She might have grown up surrounded by cinema, thanks to her famous filmmaker uncle
Sanjay Leela Bhansali and talented editor-director mother Bela Segal, but becoming an actress was never part of the plan for Sharmin Segal.

She was teased by boys for being overweight at school and wanted to become a doctor, but decided on acting after experiencing the thrill of playing characters on stage and gaining a strong desire to live multiple lives through her craft.

That passion for acting combined with learning on set from her filmmaking family members has led the exciting newcomer towards her newly-released debut film Malaal.

The actress stars opposite Meezan Jafferi in the romantic drama and is determined to carve out her own path in the film industry.

I caught up with Sharmin to find out more, as I believe she will be someone you will be hearing a lot about in the coming years.

You come from a film family, but who was your biggest influence growing up?
My influences were more from my family than anyone else because at the end of the day it is your family that shapes who you are as a person. I think I am a combination of my father being so grounded, my mother being a good human being and Sanjay sir being so hard working. So, besides these three, I don’t think I needed influence from anyone else.

What was the experience of working on your debut film Malaal?
The first film for every actor is a learning experience. You make mistakes because everything is so heightened, but you learn from them and then improve. So, for me, Malaal is very special. It has helped me grow as a person from the day I started the film journey and till today and even till the time the film releases. So, through Malaal, I will know where I stand in the industry and how much hard work I need to put in.

Tell us about your character?
As far as Astha’s character is concerned, it is very special for me because of the feeling of love. It is the way I, as a girl, want to see love because it is such a special feeling. It is one emotion, which encompasses multiple emotions. The way Astha feels love is very special. She is the girl, whose family has gone through a financial crisis. From a bungalow, she has come to a chawl. She is squashed in this situation. She wouldn’t speak up and doesn’t talk much in the first half. Then there is a moment, when this boy Shiva, irritates her so much that in a way to tell him off, everything that she is trying to keep inside her comes out.

How did you feel facing the camera for the first time?
People don’t understand that it’s not just acting but there are different kinds of acting. So, theatre performance is different from acting in front of a camera. When you perform in front of the camera, you have to act between action and cut and then repeat it all over again. At the end of the day, you need to be in control of what you feel and pull out the same emotion again and again without it getting monotonous.

Initially, when I was about to cry in front of the camera for the first time, I was very confident that I could cry and don’t need glycerin. When I stood in front of the camera and started crying and then somebody said, ‘cut’, I couldn’t stop crying. The director asked what happened to me and I said, ‘I don’t know why I can’t stop crying’. I realised that there are things I need to do to keep myself in check. Eventually, it was a learning experience.

Who are you hoping connects with Malaal?
To be honest, this movie connects with young lovers. Love is such a complex emotion that everyone feels differently. But I feel Malaal is a feeling which the audience would relate to from every age, who feels love for someone. At the end of the day, nobody should have any regrets in love. This movie will show you how to not have regrets in your love life.

Did it make it easier that your leading man is also making his debut?
Of course, it helps that my co-star is also making his debut with this film. We both know the problems, understand the mindset and insecurities at some level. I also feel that since Meezaan is my school friend, he is the best support system you need. Like, both of us are in the same boat and making this journey together. So, I am very grateful that I have Meezaan as my co-star.

How much have all the messages of support from high-profile stars meant to you?
For both of us, all these big names in the industry to message us is a really overwhelming feeling. These are people we have watched while growing up and are people we aspire to be at some point in life and achieve the same. It is a very heartening feeling that they are watching your work and the steps you are taking to achieve the goals. I am thankful that these accomplished people are looking at our work and actually liking it.

What inspires you?
Sanjay sir, for me, is one of those people who have inspired me the most. When I was four years old, on the sets of Devdas, I was completely oblivious to what the three words – Sanjay Leela Bhansali – meant and what he was doing to Indian cinema. I used to run around the sets, admiring the beauty of it. But when I became 17 or 18 years old and was assisting him on Bajirao Mastani, I watched Devdas again and understood how it changed Indian cinema. I understood the effort, which went into each set of Devdas and how Sanjay sir works. After that, from mama (uncle) he became Sanjay sir for me. He has earned that respect. He has come from nothing and made something out of it and it is so inspirational. Watching that man work so hard motivates me to do as much as I can to basically take what he has created and live up to it. Even if Malaal can do 10 per cent of it, I would be happy.

What is the best advice Sanjay Leela Bhansali has given you?
It is, ‘to put your work on the forefront in everything that you do.’ He doesn’t try and sell his work, his work speaks for itself and attracts attention. That’s how he has become Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Once, when we were on our way to a wedding, he told me, ‘in life, you do what you have to do. The paparazzi will follow you eventually. Do your work first rather than trying to get all of that before your work speaks for yourself.’ As actors, it is difficult to do so because promotions and PR are very big parts of your life, but I would like to achieve that balance in life through my work.