Actress Rasika Dugal feels that both in cinema and society, we are in a reactionary phase as far as the conversation on gender is concerned. “So, from having no parts for women in cinema, we now have heroic ones. These films are often called ‘women-centric’ films. That might not be an indicator of true change. True change is when we get out of the trap of either glorifying or ignoring – when women without necessarily being heroes, have important and nuanced roles to play in a film as they have in society. I think we still have a long way to go.”

Dugal is a theatre veteran, who has been part of productions like the Vagina Monologues and the popular Urdu play Dastangoi. She has just started shooting for her first lead role in the Bollywood film Manto opposite Nawazuddin Siddiqui which is being directed by Nandita Das. She admits that she loves the magnificence of theatre, but she immensely enjoys the intimacy of cinema which is her first love.

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“So, from having no parts for women in cinema, we now have heroic ones. These films are often called ‘women-centric’ films. That might not be an indicator of true change.”

But how does she decide on the projects she wants to be a part of? And how does she prepare for a role?

“It’s mostly instinctive. To me, the most important factors are a good script, a good vibe from the director and the film team, respectable money, interesting co-actors and a challenging role (I am particularly inclined to roles which require me to learn a new skill or which require me to change my physicality). If any three of these are there in a project, I will do it.

I don’t like my preparation process to be very self-conscious because I truly believe that preparation is meant to aid your instinct not kill it. So I stay away from intellectualising anything and I just do what I think would be fun to do as preparation. For instance, for Qissa I just listened to a lot of old Punjabi music and for Manto, I read a lot of Urdu.”

Rasika-duggal-manto
A still from ‘Manto’ Pic Credit: DNA India

The alumnus of FTII and Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi says that shooting with both Nawaz and Nandita was a lot of fun. One would presume with the kind of work they have done that they are quite serious and intense. But she adds, “They have a very fun lighter side and I really enjoyed working with them. Experience gives them the ability to be efficient and focussed yet relaxed. It’s a great quality and I hope to take that with me.”

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“I had a part in a film called Tu Hai Mera Sunday in which I interacted with hearing impaired children. I learnt sign language for the film and then continued much after we finished filming.”

Dugal is grateful that work itself often makes her learn so many varied things that she doesn’t have to look elsewhere for hobbies. “For instance, I had a part in a film called Tu Hai Mera Sunday in which I interacted with hearing impaired children. I learnt sign language for the film and then continued much after we finished filming.”

The actress has also recently been a part of one of the short films by Large Short Films called The School BagThe film has won Best Actress, Best Child Actor, second best film at Bengal International Short Film Festival and Best story at GIIFFA. She’ll be soon playing a cameo in Zoya Akhtar’s short film in Bombay Talkies 2 and tells us that the next half of the year looks busy for her.

She says, “After a long time, I am in a position to choose. That comes with its own set of problems but these are good problems.

I never strategize. For me, it’s more about taking one day at a time. So, I really don’t know about five years later. But I hope that in five years I would have really honed my craft and become better and better at my work.”

Read More by Amrita Paul