Singaporean Ismaili makes debut in television series “Dream School”
Shirin Keshvani was a toddler when she first took to the stage. At age four, she was selected to emcee the official opening of her nursery school. The stage was fast becoming her second home.
“I enjoy singing and playing my guitar. I love performing – life would be empty without it,” says Keshvani.
From dressing up for festivals, to singing and dancing, she’s tried it all. At the age of 10, Keshvani won her school’s talent quest, singing and performing on her guitar. She has also performed in various dramatic and musical roles in school and at a professional level.
In November, the 12-year-old made her television acting debut on Singapore’s Okto TV Channel in Dream School. The drama/musical television series is about a group of kids who enrol in a performing arts school, and depicts their trials and tribulations as they try to fit into a creative environment that seeks to nurture their special gifts. At the same time, they are trying to grapple with ordinary issues that pre-teens face.
Keshvani plays the role of Rita, a student who sings, plays guitar and composes songs. In many ways, the role mirrors Keshvani’s real life — her talents and growing string of achievements have also led her to enrol in a specialty arts school.
In 2008, Keshvani made it to the finals of a talent contest jointly organised by Park Royal Hotel and talent academy Kids Performing. She impressed the judges belting out a cover of Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T. The next year, she participated in national broadcaster Okto’s One Minute of Fame and ranked among the top 20 out of more than 300 participants singing the Guns 'n Roses hit song, Sweet Child ‘O Mine.
In addition to performing, Keshvani also has a talent for composing songs. In 2009, she wrote and performed the song You Rock! as a tribute for Teacher’s Day celebrations at her primary school, CHIJ Kellock. Last year, she wrote and performed Different Worlds at the Open Little Eyes Symposium organised by the Singapore Chinese Girls School.
Keshvani’s passion for the arts has frequently led her on stage. In addition to performing in school musicals such as The True Story of The Three Little Pigs, Dreamweaver and The Little Blue Pinafore, she has also taken on lead roles in professional stage productions, such as the part of the evil Prime Minister Chao in the staging of The Emperor’s New Clothes (2010) by Precious Entertainment, and the role of Mrs MacReady the stern housekeeper in Narnia The Musical; The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (2009).
“I usually prefer humorous and light-hearted roles that suit my personality,” Keshvani says. “I especially like showing my funny side, and I am more comfortable in such roles.”
Keshvani feels that enthusiasm is her biggest selling point. “Acting is all about timing and confidence. It’s a challenge to portray any kind of character naturally and with full confidence.”
Shirin Keshvani performs in Okto’s One Minute of Fame 2009, a talent show broadcast on Singapore television. Photo: Courtesy of Shirin Keshvani
“I am also fortunate to have parents who encourage me every step of the way,” she adds.
Keshvani was raised by in a nurturing environment, together with elder brother Dillon and younger brother Kiran, who are 16 and 9-years-old respectively. Their father Nazir is an editor in a publishing firm and mother Rukmani works as a Human Resource Manager at an independent school.
Her siblings share her talent for the stage, and together they form a musical combo. The trio are often called upon to perform, and in early 2010, participated in the Popstars City Family Talent Quest.
Keshvani is very excited about starting at the School of the Arts this year, Singapore’s first national specialised independent arts school. Established in 2008, its unique six-year integrated arts and academic curriculum for youths aged 13 to 18 offers a dedicated development path for those displaying early talent in the arts. Together with other institutions such as the School of Design & Technology and the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, the School of the Arts is considered to be at the leading edge of a paradigm shift in the country’s education system, geared towards the development of intellectual capital and skills pertaining to creativity and enterprise.
With her enrolment in this “Dream School” of her own, Keshvani is confident that her aspirations to be a professional actor will soon be realised.