Interview with Sheetal Sheth

Actress Sheetal Sheth is no stranger to controversy. She made her debut in the film ABCD , playing a promiscuous young woman struggling with the ties of family and tradition. It garnered a lot of attention from press and audiences , both positive and negative. The Indian American beauty held her own against Albert Brooks in Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, she fell in love with actress Lisa Ray in Shamim Sarif‘s beloved films The World Unseen and I Can’t Think Straight. She also bested me during a pillow fight on my Logo show Brunch with Bridget. (I totally let her win!)

Sheth is dealing with controversy once again with her latest film, Three Veils. The films follows three Middle Eastern women and who deal with abuse, rape and struggles with their sexuality. The script was originally boycotted but was saved thanks to the efforts of the film’s director and producer.

I spoke with Sheth about her powerful new role, where she lands on the Kinsey scale and why she seems to be drawn to controversy. Tell me about your new movie, Three Veils.
Sheetal Sheth: The film is a touching film that follows three women who are dealing with their own issues and struggles of where they have come from, who they are, and what they want. My character Nikki is battling demons from her past that continue to haunt her in ways that stifle her from having a normal life. She is lost, lonely and quite troubled.

AE: The movie has had a lot of controversy surrounding it and you said the script was boycotted. Can you talk about that? 
SS: Yes, when the script was being shopped around, once investors, etc. came to know the issues the film dealt with, they didn’t want any part of it. It was very difficult getting the right people to back it as so much of the subject matter is taboo in many parts of the world or people just don’t want to deal with them — which, by the way, is even more reason, the film needed to be made and seen by as many people as possible.

Unfortunately, many are scared of the “fire” they think will ensue. Thankfully, our director, Rolla Selbak and producer, Ahmad Zahra, pushed forward and believed in it.

AE: You seem to be drawn to controversial stories, why? What’s wrong with you? [Laughs]
SS: Ha! Funny, I get that question a lot and I laugh because I never sought out particular “controversial”‘ films. And, honestly, I personally don’t find them “controversial” — I find them interesting, honest stories that I haven’t seen done before and that’s rare in the film world. Finding complex stories and strong female characters is hard, so when I see a script as special as this one, I jump on it.

In the process, I come to know the issues around it and am even more proud to be a voice in the nonsense of ignorance and taboo topics. I grew up having very strong opinions about things and always being involved. I have never stood on the sidelines of anything, let alone a debate. I also don’t want to be in a film that’s mediocre or stirs mild reaction. Good films illicit strong responses, albeit positive or negative but that’s what I love. I say, bring it. Let’s talk. There is nothing we shouldn’t talk about. No fear!

AE: What has been the most surprising response to Three Veils?
SS: Well, I saw it with an audience for the first time in Portland and I was so excited to see how people responded. I wasn’t surprised as much I was thrilled that people seemed to want to know more. They were moved by it and just had so much to ask and talk about after. And we won the Audience Award! For our premiere screening, that’s not bad, huh?