Emily Shah is excited about the global launch on May 20, 2022, of her new film Jungle Cry, which is based on the inspiring real-life story of 12 tribal boys from Odisha making it to the international rugby stage. The US-based actor-entrepreneur is not only the film’s executive producer, she also co-stars in the sports biopic along with lead actor Abhay Deol.
The original rugby team featured in the film were students at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences in Odisha, India, where they were trained and went on to win the prestigious U14 Rugby World Cup in England.
Directed by Sagar Ballary of Bheja Fry fame, the film features known faces such as Atul Kumar (Manto), Stewart Wright (Doc Martin, Doctor Who) and Julian Lewis Jones (Invictus, Justice League). It also features cameos by world-famous rugby referee Nigel Owens; Wales and British Lions fly half Phil Bennett and Colin Charvis, former captain of the Wales National Rugby Union Team.
Being the daughter of Bollywood film producer Prashant Shah, movie production was in Emily’s blood from a young age. And with film-star looks and a beauty pageant crown on her head, acting was a natural progression in her career as early as her teens.
Born to an Indian dad and English mom, Emily was raised in the US but was nonetheless exposed to her Indian culture from childhood as she visited her grandparents in India every year. “My parents were very open to me learning about both their traditions, cultures, heritage and religions. They encouraged me to embrace whatever I felt closest to,” she tells eShe. Since both her parents were working, she was largely raised by her grandparents and so she picked up Gujarati along with Hindi and English.
She also began learning dance at the age of two and took acting classes when she was still in primary school. She began participating in beauty pageants in her teens, and when she was 18, she won the Miss New Jersey title, making her the youngest recipient ever to win the crown. “What I learnt is that when you tend to let go of things and the desire to be in control, things come to you. It’s the energy of manifestation,” she shares of her experience.
She studied entertainment media management for her Bachelor’s at California State University, and honed her acting skills at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, Madhumati’s Bollywood Academy and later New York Film Academy.
Working behind the scenes in films with filmmakers like Clint Eastwood and Spiro Razatos honed her production skills, which she has now brought to the fore in her family-owned business Bollywood Hollywood Production.
Alongside her entertainment career, she’s also an entrepreneur with her own gin label Dharma Gin, based on Ayurvedic ingredients. It’s a brand she launched this year along with her partner Mena Massoud, the Egyptian-Canadian actor who played the lead role in Disney’s Aladdin directed by Guy Ritchie.
In the latest episode of eShe TV, Emily speaks to eShe editor Aekta Kapoor about the making of Jungle Cry, working with Abhay Deol, growing up with mixed parentage, and living her dream by standing her ground and believing in herself and her power.
Watch the conversation on YouTube here.
The interview is also available as a podcast.
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