From scars to a star: Once afflicted by acne, this dermatologist is now ruling the silver screen
Apart from acting in plays and films, Pradnya Shastri runs her own skin clinic and has started her entrepreneurial journey with a range of curated skincare boxes under the brand Bodycurry.
A teenage Pradnya Shastri may have been absolutely exasperated at that unshakeable “constellation” on her face, but it didn’t take her long to realise her destiny was written in those stars! Not only did she overcome the phase to get discovered at a gym and eventually star in films as prominent as Jagga Jasoos, she also stayed true to her original mission – her sworn war against acne.
As a dermatologist, she has treated patients with ailments as serious as psoriasis, vitiligo and blistering disorders at her burgeoning practice in Mumbai, and as of last month, she has even been thinking “out of the box” to nip skin ailments in the bud.
Scarred, but not for life
Born in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Pradnya’s family moved to Saudi Arabia when she was all of one and a half years old. They returned to Aurangabad when she was 13 years old. Like most 12-year-olds reeling in the wake of puberty, Pradnya also grappled with a complex due to the major breakouts of acne she had every so often – they continued till she was almost 22 years old.
“It bothered me, especially when I saw others with zit-free skin. I laugh now, but at that time, as a young girl, these zits did take a toll on me emotionally,” she says.
Upon graduation, when it was time to pick her specialty, she had two options - ophthalmology and dermatology. She picked the latter for obvious reasons. She finished her PG in dermatology from Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune.
Soon after, in 2008, she shifted to Mumbai.
“Broke and looking for a job, my only solace was the gym, which was where I met a veteran actress named Vidya Patwardhan whose work I adored. We got talking and she discovered my immense love for acting. One day she asked if I would be interested in being a part of an experimental Marathi play for a production house called Awishkar,” she recalls.
Little did Pradnya know that the offer she accepted impulsively would put her on set with none other than Pandit Satyadev Dubey.
A star is born
“After this first play, word spread and I ended up doing plays, films and TV commercials with people like Anurag Basu, Vijay Kenkre, Pratima Kulkarni, Ashutosh Rana and Chandrakant Kulkarni… all stalwarts of the industry,” she tells us.
Pradnya has done three Marathi films - playing the lead in Dambis, a supporting role in Yeda (alongside Ashutosh Rana) and a guest appearance in Lagee toh Chagee.
She even cracked Bollywood this year and appeared in Jagga Jasoos. She also starred in a series on the Epic Channel.
Plays will always hold a special place in her heart, and she has acted in 10 so far, spanning Marathi, Hindi and English. “Mastering the Marathi pronunciation was challenging, but I have this great love of languages and I readily accepted the challenge,” she says.
But, there is one project that has been particularly fulfilling for Pradnya - the English play Educating Rita, where she played the titular character.
“I connected with the character at so many levels and learnt a lot about the process of acting and more importantly, ‘reacting’ from this play,” she says.
Thinking out of the box
Meanwhile, she had amassed 10 years of experience dealing with patients - at first, by consulting at various nursing homes, and later, through Skin Matra, her own thriving dermatology clinic that she started two years ago.
She soon realised that a lot of people wanted to adopt skincare regimes but did not have access to nuanced guidelines, and ended up testing products without knowledge.
Reminded of her own past and recalling how central a role expert guidance played in her treatment, she decided to curate time-tested pharma products that would at least start people off on their basic skincare journey.
“People are also too busy to visit a dermatologist. Bodycurry helps such people use dermatologist-recommended products along with instructions on how to use them,” she says.
Bodycurry, thus, created “boxes” for customers, based on their skin type. In the box, Pradnya places specially chosen face-washes, sunscreens, and moisturisers from renowned pharmaceutical companies like Dr Reddy’s Lab, Curatio etc.
“The ‘magic’ of the box lies in the fact that it comes with my instructions on how to use the products… as skin care needs are dynamic and change according to the weather, the environment you are in (air-conditioned rooms, outdoors etc.) and the time of the day,” she says.
The box also offers the convenience of getting all your skin care products at one go. “Plus, if used optimally the products last for three to four months!” she states.
At present, their bouquet constitutes the Bodycurry Basic Skin Care Box for dry/combination skin, oily skin, for the avid traveller and a sanitary tampon box for women. However, Pradnya is open to curating boxes for people with special needs and even did one for Baby Skin Care.
The boxes range from Rs 949 (sanitary box price) to Rs 2,500 (bridal skin care pack) Her basic skin care packs are priced at Rs 1,599. Being a stickler for detail, she even added a small pouch, the Bodycurry Mini Pack, with mini bottles that are easier to store and travel with.
Pradnya also reached out to her patients in the clinic for initial feedback.
“We are in the pilot phase and are learning a lot about the product mix from our early adopters. Social media campaigns and word of mouth are helping a great deal in brand awareness. We are also evaluating our ecommerce strategies and may soon launch online,” she says.
Currently, they retailing through a customer helpline (022-61054530), a website (www.bodycurry.com) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bodycurry). “We are seeing interest from the doctor community of paediatricians, gynaecologists and plastic surgeons for retailing these products, and are also identifying offline partners like pharmacies,” Pradnya reveals. Launched only in September 2017, Bodycurry has already sold 50 boxes.
“We are targeting a growth rate of 50 percent for the next few months,” she says.
The show goes on
As an artist, doctor and entrepreneur, Pradnya is usually found consulting with patients on all mornings and evenings on weekdays while afternoons are reserved for working on Bodycurry.
“As for my life as an actor… it’s very uncertain. Thankfully, my patients always agree to adjust when I need to take off for a shoot,” she explains.
She reveals that her hack for playing so many roles on-screen as well as off it is a good old-fashioned “timetable”.
“Follow a timetable, just like you did in your school days! Trust me, if people made timetables things would run much smoothly!” she says.
Pradnya is also an avid blogger, and has been writing for many years, dispelling the myths surrounding skin and hair.
“I am also inviting my colleagues from various fields of medicine to share authentic information on various health issues. A one-stop health blog is what’s coming up!” she reveals, before signing off.