-working, bright, energetic young woman who has huge ambitions, but is stuck with a boyfriend who just wants to loaf around and be, do and have nothing! So many people, men and women, get trapped in relations, platonic, romantic, work-relationships, etc., where we let others pull us down and it becomes a kind of bad habit that we can’t get out of, and we often end up being or acting like that person whose behaviour we originally resented. My character is one who starts off making stupid mistakes because of this man she’s trapped with, but in the end learns how to deal with him, not to let his actions cause her to make bad actions, and even helps him to change. I was motivated to take the role because I see this type of thing so much in life and so, I felt that it would help others and even be cathartic for me to look at and dramatise these issues.
What is your fitness mantra?
Simple: Exercise daily and keep in good nutrition. Eat less than I work off! If I want to have a chocolate bar,okay, but then I’d better spend an extra twenty minutes in the gym. Honestly, my biggest help is Activ Eat in Mumbai. They are God Sent because they help me spot the hidden sugars or other bad things in my supposed diet or healthy foods and my nutrition & food are well regulated daily in every meal.
How do you unwind?
It’s really important to look – it doesn’t matter so much where you are, the Maldives or Mumbai, what matters is that you take time to look at the stars and the clouds, notice the trees – look out into the distance as much as possible because that’s how you give yourself space. You’ll see that if you’ve had a tough day and you go for a walk and don’t think, just look – if you go somewhere where there’s nature and use your time there to look out into the distance and to see the things around you, it will give you such relief. I make it a point to do that daily, or if there’s any particular stress. Actually, if you have a headache and do this, your headache can go away. So, I love going for walks or even running every day or at night.
One piece of advice you wish someone gave you earlier.
I have so many pieces of advice! But if it was just one, it would be never giving up on a vision – if you make a dream and it doesn’t come true, don’t give up – make the dream every damn day and take action towards it, until it happens. But it’s the dream that’s the most important thing – don’t let anything stop you from having your own dream or stop you from taking action towards it.
One final message for our readers?
Something I personally believe is that people are basically good – this world can be very tough because the way it’s set up makes us often get criticised for being wrong and some types of people specialise in giving bad news or telling us we are bad. But the fact is that each and every person, deep down, is good and it’s important to understand that no matter how bad things get, something can be done about it.
Styled by – @riechamallick
Outfit by – @houseoffett
Scarf by – @dotsanddoddlesdesign
Production manager @anagha_14