Actress Shruti Haasan on her OTT debut, psychological thriller Bestseller

She plays a troubled muse to an author suffering writer's block in this 8-part series releasing February 18.

by Enid Grace Parker

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Thu 17 Feb 2022, 1:33 PM

Last updated: Sun 20 Feb 2022, 8:40 AM

Actress-singer Shruti Haasan, who was most recently seen in Tamil political thriller Laabam and Telugu legal drama Vakeel Saab, is gearing up for her digital debut with thriller series Bestseller, streaming February 18 on Amazon Prime Video.

The eldest daughter of movie stars Kamal Haasan and Sarika, 36-year-old Shruti made her Bollywood debut in the 2009 film Luck alongside Imran Khan and Mithun Chakraborty; she reconnects with the latter for Bestseller, where she plays a simple girl from a small town (Meetu Mathur), who is an ardent admirer of renowned author Tahir Wazir (Arjan Bajwa) and requests his assistance in telling her own tale.

Mithun Chakraborty plays a cop (Lokesh Pramanik) who investigates the violent outcome of Tahir - who is hit by writer’s block - deciding to use Meetu’s story for his upcoming novel. Tagged as a "gritty and intense psychological thriller", the 8-episode Bestseller also stars Gauahar Khan, Satyajeet Dubey and Sonalee Kulkarni.

City Times caught up with Shruti over Zoom for a chat.

We’ve seen the preview of your Bestseller character Meetu Mathur who comes across as a kind of troubled muse for author Tahir Wazir (Arjan Bajwa). What more can you tell us about Meetu and what drew you to this role?

I think troubled is one aspect of it; the bigger aspect of it is that she has great aspirations. Who doesn’t have troubles, right? But more than her trouble is her aspiration, and her hope for something, which is that last line in the trailer - “eventually everything ends well”.

She’s from a smaller town, she’s moved to the big city and she’s a huge fan of this writer - and that’s really as much as I can tell you, apart from the fact that she is a complex and layered person, which is what I found really interesting about her.

Obviously there’s a suspense element to the series that we gleaned from the trailer, and your character is a bit of a mystery as well. How different is this from something you had done before?

Very different! That’s something that drew me to the character because it wasn’t like anything I’d played before. I found that super exciting, that I got to do something new.

Mithun with Sonalee Kulkarni in Bestseller.
Mithun with Sonalee Kulkarni in Bestseller.

What was it like working with the rest of the cast including Arjan Bajwa and Mithun Chakraborty who is also making his streaming debut?

Wonderful. There was a lot of energy we had to play off of each other because of the nature of the screenplay. With Mithun da it was super special because I’m reconnecting with him after Luck (12 years), he was a part of my film debut and now he’s a part of my OTT debut, so I look at that as a very good omen.

Bestseller has books and writing at its core; how much of a reader or writer are you in real life? How involved would you get in a story?

I think I started out as an avid reader in school - and I got into a lot of trouble because I was reading storybooks! And not just storybooks, I was reading Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka instead of my Physics book at like, 13. I was a weirdo!

But books were the world that I could escape into and that’s where my love for writing was born. I’ve been writing poetry for years; that translated into story writing and then finally, songwriting.

Arjan Bajwa plays writer Tahir Wazir in Bestseller.
Arjan Bajwa plays writer Tahir Wazir in Bestseller.

What is your favourite bestseller?

Anything by Neil Gaiman - and as a kid Roald Dahl was my favourite author.

Having worked across industries like Bollywood, Hollywood, South cinema and now OTT, do you feel the kind of edge Bollywood had as far as visibility is concerned in India is kind of shifting now?Are more films from other industries getting recognized?

Absolutely, and it should be that way as well. I don’t think I would call it an ‘edge’ or a sheen that’s worn off; I think it’s become more democratized because of the choice of the audience. The audience is dictating thanks to OTT platforms, where the viewer has control of what they want to choose. The market has no choice but to react.

So I think it’s great - we should have been doing this long ago. I don’t know, maybe because I’m from a film family, I’ve been brought up on Bengali, Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada films… my dad has worked in so many of them. I always grew up with this mindset, and I saw people like my father implementing it. So I think it’s about time, really.

With OTT becoming more prominent during the pandemic, do you think the emphasis on quality of content and talent is more now?

I think the pandemic has been a huge factor in people realising the value of OTT.

People also realise now that even though we’re living with the virus and we’re moving ahead with our lives, we also know what it feels like as an audience, to have that choice, and to enjoy that style of viewing.

So I think definitely there’s an expectation from both the creators, of what they want to do, from these platforms, and then from the audience. I think it’s a good energy all around.

Are there any particular shows you’ve binge-watched recently or really enjoyed?

There are so many - but I’m currently going through a phase of history documentaries!

Coming from a famous film family, what is the biggest or most important lesson you have learned since your debut in films?

That nothing is really what it seems, and I think that applies to every part of the world really, and every experience in life. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that this really is a business of people and storytelling.

It is a business, but it is driven by storytelling, which is such a human thing. I think art in all of its forms whether it’s music or painting or cinema, reminds us of our humanity, because we are going to a very basic level of who we are, which is storytelling.

As a shout out to your fans in the UAE, why should they watch Bestseller?

I think they’ll really enjoy it because I enjoyed even just reading it as a script. We’ve had a lovely time shooting it and I think it’s something you can really binge-watch and enjoy, and I hope they do!

Enid Grace Parker

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