How did the lockdown treat you?
The lockdown gave us so much time to reflect. I did some writing; I painted, sketched a little bit, and watched a lot of good stuff on OTT. However, it was difficult also, because, there is so much happening around (us) the entire time and there were times where most of us felt wrong about being privileged as well. There were people who were striving to get back to their homes, and still there people who are trapped. So, there is a mixed feeling towards this whole lockdown period. In this time, I realised that the one thing that is needed is compassion towards each other. So, I keep telling myself to be compassionate towards everyone and everything around me, as much as possible. So, I am just taking my learning forward.
You have made a significant mark on OTT platforms as well…
The experience is good, but honestly speaking, as an actor, I don’t think it makes much of a difference. As an actor, (I) approach it (the role) with the same sort of integrity, the same sort of preparation. The format is different, because (in films) you’re talking about two-and-a-half hours of storytelling, and on the web, it is 10 hours of storytelling. So, obviously, the characters are much more evolved, your chemistry with the other characters is better. We get to feed off each other; I’m fond of both formats. Films have their own charm, and I don’t think that’s going anywhere. But apart from that, I’m very happy with the way OTT has been accepted. It has become so important and relevant during these COVID days. And of course, it got a new lease of life altogether, it became much more vital. But, I’m waiting to go back to the theatres, because I think all of us love the celebration of films on the big screen. It might take a while but, as an artist, I am happy with the boost in OTT; and there is so much content, and experimented concepts!
Your role in ‘Criminal Justice’ series was lauded. Tell us about your experience of working with an ensemble cast and yet standing out with your performance…
My character Nikhat Hussain was reprised from the first season. So, in the first season, Nikhat was a newbie. She was unsure about how the legal system works, and was kind of struggling between being righteous and functioning. In the second season, she’s a little more evolved, and the issue that we’re addressing in the series-sexual abuse–is also very important. This is something even I’m very vocal about it in my personal life. Then, I’ve got to work with Pankaj (Tripathi) sir and other wonderful artists again. It’s nice to reunite with your team, especially when your first season has done well. So, it’s a great feeling to be a part of such a fantastic series.
In your career, you have done a lot of bold scenes. Do you find it uncomfortable while shooting such a scene in the presence of such a large crew?
I’m glad you’re saying that because many people don’t know that I’ve done such scenes also. Honestly speaking, I haven’t done it that much, but there was a Nagesh Kukunoor movie called ‘Maya,’ which hasn’t released yet. In that film, I have many bold scenes but that was alright for me, as there was no unnecessary skin show, and we had a fantastic crew, so I was comfortable. I look forward to going out of my comfort zone and play different shades. My character in ‘Abhay’ was a very wild and a vicious person. A couple of months before that, I was shooting for ‘The Final Call’, ‘Asur’, and ‘War’–which were all righteous, very composed, and philanthropic characters. I really wanted to play someone ‘bad.’ I like doing those crazy kinds of roles as well.
So, you are pretty comfortable doing bold scenes?
As I said, ‘Maya’, which was about to release in 2016, had some heavy bold scenes, where you had to shed your comfort and inhibitions. My character in that film goes through a graph and becomes aware of her sexuality. So, that experience really prepped me, and now I’m very comfortable as long as I believe in the character. For me, what’s important is that I should be excited about the character that I’m playing, and I should feel the need to cushion it. When it comes to bold or explicit scenes, it should not just be that, but there should be a feel around it. The character should have more to offer and more to talk about, to express, and then it becomes fun (to do it). It’s very important that your sensibility with the director and your co-actor matches, and as an actor, you should be able to discuss it, to talk about it, to put out your inhibitions, and if you are really uncomfortable, then you need to speak up and discuss. I’ve been blessed to work with people who are very professional.
What are your thoughts on social media trolls?
I haven’t been trolled that much. I’ve yet to see that dirty side of it. But whenever I’ve tried expressing myself, and talking about things that I believe in, I have been trolled. And it is very disappointing… I won’t lie about it. In the beginning, you will get taken aback and you wonder why, because I am open to discussion and allowing the other person to speak. I never point out right or wrong. I express it with a lot of respect and room for a healthy discussion. But if you have a strong opinion, backed by some knowledge, then you shouldn’t be bothered about trolls; you should stick to your views. Sometimes I feel that people are negating anything that is being said; they’ll never agree with you. There should be a valid reason behind the discontent. We can agree to disagree, allow me to say that I’m open to being proven wrong, but just negating the whole point of a discussion is not a right. Social media is a very beautiful and useful medium to express ourselves, or hear other people, or bring a change. But if you only spread negativity and toxicity there, then it will leave a huge negative impact. I think, you just need to learn how to deal with it and stick to your guns.
There is an obsession with fair skin in India. What are your views about colour discrimination?
Well, I’m dusky, and proud of it. I’ve always been very comfortable (with my skin), But there is a conversation about how Indians are brown, and our skin is considered exotic. A long time ago, I was at an airport and realised that in terms of our features and skin tone, we Indians are so unique. There are Asians and different kinds of people, but brown people are so unique, and I felt so cool about it. I think everyone is beautiful. As a person, you have a unique individuality of your own, and when you are comfortable in your skin and ethnicity, it makes you the perfect person. During my childhood, I used to get nervous every time my parents said that I was looking fair as I love my dusky skin. This is a topic of conversation that should happen in every family. If you notice in your friend circle, there might be few people who are a little dark; they are conscious about their skin. This is because they have been under the radar since their younger days. There is no such thing as white or dark.
If you can, please elaborate on your future projects…
‘Asur 2’ is there. Then there is a series with Eros, which should start around June. I also have ‘Meri Desh Ki Dharti.’
What are your thoughts about pay disparity in Bollywood, and the #MeToo movement?
I think everything starts with childhood, the way our parents are, or their parents were. Changes happen in very small minuscule amounts, and each one of us has to take it home. My mother has a good indication of how I am today, or how my psyche is. So, it’s very important to tell kids that boys-girls are equal. This issue has to be addressed. This whole patriarchal system is so deeply ingrained in us, the differences about being the girl, and how you are projecting yourself. We are told that our actions decide our morality, and it is completely missing in boys. (I don’t think) that their actions impact the morality status at all. ‘Yeh toh ladke hai, ladko ki fitrat aisi hi hoti hai’ (boys will be boys), this really needs to stop. They need to be open for such discussions; those lines need to be eradicated. It’s okay if a guy cries; he should also embrace the feminine side. Men need to stop being invincible, and having control over their women. Such discussion is the need of the hour. Trust me, this issue is not limited to those Tier II, and Tier III cities and villages; it also exists in metropolitan cities. When it comes to pay disparity, I hope that it changes, and that will happen once we raise our voice. I think if the people who are in positions of power, start considering the matter seriously, it will create a bigger impact.
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