Shefali Shah is undoubtedly one of the most talented female actresses of this date. With gems like Monsoon Wedding and Delhi Crime shining bright in her filmography, she has made her own space in the industry. In her 24 years of brilliance and captive performances, Shah has taken up challenging roles without caring a bit about the stigma attached to them. 

At the age of 21, she played the role of a mother without the fear of getting typecast. That’s Shefali Shah for you.

Here’s a nod to her oeuvre that has helped her etch her name in gold in the Indian film/TV series scene.

1. Hasratein

A  Zee TV show, aired in the mid-90s, Hasratein revolved around complicated relationships. Based on a Marathi novel, Adhantari, the show was way ahead of its time, as it tackled the topic of infidelity and the weight the Indian society places on the institution of marriage. Shah played the role of Savi, a woman who leaves her husband and establishes an extra-marital relationship with another married man. 

The role was initially played by Seema Kapoor for the first 120 episodes. Shah wasn’t afraid to get typecast as a ‘mother’ for her role, who has older kids. Her brilliant performance landed her the Zee Woman of the Year award in 1997 for playing the middle-aged Savi.


2. Satya

This 1998 film won critical acclaim for its realistic portrayal of the Indian underworld. Shefali played the role of Pyari Mhatre, for which she received the Star Screen Award Best Supporting Actress and the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress. Talking about the film, Shefali has said that the film’s impact was way massive than it is accredited with. With no lead roles and a wide variety of characters, the film started a ‘riot’ in terms of writing, cinematography and so on.


3. Monsoon Wedding

This was Shefali’s breakthrough film. Starring along Naseeruddin Shah, Shefali plays the role of Ria Verma, a reserved but bold woman. The film revolves around a North Indian family, about to have a wedding. The plotline was a clap back to exaggerated renditions of Indian families, and deals with the hypocrisy, instances of molestation enabled by predatory relatives to which our society turns a blind eye and what not. 

4. Gandhi, My Father

This 2007 biographical drama explores the vexed relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his son, Harilal Gandhi. Shefali Shah plays Kasturba Gandhi, mediating and tackling the tensed relationship and its impact on their family. With the striking maturity that she brought to her role, she was able to leave her mark alongside veteran actor, Darshan Jariwala.


5. The Last Lear

Rituparno Ghosh’s The Last Lear is a slow-burning ode to stagecraft and cinema. Shefali’s role as Vandana in the film landed her the National Award for the Best Supporting Actress. The film revolves around Harish Mishra who has suddenly forsaken the craft after precisely thirty years. He is being taken care of by Vandana, who blames the entire crew for Harish’s predicament.

Web India

6. Black & White

Subhash Ghai’s Black & White features Anil Kapoor, Anurag Sinha and Shefali Shah in the lead role. It revolves around the life of an Afghan suicide bomber, sent on a mission on Independence Day. Shefali plays the role of a vocal social activist to the T. Although not the center of the story, her powerful performance leaves a mark on the viewer’s mind with the sheer force of her character. 

The film received massive critical acclaim and was premiered at the International Film Festivals of Pune and Delhi.

Bollywood Mantra

7. Juice

Juice is a short film, written and directed by Neeraj Ghaywan. Shefali here plays the role of Manju Singh, an Indian housewife. It will almost be criminal to not mention ‘the last stare’ scene where Manju leaves behind the confinement of the kitchen and joins the men in the living room, with a glass of juice. The sheer intensity of Shah’s performance and the poignancy of her stare stays with the viewer long after the film. 


8. Delhi Crime

Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime captures the sheer horror of the tragic Delhi gang rape of 2012. The protagonist of the Netflix show is Shefali Shah’s character Vartika Chaturvedi, based on the erstwhile DCP South, Chhaya Sharma. Vartika’s character in the show is defined by her extreme efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice and her penchant to empathise with the victim and the situation. 

The series marks Shefali Shah’s powerful performance and her ability to assume the role with so much authenticity and the passion that it grips the audience by its intensity. Her performance in this series truly reveals her versatility and her potential to deliver roles to perfection.


9. Once Again

Once Again develops the story of a mature romance without your average Bollywood masala. A Ritesh Batra venture, after The Lunchbox, the film deals with middle-aged romance that develops between Shefali Shah and Neeraj Kabi’s characters.

While the film received mixed responses, Shefali Shah’s performance was praised for her brilliant chemistry with Neeraj. Her eyes and intense expressions convey zillion intricate emotions, without having to say much.


10. Lakshmi

This 2014 film on social issues deals with the alarming realities of human trafficking and child prostitution in the rural grounds of India. The film won accolades like the Best Film – Mercedes Benz Audience Award and the Best Narrative at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The film is about Lakshmi, a 14-year-old, kidnapped from her village and protruded in the trafficking racket. She’s sent to a brothel managed by Jyothi, a role played by Shefali. Shefali plays this sex worker who both oppresses and takes care of the women working under her, willingly and unwillingly. Her powerful performance leaves a lasting impression on the viewer about the hard-hitting realities of prostitution.


11. Aarohan

Aarohan is a 13-episode series that aired on DD National from 1996 to 1997. The series is about women cadets joining Indian Navy and revolves around their life and training. Shefali plays Cadet Nivedita, the shy friend of the protagonist, Nikita. Both of them join the academy together.

The series is available on YouTube, uploaded by DD Archives.


12. Dil Dhadakne Do

Zoya Akhtar’s comedy-drama has gone to become a cult classic. A film that talked about relevant issues while it entertained the audience with its comic timing. This film also marks Shefali Shah’s commercial success in the industry. 

She plays the role of Neelam Mehra, an Indian housewife, who sees her husband going on business trips, getting friendly with the female guests, but has no escape from it. She epitomises the helplessness of the Indian housewife, who’s both oppressed but also becomes a carrier of oppression. Neelam’s conversation with her daughter, played by Priyanka Chopra- about marriage and the onus that is placed on the woman to carry on a passionless marriage, kyunki log kya kahenge? – poignantly reveals her oppressive side.


13. Banegi Apni Baat

This Indian drama aired on Zee TV from 1993 to 1997 and was popular amid the youth of the country as it focused on college life, revolving around flirtation and romance. Shefali plays the role of Richa, one of the three daughters of Radhaji, and it focuses on latter’s struggle with her daughters.

Hindustan Times

14. Naya Nukkad

Naya Nukkad is a 1993 Doordarshan comedy serial and a sequel to 1986 show, Nukkad, starring Dilip Dhawan, Rama Vij, and Pavan Malhotra in the lead roles. It also introduced theatre personalities like Shah herself and Makrand Deshpande and Neeraj Vohra.

15. Kabhie Kabhie

This 1997 TV series directed by Mahesh Bhatt and written by Anurag Kashyap, features Shefali in the role of Radha Pathak. It is a story of two friends, Radha and Mandira and their struggle to stay close, when pitted against each other due to their professional rivalry. The series makes for a beautiful tale of broken friendships, priorities, dilemmas and the hard choices one has to make along the way.

Shefali Shah’s filmography is a gift to the lovers of genuine cinema that brings real and relevant issues to the big screen. Her captive performances just keep on giving and her oeuvre is an ode to brilliant acting and perfectly executed roles.