A cornerstone of the Mumbai theatre group ‘Rage’, Shernaz Patel has made a lasting impact on stage, screen, and television. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Goa State Award for Best Actress. A Charles Wallace Scholar, Shernaz also boasts a Master’s Degree in Acting from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Believing in the power of shared knowledge, Shernaz Patel has been at the forefront of educating young talent. She has also been the head of the acting department at Whistling Woods International, India’s leading film school, and is on the advisory board of The Drama School, Mumbai. Her influence isn’t confined to the Indian subcontinent — she is a force to reckon with in the global theatre landscape as well. Shernaz Patel played a big role in establishing the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Connections Schools’ Program in association with the National Theatre, UK.
Shernaz Patel is currently collaborating with Patsy Rodenburg, one of the world’s leading voice coaches, to introduce her groundbreaking method to India. Join us as we explore Shernaz Patel’s inspiring odyssey, her insights into theatre, and her mission to empower people with the transformative skills of “Presence, Voice, and Impact”.
She was at Shoolini University to conduct a workshop on Presence, Voice & Impact from October 17 to 23.
Who inspired you in theatre and acting?
Born into a Gujarati theatre family, my passion for acting started at a young age. My earliest role models were my parents, who introduced me to theatre and acting. Weekends were a whirlwind of rehearsals and live shows, and the stage was both playground and classroom. As kids, we’d race around, our laughter filling the auditorium, but when the curtain rose, we watched from the wings, awed by our parents’ onstage transformations.
This planted a seed, and my siblings and I gravitated toward school and college productions. In a household where art was the heartbeat, taking to the stage was simply the next chapter in a story we’d always participated in. This was my initiation into the magnetic world of theatre!
I also had an exceptional drama teacher in school, a highly successful and brilliant director, who inspired me. In the university, my circle of friends and colleagues constantly motivated me.
Your most memorable performance?
‘Love Letters’ with Rajit Kapoor… and we continue to perform it to this day. The play tells the story of a boy and a girl exchanging letters throughout their lives, from childhood to their final days. It’s a beautiful, emotional journey we’ve grown up with and holds a special place in my heart.
A role I’ll always cherish is the one I had in the film ‘Black.’ What started as an impromptu audition quickly became something far bigger, involving esteemed actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji. The shooting experience was extraordinary, marked by the tight-knit and supportive team we became. The film’s subsequent success made sure that I would never forget the experience.
Any exciting projects or ventures you have in the pipeline?
Right now, my focus is on teaching. I’ve had the privilege of training under one of the world’s foremost voice instructors and am dedicated to sharing her transformative teaching methods. While her approach is invaluable for actors, it’s also incredibly useful for anyone aiming to enhance their communication skills. At Shoolini University, I’m applying these methods to train MBA students, equipping them for interviews, keynote presentations, and meetings. On the side, I’m engaged in voice-over projects and have an OTT show set to launch next year.
How was your second visit to Shoolini University?
On my first visit to Shoolini University, which was quite spontaneous, the campus was closed. That visit was partly inspired by Rajit Kapoor’s interest in the university and led to discussions about potential partnerships and initiatives. Fast forward a year and a half, and I’ve returned to a campus buzzing with energy. I’ve grown quite fond of the university and its scenic setting, which offers an extraordinary sense of tranquillity.
As I engaged with the students today, I wondered about their relationship with this unique environment. Amid the hustle of daily academics and social life, it’s easy to overlook the natural beauty that envelops you. Shoolini, with its stunning flora and shifting seasons, is truly a gem.
I’m eager for more chances to return and expand on the meaningful work we’ve begun. Collaborating with this exceptional group of students has been a pleasure. It’s worth noting that these aren’t performing arts students; they’re studying management, yet they’ve embraced the learning process with an enthusiasm that has surpassed my expectations.
What is the concept of ‘Presence, Voice, Impact’ & the key takeaways from workshop?
The ‘Presence, Voice, Impact’ workshop aims to help participants discover their unique presence through hands-on exercises focusing on body, breath, and voice. Designed to make individuals more engaged, curious, and present, the approach promotes deep connections, eases tension, and encourages mindful breathing. While particularly valuable for actors, the method serves anyone looking to elevate their communication skills and positively impact their lives.
Key takeaways from the workshop include learning how to identify and tackle individual quirks and challenges in communication. Participants will gain insights into areas needing improvement and will work to refine their presence, voice, and impact. These skills are theoretical and directly applicable in various life scenarios—from interviews to public speaking. The workshop also prepares individuals to navigate intimidating situations with increased confidence in their communicative abilities.
Your advice to aspiring artists?
My advice to aspiring actors is to enjoy the journey. Theatre and acting are incredible experiences, so embrace them fully. Stay true to the characters you portray and build empathy, as it helps understand human behaviour, a key aspect of acting. Make friends within the performing arts community, and work on your technical skills, including body language and voice. But most importantly, have fun and savour your time, especially during your college years, as they offer unique opportunities for growth and exploration.
How crucial is formal training in performing arts?
Formal training in performing arts is essential. It gives you a structured environment to sharpen your skills and grasp the nuances of the field. But let’s not forget, artistic expression isn’t just for aspiring actors; it’s important for everyone. While being involved in the arts outside of an academic setting is excellent, formal education takes you deeper into the craft. A well-rounded program should even cover the technical stuff, like lighting and set design. All in all, formal training prepares you for the competitive and sometimes tough world of theatre and film. The key is finding a program that encourages your individuality and self-discovery rather than boxing you in.
And what is the celebrity performer’s advice to aspiring artists? “Enjoy the journey, build empathy, and hone technical skills. There is no substitute for formal training, as it equips individuals for the competitive world of theatre and film,” signs off Shernaz Patel.