Shernaz Patel: Theatre is not a stepping stone for cinema


July 25, 2019

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I have done many other things. First, I thought of becoming a psychologist.

It has been 35 years since Shernaz Patel debuted with the play, The Diary of Anne Frank. Excerpts from her time in Indian theatre and Bollywood:

You grew up absorbing Gujarati Parsi theatre, and yet most of your plays are in English, why?
I don’t know. We grew up on Gujarati Parsi theatre but we are three siblings and none of us speak Gujarati. Besides, I think, I was brought up with a convent education and by the time I reached college and decided to pursue theatre, my parents had moved on to the English theatre. So, by the time I reached the age where I decided to pursue theatre, they moved to English.


Were you always certain of doing theatre?
I have done many other things. First, I thought of becoming a psychologist. So, I joined a Masters in Psychology and lasted exactly four months before I ran away.

Then I did a television show and got fascinated with how it functions, so I joined a television company. I worked with them for one year and then joined UTV, where I worked for four years. Then I had my own company for a good eight years where we made corporate and ad films. It was when I was about 38 that I said theatre is what I want to do and I went back to academics.

You have also lent your voice to The Lion King. How did you become a voice-over artist?
Yes, I have. I have given my voice for Simba’s mother Sarabi and it was lovely. I enjoy doing voice-overs and watching what the voice can do and its power. I have been doing voice-overs since college days and over the years, I have done it for a lot of big movies like Avatar and Doctor Strange. Right now, I am doing audiobooks for Audible. 

Although you have done films like Black and Guzaarish, we don’t see you doing them often.
A lot of actors feel that you don’t arrive until you do cinema. But, I never felt that. I always felt that theatre is everything for me. But, of course, whenever good roles came to me like Khandaan, Black, TVF Tripling or even Band Baaja Baarat, I did them and they were great fun. Now, I am in my 50s and the roles that come are of grandmothers and whenever that happens, I ask them to call me after 10 years. People have a misconception that I am choosy, I am not. I just won’t do bad roles.

And, what is a good role?
I will go for a good script, I am a huge lover of text. The more interesting it is, the more I would gravitate towards it. Then I am looking for good parts, which theatre gives me.