IT’S coming towards the end of a sunny day on the French Riviera and popular actress Helly Shah has rounded off a dream debut at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
She walked the red carpet for beauty giant L’Oréal, launched the poster for her debut film Kaya Palat, turned heads with eye-catching outfits, and gained worldwide media attention. The 26-year-old shared a global platform with major international movie stars for the first time and showed that she very much belongs in that glorious new setting.
When Eastern Eye caught up with one of this year’s standout stars at Cannes, she was still trying to process everything and reflected on a magical week at the festival. The top TV star also spoke about her forthcoming film, incredible fan base, future hopes, and breaking new ground.
How has the whole Cannes Film Festival experience been?
The whole experience has been so surreal and beautiful. I honestly came here with no expectations because this entire thing was really new for me. I came with an open slate and mind to learn all the different things about Cannes. There were no expectations. The kind of experience I’ve had here has been amazing. It’s honestly, still sinking in. I have not been able to soak it all in. It will take time to realise I’ve come here and walked the red carpet. I’ve witnessed the craziness, madness, and everything you see here, so it has been nice.
What was it like when you were on the red carpet in that amazing outfit?
I just knew I had to be confident and be myself. I didn’t want to pretend anything on the red carpet. I wanted to walk confidently, being me. The walk was great and a very different thing altogether. You see photographers on both sides of the red carpet and obviously pose both sides. There is a staircase, and you climb that, with people taking pictures. There are so many photographers! When I first moved out of the car and saw this entire visual it was breath-taking.
What was it like meeting Cannes queen Aishwarya Rai Bachchan?
She is so sweet! When I saw her first thing in the morning at a distance, she looked gorgeous. She came there to meet someone and take pictures. That’s when I told her I am a big fan of hers. It was great and a very beautiful moment. I also met her in the night at the L’Oréal party. At that time, (her daughter) Aradhya was also there and so was Abhishek (Bachchan) sir. I got to speak to him with a group of people about pro-kabaddi. He shared so many interesting facts about it and a lot of other things.
You came to Cannes to unveil the poster of your debut film Kaya Palat. What did you like about this project to say yes?
I liked the story and character I’m playing, who is so different and unusual. Kaya is a very complex character, with so many layers. At one point, you feel something and then just feel completely different about her. So, that’s the beauty of this character and what made me want me to do this film.
What can audiences expect when they see Kaya Palat?
I think they can expect a different side of me as an actor because I’ve learned a lot of things and got this opportunity to do something really different, and raw in a complete story. It has been adapted from a true story, about rival mafias. The story is based in Jammu. I really hope audiences get this experience of how complex and intertwined this entire story is.
How did you feel about unveiling the film’s poster at Cannes?
It’s such a beautiful thing and I never imagined in my wildest dream I would come here in Cannes to unveil my first film’s poster and walk the red carpet. Like I said, I’m still processing everything that has happened. I think I’m going to fully realise all that has happened when I return to India. It feels great and definitely a step ahead in my career for sure.
Would you say this is now the beginning of a new journey for you in films?
I really hope so! When I go back to India, I hope to get a lot more offers and opportunities to do different kind of stuff, which I am willing to do.
What about working in the west?
Why not? I now know nothing is impossible. If given a chance and if things do work out, definitely, yes. I, as an actor, would get an experience of a lifetime and a different journey to embark on in a completely new setting. There are very few people who can pull that off, and if given a chance, I would just give my everything to do that.
You are also becoming somewhat of a fashion icon. Is that something you’re going to look into?
(Laughs) That’s my team who makes me do it. I’ll be completely honest that even if I try something different and new in terms of fashion, that’s my team, who always pushes me to do it. Of course, very convincingly, I also do it, but fashion is not something I’m really inclined towards. For me, my comfort zone is hoodies, sweatshirts, and those things. But there are also days when I like to dress up and completely go all out.
Like here in Cannes…
Yes, in Cannes, I was sure I wanted to do everything and try every kind of clothing. I wanted to wear stuff people have not seen me in. I want to go all out when it comes to fashion because people do wait for your pictures, to see what you’re going to wear. Here, it’s all about glamour with fashion. Cannes is all about that.
Is all this attention pressurising or motivating?
I have never taken any kind of attention as pressure because if I take pressure, I’ll not be able to do my work properly. What I like to do is just enjoy this attention I’m getting and that’s it. I don’t think more about it because I want to focus more on my work and if I do my work properly, that is going to get a lot more attention. I feel my work is going to speak and I don’t want to take any pressure.
Have you learned anything new about yourself while going on this Cannes film festival journey?
Here in Cannes, I’ve had some great and weird experiences. I’ve had to face problems. For example, on the red-carpet day before, I even walked and started choosing my outfit to get ready; there were so many things happening, like delays. I was almost on the verge of a breakdown and nearly cried. In these kinds of situations, anybody would panic and at one point I also did but remained calm. So, I learned that in a problematic situation I could keep calm and manage everything. Had I gone insane and panicked, I wouldn’t have made it to the red carpet on time. I also learned that although I’m not too inclined towards fashion, I do enjoy it.
What has being part of the L’Oréal family been like?
It feels great. When I learned from my manager I will walk the red carpet for L’Oréal, representing India and stuff, I didn’t have words because it is such a big brand. So, walking for it was a big deal for me. I’m really grateful and thankful to L’Oréal that I am a part of its family. It’s nice and feels great.
You and Hina Khan are breaking ground. Would you like to see more of the Indian TV fraternity in Cannes in future?
Of course! Why not? It would be great. Now people have seen me, I’m sure someone will be inspired and think it’s not impossible to come here. Even when I think about myself, I never imagined I could make it here, and it’s a big deal for me. So, if I can make it, anybody can make it. It’s just your hard work, patience, and persistence that matters. I would love to see a lot more people from my industry coming here. It will be great.
Do you have a dream role in mind?
I used to, but then I realised I am an actor and don’t want to just have that one dream role. I want to do anything challenging that comes up my way. I want to make sure that I do justice to that entire character, so don’t have a specific kind of character. But now you have asked, let me think. What roles would you have in mind for me, Asjad?
I think you are suited perfectly for a princess role in a historical epic or costume drama?
Yes, that would be really nice, different, and difficult because it’s not in your comfort zone and you don’t know anything about that. So, being part of such a project and giving it justice would need a lot of research and homework, before even stepping into that character. So, I would love to do that.
You play a villain surprisingly well…
I do enjoy negative characters a lot. That’s also interesting and something I would like to revisit.
Finally, would you give a message for your fans?
They’ve always been that support system and loved me. They have supported me in whatever way they can and that always motivates me so much. They encourage and inspire me to work hard. To show up to work every day! Sometimes when I feel low, I think about them, and it picks me up. When I think that so many people love me, my work, and things I do, it cheers me up. You guys have never met me and don’t know me personally, yet you like my shows and see me on social media, and give me love back unconditionally. That’s really a big thing for me. I will never take your love for granted and always try to entertain you. Thank you, so much for always loving and supporting me.