The incredible story of how a kitty party aunty from Agra landed a film with Rishi Kapoor and Juhi Chawla
“I thought it was a prank. Aise thodi na ghar bethe koi apko aa ke picture mein le jata hai”
Never in her wildest of dreams did Shiwangi Peswani think she’d be working alongside film legends Rishi Kapoor and Juhi Chawla.
She describes herself as a “simple kitty party aunty” from Agra who has a blog and YouTube channel dedicated to all things kitty party-related. But you will also recognise Peswani with red and purple streaks in her hair, seated alongside Juhi Chawla at the lunch table, chowing down on the ma ki dal prepared by Rishi Kapoor’s character; wagging a finger at a corrupt cop and spinning around to ‘Baby doll’ in the film Sharmaji Namkeen.
So how did an Agra Youtuber end up in a Bollywood film? Peswani says the production team found her channel while researching for the film and wanted her help with some of the background on kitty parties. Phone calls turned into a one-line appearance, eventually growing into a full character in the film.
Read about her journey, love for kitty parties and what it was like working with Rishi Kapoor on his final project.
I hadn’t even passed out of college when I got married at 19. It’s been 25 years since, and I’m still not a graduate. Before the wedding itself, my mother-in-law put my name down for the society kitty party that used to happen. She was a big-time kitty party freak. So much so that in the last five years of her life, when she was on an oxygen cylinder, she would still attend. Friends ke saath voh 3-4 ghante masti karna, baatein karna, khaana-peena (having fun with friends, chatting, eating), that was the spice of her life.
When I started attending them, I was the youngest there, the new bahu, so everyone used to pamper me and dote over me like beta yeh kha lo, voh kar lo.
Housewives ke saath kya hota hai ki… I realised, kuch nahin hota hai ghar mein. You feel there’s no particular meaning to life other than jhaadu-pocha, khaana banao, looking after everyone else and going to sleep. You wait till the weekend because your husband will be free to take you out somewhere. So kitty parties are your own space. While your children, in-laws, and husband are home, you can let your hair down, play games, have fun, and get all dolled up.
I know youngsters laugh at kitty parties. Like when we have themes or outings to restaurants, and if they’re sitting nearby, they make sour faces. Thinking like, “these aunties don’t have any other work? What a useless thing.”
People still hold onto that old negative image of kitty parties. That these ladies go to gossip and bitch, ya drink karne jaate hain. In fact, when we were shooting for Sharmaji Namkeen, my co-stars like Juhi Chawla and Sheeba Chaddha had no idea about what actually goes on at kitty parties since they had never been to any. That’s why the director and producers cast me, they wanted a real kitty party woman in the movie.
Hosting and attending these had become a normal part of my life, but it started to get slightly monotonous. When my children got a bit older, I started to feel ki ab kuch karna chahiye now that I have some free time. I started a blog on kitty parties where I used to write everything kitty party related – what games we play, what we do, what we cook. It was the only blog of its kind at the time so it picked up really fast.
One reader asked if I demonstrate how to play a game I’d talked about in an article. That gave me the idea of starting a YouTube channel. That’s how the makers of Sharmaji Namkeen found me. They said, “We want to understand kitty parties better, can you help us?”
We spoke about the games and the menu because food is a big part of this film. I also sent them more than 2,000 photos. Then one day, they just asked me, “Would you like to play a small role in this movie?” Who says no to that?
I sent in an audition video of the line they sent me. They were like “Oh, you’re good! We want to give you a bigger role, can you do that?” When they told me about the director and the rest of the cast, I thought, no, this can’t be true. It must be a prank. Aise thodi na ghar bethe koi apko aa ke picture mein le jata hai (you don’t get cast in movies just like that).
When I met my co-stars Sheeba, Ayesha and Madhu, main dar dar ke ja rahi thi ( I was scared) thinking these are film people, they won’t want to talk to me. But in 10 minutes, we were friends and it kind of turned into a real kitty party there.
When Juhi ma’am entered, I was pinching myself. She shook my hand, saying, “We don’t know anything about kitty parties, you have to teach us, you are the boss”. I was on cloud 9.
Then came Rishi Kapoor wearing a pink t-shirt and a pair of jeans, laughing, smiling and joking around with a glow on his face. People had told me that, oh, he can get angry quite fast so be careful. When I asked him if we could get a picture together, he laughed, saying, “Arre bhai, selfie kya? Saath mein puri film kar rahe hain! (Forget selfies, we’re making whole film together)”
It was incredible, even for a second, I wasn’t made to feel as if I didn’t belong. Between shots, Juhi ji would get her snacks out. Everyone would be fed makhanas. One part was shot in summer but we were wrapped up in sweaters and coats to make it seem like it was winter. When Paresh ji saw me perspiring, he scolded someone. “Arre, see Shiwangi, she’s feeling so hot. Why hasn’t anyone got her a chair either? She’s wearing heels, she needs to sit.”
That this is Rishi sir’s last film and I got to be a part of it, I couldn’t have ever imagined in my wildest dreams. During the shoot, we found out he’s a bit unwell and that we’d be wrapping up. Everyone was very concerned, it was a sombre feeling. He didn’t come back to set after that. We were all heartbroken when he passed.
When I made my Youtube channel, some friends used to laugh at me. They’d say, what kind of niche channel is this? It’s not profitable. Kuch nahin hoga, leave it, kitty party par kaun Youtube channel banata hai? When I got this movie, I was like, ab main sab ko bata doongi that there’s no such thing as useless. No knowledge is useless. Even if it’s all about kitty party games.
When we all met on set again, it was a very different energy. We were really missing Rishi sir but we were happy that his final project would be completed and out there for everyone to see and enjoy.
As told to Sara Hussain