A New Season
By Joan Tupponce
Following roles in hit TV shows Royal Pains and Pure Genius and in the touring version of Broadway’s Bombay Dreams, trained opera singer and actress Reshma Shetty is ready for a new challenge.
Actress Reshma Shetty is busy being a mom at the moment. The baby monitor in her Manhattan apartment is nearby and she’s laser focused on her 17-month-old daughter, Ariya Eliana, who is fussing in her bedroom instead of napping.
“She has completely changed my life,” says Shetty, 39, of the toddler. “As a performer, life is about you and now I have this little entity that is more important than me. It’s glorious, crazy, draining and stunning all in one package.”
Fans know the James Madison University alum for her former roles as Divya Katdare on USA Network’s Royal Pains and morerecently as Dr. Talaikha Channarayapatra on the CBSmedical drama Pure Genius. She also played Priya in A.R. Rahman’s and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s national tour of the Broadway musical Bombay Dreams.
Since Pure Genius ended last December, Shetty has spent much of her time auditioning. “At this point I just want to have something that challenges me. I don’t really care what the role outline is,” she says. “I just want to do something I can grow in. I would love to do a Broadway show or a movie. It just depends on what comes my way. I’m waiting for the next step.”
Born in Mumbai, India, Shetty lived in England before moving to Richmond around the age of 16. Music entered her life at the age of seven when she took an interest in piano and classical guitar and participated in the orchestra at her school. When her parents Prema and Sudhakar Shetty moved to Virginia after Shetty’s father, a psychiatrist, began working at VCU Medical Center, she continued performing, playing violin in the orchestra at Godwin High School in Henrico County.
Shetty didn’t branch out into chorus and musical theater until her junior and senior years at Godwin. “Music was my huge extracurricular activity,” she says. “I wasn’t a sports girl.”
Previously a student at an all-girls school in England, Shetty had to adjust to life at Godwin. “I missed home and I missed my friends,” she says. “It was a struggle to keep up with everything.”
Music was not only a creative outlet for Shetty, but also a path to friendship. She credits her choral and drama teachers, Sherri Matthews and Mac Damron, with help- ing her to further develop her talents. “They were big believers in me,” she says, noting that she nally felt like part of the school when, during her senior year, she won the Principal’s Medallion. “That was a large arc for me.
I worked really hard to become part of the family of that school and I felt like my hard work had been noticed.”
After graduating she entered James Madison University as a biology major in the pre-med program, but continued to explore music. As a freshman, Shetty began taking private voice lessons in classical music from JMU voice professor and instructor Brenda Witmer. It wasn’t until she was named one of the winners in the freshman division of the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition that she began thinking about changing her major to voice.
“Reshma knew what she was doing with her voice,” says Witmer. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, she has something here.’ I don’t think either of us realized where her voice major would take her professionally.”
When she did change majors, Shetty chose to focus on opera, thinking that some day she would be an opera singer. She graduated from JMU with a degree in opera performance and then earned a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky and another from the Cincinnati Conser-vatory of Music. “Opera was such an extreme drama,” she says. “There’s something very alluring to me about that extreme emotion. It’s priceless.”
But opera didn’t turn out to be her calling. “All of that training was to get me to the point of being the leading lady on the tour for Bombay Dreams,” she says. “That show was the start of it all. It’s one of my favorite jobs so far. I used to wake up excited to go to rehearsal, and that’s what it’s all about.”
During the tour she struck up a friendship with the show’s leading man, Deep Katdare, who is now her husband. The two married in 2011; their daughter was born in October 2015.
Shetty says one of her proudest moments over the years was playing Divya in Royal Pains, because it gave her the chance to introduce her cul- ture to worldwide audiences. “At the time there were hardly any television characters of Indian descent,” she says. As the show progressed, she began to ask the writers for storylines with more depth and challenges, and she says, “They would listen. It becomes a partnership.”
Pure Genius gave her the opportunity to work with actor and fellow Virginian Dermot Mulroney, who hails from Alexandria. “He’s a lovely man,” she says. “We weren’t aware that we were both from Virginia until later on.”
Shetty often visits her parents, who still live in Henrico. “I have so many wonderful memories of school in Virginia,” she says. “Life there is more laid back and gentle than the city. It’s nice to come home to that.