Actor Shreya Dhanwanthary, best known for her work in ‘Scam 1992’ and ‘The Family Man’, speaks about her new series ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11’ and her early days in Telugu cinema
Mention Shreya Dhanwanthary and her work in The Family Man and Scam 1992 series are of immediate recall. She debuted in Hindi cinema with Why Cheat India (2019), but that was after she had worked in the Telugu movie Sneha Geetham (2010). Speaking on the sidelines of her new series Mumbai Diaries 26/11 which will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on September 9, Shreya discloses that she had always wanted to be a part of cinema, but didn’t know how.
Also Read | Get ‘First Day First Show’, our weekly newsletter from the world of cinema, in your inbox. You can subscribe for free here
“Growing up in a non-film family, I didn’t know I could actually work in films. There was a notion back then that cinema in India was mostly a family-run business,” she says.
She had the opportunity to work in Telugu cinema while studying engineering in NIT Warangal: “The director of Sneha Geetham, Madhura Sreedhar Reddy, is an alumnus of the same college. It was a fun experience, though I was very raw,” she recalls.
Born to a Hindi-speaking father and Telugu-speaking mother, Shreya grew up in the Middle East and later lived in Delhi, before hitting a purple patch in Mumbai with her recent films and series: “It’s a tough city and a tough industry; I am glad people are noticing me now. The playground has opened up with the digital boom. Different stories are being told and there’s more scope for work for actors and technicians.”
Academics was not high on her priority list but she took up engineering as advised by her parents: “Even a little before Scam 1992 happened, they wanted me to pursue MBA. It has taken me 10 years to prove that I can have a career in entertainment. I’ve always loved stories in any form — books, cinema and now series,” she says.
While waiting for her breakthrough opportunity, she also wrote, co-produced and directed the mini series Viral Wedding for Eros Now.
Shreya worked on Scam 1992 and Mumbai Diaries 26/11 around the same time, before the pandemic set in. She was cast as business journalist Sucheta Dalal in the former and portrays field reporter Mansi Hirani, a fictional character covering the 26/11 attacks, in the latter: “I knew my responsibility — to portray both the journalists in a different manner. Mansi lives by the statement ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ and goes to any length to get stories. It comes at a personal cost. What she encounters on the night the attacks happen, defines her journey.”
During the 26/11 attacks in 2008, Shreya was in Delhi and anxiously trying to reach her father who was in Mumbai for a business meeting. He was supposed to be at The Taj Mahal Palace hotel: “He wasn’t reachable; it was nerve wracking. Later he called back to say that his meeting had taken place elsewhere. If that was enough to freak us out as a family, I cannot even imagine what someone whose loved ones were closer to the areas of the attacks must have gone through.”
The attacks being fresh in the collective memories of most people, Shreya says the medical thriller series will offer a new perspective of a crisis situation, as seen through the point of view of doctors and their support staff.
She describes the atmosphere on sets as “high octane” while filming the emotional roller coaster of a series, with director Nikhil Advani calling the shots. This will be her third series to stream on Amazon Prime after The Family Man 1 and 2, and she’s looking forward to jokes on social media on the lines of “Netflix and Radhika Apte”, indicating how the actor has become a constant fixture on the streaming platform.
Before she signs off, Shreya expresses her interest to work in a Telugu film, provided an interesting project comes her way: “My mom will be happy to see me in a Telugu film. We recently watched Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari (1990 film starring Chiranjeevi and Sridevi, directed by Raghavendra Rao) for the 100th time.”
She hasn’t seen any of the recent Telugu films, but is all praise for Sai Pallavi for pushing the envelope in Tamil and Telugu cinema.