I have learned to enjoy the uncertainty of being an actor – Rasika
Talented actress Rasika Dugal has often been instinctive about her choices in life. Her list of diverse projects is proof of that, portraying how she prefers listening to her heart rather than getting into calculations. But despite having an outstanding profile, Dugal still ‘constantly struggles’ to tell people about the work she has done. Though she understood very soon in life that she’ll have to live with the uncertainty and insecurity of being an actor. Presently in a phase where she is focusing on doing roles where there is a character to build and a graph to play, Dugal who is playing the lead in TVF’s web series Humorously Yours speaks her heart out in a freewheeling chat with Pandolin.
You have been doing some good work these days.
I have been busy, it is a really good time. With an actor, you can never tell when it goes down and when it goes up.
You have earlier played a cameo in Permanent Roommates but this time you are playing a lead in Humorously Yours. How did Humorously Yours happen?
Since I had done a cameo in Permanent Roommates, perhaps they liked me and called me to test for the part in Humorously Yours. I did a proper audition for this role and finally got the part. This web series is based on the life of a stand-up comedian played by Vipul Goyal who is a real life stand-up comedian. I play his wife in the series. It is a relief to do something which is light-hearted because I’m normally cast in things which are very serious, though those roles are great as well.
When you are excited about a role, it is hard to say no
Was this a very different kind of an experience as this show is based on the life of a comedian?
Not so much because of that but because of its light-hearted tone. Also I feel that TVF (The Viral Fever) is phenomenal in whatever they have so far done. What really stands out is that they have been very particular about their scripting, which is rare to find in most work that we do. People don’t consider it important to spend time on the script. Few people do that and TVF is one of them. They did it with Pitchers and Permanent Roommates.
For Humorously Yours also they have been scripting for years before we finally started shooting. Once the script is ready, most of the work is already done because one doesn’t have to waste time in correcting things. One spends the shooting time in doing things that one is there for rather than just playing safe by correcting some dialogue or things that look awkward.
Also, I have really been wanting to do something comic for a while. Though my part in it is not really comic but anything comic that you see, there is always one person who is funny and another person who the funny person plays off. That is how a joke works. Though I’m still craving for a really comic role.
What is it about the web that made you want to be part of it?
I think I’m very encouraged by what this space has opened up for us. Web has opened new avenues for actors like me – for us to be able to make a mark. I can definitely speak for myself because a lot of directors want to cast me in something but the producer turns around and says that I’m not a known face. That is a line I have heard time and again. So I feel that the web is the new avenue for actors like me.
For instance, Sumeet Vyas has become an internet celebrity ever since he appeared on Permanent Roommates. And I have known Sumeet for a while, he is a very confident actor. Based on his popularity on the web, he is now getting more work in films, which is very encouraging. In fact, all the people who have worked with TVF just did good work and made a mark. And now all of them are doing so well. I’m very happy to be part of that. Their energy is infectious and they are brimming with ideas and jokes always. It is a very nice environment to work in.
You’re also seen in the TV show POW: Bandhi Yuddh Ke. Tell us about your role.
I’m still shooting for it. The show starts at a point where Satyadeep Mishra and Purab Kohli are prisoners of war who come back to India. They are being interrogated and briefed by an ex-army officer played by Manish Chaudhary. Till the 27th episode, Manish is shown in a very official role as someone who is an expert on POWs. After the 27th episode, he starts exploring his personal life and that is when I come in. I play a single mother raising her hearing impaired child. All I can say right now is that there are various other things that will unravel as the plot moves on.
Your choice of projects ranges from unconventional films like Anup Singh’s Qissa to Malayalam film Kammatti Paadam to a web series, the short film Chutney and a TV serial. You come across as an explorer who likes experimenting with all kinds of platforms. Do you choose these platforms deliberately or things have just happened that way?
I think it is a combination of both because you attract the work that you want to do. Also you need to have the courage to follow your instinct and I think that I have been fairly instinctive about my choices. I don’t know if that is the best way to make them. A lot of people at different points in my life have advised me to choose differently but somehow I have not managed to strategize. Because when you are excited about a role, it is hard to say no. At times, I get very excited about roles that I’m approached for and even though strategically they don’t make sense, I do them.
