Kolkata: Hailing from Howrah in West Bengal, Amika Shail is multi-faceted – actress, model and singer. She has done live gigs with Vishal Dadlani, Mohit Chauhan, Javed Ali, Amit Kumar and others, sung the theme song for the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2016, participated in reality shows (Indian Idol and others) and also featured in ad films for brands such as Max Fashion, Bajaj Nomarks, Inorbit Mall, Dabur, Colgate, Santoor and Ujala. Amika has dabbled in films, on TV as well as web shows. Having shared screen with none other than Akshay Kumar in Laxmii, she is on a high and is looking forward to her web series Hai Taubba 3 on Alt Balaji where she plays a bisexual. Excerpts from a chat:
Another girl from Bengal making it big in Bollywood, you say…
By God’s grace, I have been able to carve a niche for myself in the entertainment industry. Although I had come to Mumbai to become a singer, acting happened accidentally. Since my childhood, I was always inclined towards music. They say that music resides in every house in Bengal. So I always wanted to make it big in the world of music and in my initial days, I worked only in that direction. But now I am exploring newer avenues after foraying into acting.
How did it all start?
I started singing at the age of five. Since I am from Bengal and my mother is a singer, as a child, I was always inspired by her. When I turned five, I started my training in classical singing. My mother was my first teacher. This is how my journey as a singer began.
I got into professional singing after I shifted to Mumbai post my graduation. But prior to that, I was a part of a lot of reality shows. So Mumbai was like a second home to me which I visited frequently to participate in singing reality shows like Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Amul Star Voice of India and others. Once I shifted to Mumbai, I took to singing as my career.
It has been more than seven-eight years that I have been into singing. I have sung for movies and albums. I have my own YouTube channel which has like 80k+ subscribers. Now it has been two years that I am into acting. The acting journey began with a musical show. They needed a singer-actor and they approached me. I went for an audition but did not get selected then. It was also because I was not ready as an actor at that point of time. But yes, this was my first baby step into the world of acting and then I groomed myself for it.
Although I was not selected, it opened the doors. the My first show as an actor was Udaan on Colors TV. I never auditioned for this show in specific. I auditioned for the production house though and months later I was selected. Since then there has never been a halt and I have been a part of a lot of TV shows. My last show on TV was Vayu Pari on Sab TV. The same goes for web series. They just came to me one after the other and then of course, my big-screen debut Laxmii alongside Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani came my way.
With the rise of OTT platforms in the country, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a number of web series like Mirzapur 2, Mask Man, Gandi Baat 5, Chattis aur Mayna on Disney + Hotstar, Video Call and Nachaniya on two new OTT platforms, and the recent one being Hai Taubba 3 on Alt Balaji.
How tough is it to shuttle among TV, films and web shows?
There is a lot of difference between television and films. The audience for both is very different. While the storyline on TV goes on and on, the content in films has to be crisp. You get just three hours to narrate the story. Also, people watching television are the ones who look for a daily dose of entertainment. It’s mostly the people who are at home and have a fixed schedule to watching their favourite daily soaps. So as an actor, you have to keep these things in mind while you prepare yourself for films or TV. Both of them are interesting concepts of entertainment.
Both are equally tough. When it comes to television, you do not get time to prepare. The script is generally provided on the day of the shoot. You have to be quick to grasp it and perform. And there is nothing called a fixed script for television. It changes very frequently. You are doing your hair and make-up and at the same time, reading the script which was just handed over to you and once you are ready with the make-up, you stand in front of the camera and perform. So the time given to the artiste to prepare for the role or to get into the character is very less or negligible. Whereas for films, you have a proper script-reading session. You get enough time to research your character and then perform. So it is not impromptu. As an actor, I love acting in films and OTT more than TV. It gives you more time to experiment with yourself as an actor.
Was Laxmii a turning point in your career?
I would say not just Laxmii but there have been a lot of turning points in my career. My decision to come to Mumbai was just overnight. I realised that I would not be able to make a career in singing by just sitting back in Kolkata. I conveyed this to my parents and they endorsed. It was after coming to Mumbai that I understood this battle had to be fought alone. I knew nobody and nothing about this industry. I had just two options – staying here and making my mark in the industry or going back to Kolkata. But I selected the first one and the rest is history.
The second high point would be when I got the opportunity to playback for a movie. I had struggled a lot for it and after years of hard work, I could finally make it.
The third one would be the transition from singing to acting. It was like starting my journey all over again. All these years, I was putting in efforts for singing and then suddenly acting happened. I had no experience in that field too. But with hard work, I have survived and prospered on both fronts.
If I have to talk about Laxmii in specific, then I have shared the screen with Akshay Kumar in the movie. The complete sequence that I shot with Akshay sir is memorable. I play the role of one of the antagonists’ girlfriend. I am completely smitten by the kind of person Akshay Kumar is. What could have been better than sharing screen space with one of the most loved superstars of the Hindi Film Industry… that too in my debut feature film itself. So even though it was a small role, I did not think twice before accepting it.
Tell us something about Hai Taubba 3…
It is my latest series with Alt Balaji – four stories and I am part of the fourth one My Husband’s Lover. I play a bisexual in the series and it is a lovely character named Lena Sinha. I did my own homework because it was such a strong role. Although the character is bisexual, her sexuality is not what defines her. So, I wanted to ensure that she has more elements to her as well. I spoke to many people and sat with my writers and directors to understand the psyche of the character. There are a lot of things in the series that I have done for the first time on screen.
Hai Taubba 3 focusses on women and empowers them by lauding their decisions. The new chapter will be about women who refuse to abide by societal norms and decide to break out of their monotonous lives.
Are you keen on Bengali films?
I have grown up watching Bengali movies and I have a lot of favourites there. I had a huge crush on Jeet and Dev. I would definitely love to be part of a Bengali film or a web series in the future. Being a Bengali myself, it will be heartening to try my luck in Bengali films. It is known for its rich storytelling and we have seen some brilliant actors and directors coming out from the industry. I would love to see myself as a Bengali actor on screen.
Finally, how do you see the industry evolving?
The entertainment industry is definitely evolving. There is a lot of good and experimental content coming up these days, especially after the rise of the OTT medium. People have got a choice to explore a variety of subjects. You have so many options just at the tip of your finger. And it is not just in Hindi, but in regional languages too. Also, I feel the acceptance of people towards experimental subjects has increased and this is due to the exposure that they get through OTT, which is the future.
(Some of the pictures are from Amika’s Instagram handle)