French Actor of 'Shab' Simon Frenay shares his experience of shooting in India in a exclusive interview with A Potpourri of Vestiges

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Simon Frenay, Shab, Onir

A Potpourri of Vestiges recently caught up with French Actor Simon Frenay for an exclusive interview. Frenay, who has starred in international projects like Elias, plays a pivotal role in Onir's upcoming film Shab, also starring Raveena Tandon, Arpita Chatterjee, and Ashish Bisht. During the candid interaction, Frenay shared his experiences of working with Onir and the challenges he faced while shooting the movie in India across four different seasons.


Tell us about your association with Shab. How did you come in contact with Onir? How did the things finally materialize?

I got a message from an agency located in south of France; they sent me a message to tell me that an Indian director, Onir, was looking for a French actor. So I checked online who he was, what he's done in the past, and I was very impressed, a bit intimidated; it made me very curious about him. And India was a place so far away from my country; I never thought I could one day work there. Without much belief, I sent a message to Onir and he replied very quickly with a strong interest, I was surprised. He sent me the script and we started to talk about it, about the story, my character, his evolution, his back ground. And few months later Onir came to Paris for the "Festival des cinéma du monde" to present I Am and My brother Nikhil. I was at the screening and My Brother... Nikhil really moved me. We met, we talked to get to know each other. I showed a him a movie I have done named Elias. I thought it would be a good idea for him to watch this movie.

Then, during the winter, auditions came, through Skype. I hate that and I was very nervous. But I got finalized! In March, I met the script write. We spoke about Benoit, my character; it was very interesting to meet her to create my character.

During Cannes Film Festival, Sanjay Suri and Deborah, the producers were in Paris so I met them. Then it was about, getting a business visa, which was not easy, and then my flight tickets were bought! I couldn't believe it was happening to me! Shooting in India, with an Indian crew, and such a special, committed director!

Simon Frenay, Arpita Chatterjee, Onir, Romantic Scene

How has been your experience of working in India? How challenging was it to work on a film that was supposed to be shot across four different seasons?

Working in India was an amazing experience but it could have been awful, as it could have been awful or wonderful anywhere. The crew was so nice, so careful, they made my experience incredible. Though, of course, the experience of shooting was a bit different than shooting in France, the crew is so much bigger in India. Everyone got a very special task to do, even a little one, there is someone to do it.

And of course, Raveena, Ashish or Arpita are not the lead, the lead is the strong idea of India that Onir's got. Doubts he has about it as much as the delights you can find in India. He is a voice.

Shooting in different seasons meant different moments, so different moods for the characters; we are evaluating with the characters through the seasons. As it was my first time in India, and even if I was quite far from the character, I could relate to him easily with this feeling of discovering this very intense country.

You have been associated with several international projects. Where would you place Shab in your body of work, especially in terms of the approach and style of working?

I had mostly worked in Western Europe. Shab is different and at the same time, not that much. I mean, even here in France, you can find so many different style of working, it depends on the money, on the director, your co-actors... and of course on yourself, how much you want to be involve in this or this project. I completely committed myself to this film, the subjects were dear to my heart. I like to work with project that I can relate to. And Shab was definitely one of them.

How was the experience of working with Onir? Tell us about your relationship as an actor-director duo. Are you aware of his remarkable body of work?

I didn't know him until I heard his name for the first time and then I looked for it, I watched his movies, I read his interviews... Onir became a dear friend! But we didn't know that before working together.

Working with Onir was easy, and don' t get me wrong, it was easy because he is a very nice person who knows where he is going, it makes things easy for an actor... it gets hard when a director has no goals, you can feel lost, and it is the opposite with Onir. He likes to talk about your character, deeply, improvising with other actors to make it real in front of the camera.

Simon Frenay and Arpita Chatterjee share a romantic scene, Onir

What kind of bonding did you share with your costars (Raveena Tandon, Ashish Bisht, and Arpita Chatterjee)? Were you aware of Raveena’s popularity in India right at beginning of the project?

Same as Onir... I didn't know Raveena before I heard her name. I remember the first time I met her, it was at a birthday in a fancy hotel, and Onir just told me you are gonna meet Raveena who will act in the movie with you. When I saw, she was filled with light, laughing, from what I remember, I might fantasize this moment, I jumped on her and kissed on both cheeks and said "Hey, how are you doing, you look fabulous" or something like that. She looked 20 years old, I felt so secure! When they told me, she is forty, I couldn't believe! Well, then I heard she was huge here.

During the project, Raveena was kind of protected; I only met her on the sets. I mean, she is a star. About Ashish, Arpita, and Areesz (Ganddi), it was different; we shared many things, as actors and as friends. Just like life. We had a very good time.

What kind of response has the trailer garnered so far? What was the response at the NYIFF premier of Shab which u attended with Onir and Ashish?

From what I can see from Paris, it's doing great! And people here found it very beautiful, remarkable. In NYIFF, the audience seemed to be very moved by the story.

What according to you is the USP of Shab that will draw the audience to the theatres

The sensuality that this society seemed to be so afraid of... And Onir, of course!

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

Shab Shorts - Simon Frenay

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