For instance, right now I know that I’m not really excited about smaller parts. I have been offered many small parts in films and I know how to do one or two scenes efficiently. But presently, I’m trying to build a character and work on that consciously. That can only happen if I have a lengthier role. My decisions are made on what I know I need from my work, rather than where it will take me. Of course, I’ll be very happy if it goes somewhere. At the end of the day, you want as many people to watch the work that you have done but my decision of taking a project will not be based on that but on my excitement about it.
Web has opened new avenues for actors like me – for us to be able to make a mark
Does the duration of a role matter to you?
Not always. Like I was saying, the situation that I am in right now, some things have become very boring to do. I know how I can do two or three scenes efficiently, so that doesn’t interest me now. But if there is a character to build and a graph to play and then even if it is two-three scenes, then it will surely interest me. Though these are very hard to find.
If there is a skill to learn for it, for instance, there is a film called Tu Hai Mera Sunday in which I have a small role but it is about a woman who speaks to hearing impaired children in sign language. I took it up because I wanted to learn sign language. The film has been in the festival circuit and was also at MAMI this year.
Commercial films aren’t really part of your filmography. But now that interesting subjects have found place in commercial films, would you want to be part of one?
I would love to be a part of commercial films because there is some really interesting work happening there. For actors like me, it is a relief when you get work which is viewed by a lot of people. Otherwise, we are constantly struggling to tell people about the work we have done. I want to be able to walk into an office where I don’t have to introduce myself or my work.
I have my doubts if there is still a need to introduce yourself. You have done some promising work.
I’m really proud of my work in a film like Qissa but not many people have watched it because of the kind of release that it got. A very niche audience and people in my own circuit who watch each other’s work have only seen it. But wider audiences are always desirable for an actor and I really crave for that situation where I don’t have to say that I was part of a film called Qissa.
Do such situations bother you?
I’m very proud of Qissa regardless of other things. It would have been a bonus for me if it had the kind of release that I felt it deserved. And it is also more disappointing for me as I feel that it is a great film and could have been watched by more people. These are things that are disappointing to me at a later stage. They are still not a reason for me to reject a project. If I’m excited about something, I will do it, rather than worry about the distribution. I will do it but I’ll always hope that it is viewed.
When you work on a role, it is good to have a lot of ambiguity
You have been in the industry since 2007, do you think you have got your due? This conversation gives an impression that there is still a lot that you wish to achieve.
I don’t think that my desire to achieve is going to end even if I get more work. That is what keeps one going. I meet a lot of actors who are doing much better work than me but feel the same as I am feeling. I think I made my peace with this long time back when I understood that I have to live with the insecurity of being an actor. I sort of learned to enjoy the uncertainty and insecurity of it. I know that this is a good time. But this might not be the same a few months down the line. That is the nature of this business. It is best to enjoy it. I definitely want more and more work. But even then I won’t be satisfied.
You are also quite active in the theatre circuit. What continue to keep you so connected to this form of acting?
It is the rigor of rehearsals. I enjoy that and hope to carry that discipline. Though I have always felt that in cinema one needs to be better rehearsed than theatre. I feel different people have different processes and one should follow your director’s perception for that. You should have rehearsed something before the film. Most people walk to the set just on the shooting day.
What kind of a research have you done to play Manto’s wife opposite Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the Saadat Hasan Manto biopic being made by Nandita Das?
The shoot will start in either February or early March. It is early to say what I feel about the part because even I am still exploring it. Nandita has already done a lot of groundwork while she was writing the script as she met Manto’s family when she visited Pakistan for the film’s research. One can see that work in the script. Half the work is done because we know we have a wonderful script. We have been reading on and off whenever Nawaz has time. I’m very excited to work with them because Nawaz and Nandita are a great combination – the best I could have asked for.
My desire to achieve is not going to end even if I get more work
What was your reaction when you were told that you have landed the role?
I was overjoyed and couldn’t believe it actually. For a long time, I didn’t even say anything to anyone about the film because such projects are always a bit dicey and delayed. It is so early and I don’t want to think about the role right now because I think when you work on a role, it is good to have a lot of ambiguity. People are not certain about themselves in real life as well. And if I look at a character as strong, weak or emotional; then it just removes the shades.