Shonisani Masutha becomes first African actress to act in a Bollywood series, Mahek, in what she has described as a ‘huge risk’ which has paid off.
With a radiant dimpled smile and a warm personality, the Limpopo born actress was picked for the role following an audition via Skype.
The 27-year-old plays a role of an African young lady who moves to India with her family in hopes of battering their lives. The characters face various trials and tribulations on their individual journeys, while being entangled in unexpected romantic situations. Shonisani says her agent sent her a brief and when she read it, she disqualified herself but through the persistence of the agent she auditioned for the role which she then landed.
“I just didn't think they were looking for me. I also didn't think I was good enough to go act in Bollywood as I hadn't booked an acting job in about seven months and my confidence was shaky again. But my agent insisted that I go and try, and so I did. I was auditioning for Zeeworld in the room and for the production company in India via Skype at the same time, it was nerve racking but as an actress, you take those nerves and use them as fuel to keep you going and I just went for it.
“When I got the job I was in disbelief, I screamed for a minute straight and wow what a life-changing experience it was. It feels so great to be able to inspire young African actors across the continent. You aren't limited to acting for and in your current place of dwelling. At any given moment, you as a young performer can make history and be the first ever young black lead in Bollywood. This experience has taught me that life starts at the end of your comfort zone and you never knows what coming so you have to stay ready. Mentally, physically and spiritually so that when an opportunity like this comes your way, you grab it with both hands and run,” she said.
She adds that playing the character of Norah Gabela is one of her favourite characters in her acting career. Shonisani says she has found similarities in her personal life with that of Nora, as she describes her character as someone who “has to be more than anything life's ever demanded from her, so she's forced to grow and live outside her comfort box. I learned something similar to Norah and that's where we get to see her and Shoni overlap a bit. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I adapted so quick when I got to New Delhi - I dove straight into the culture, started learning Hindi, tasting foods I've never heard of, it was such an enriching experience.”
Shonisani describes her experience in India as beautiful as she was able to connect with other actors from the Asian country.
She adds that it was also a learning curve which enabled her to “challenge myself and work harder than I've ever worked. I got to grow in my craft rapidly - there was a lot to shoot and not a lot of time, so it was about pushing myself to stay true to Norah even if Shoni was tired! Moving to another continent for three months to shoot a show is really something I have always wished for and it was nothing short of a magical experience. “