Naureen’s character is not one-dimensional – Prachi Desai
After making a smooth transition from television to commercial films, Prachi Desai has often played strong performance-driven roles onscreen. She takes her legacy forward with Azhar, where she plays Naureen, the first wife of the cricketer, to whom he was married to for nine years, and who was a pillar of his strength through his thick and thin.
Here are some excerpts from an interview with the actress, where she gives us an elaborate insight into the character of Naureen, and her experience while working on the film.
What kind of research did you do for your character in Azhar?
It is a real life character which is based in the 90’s. We had to stay true to it, and at the same time, not take many liberties with it. We were fortunately given many pictures of Naureen. That gave us an insight to the character – how she dressed, how she looked and so on. It was tough because nobody knows much about her. My preparation relied a lot on the inputs given by Tony (D’souza, Director) sir. Naureen is like a beautiful mystery, and the most important part of Azhar’s life. They were married for nine years. That was the golden phase of his life, which nobody knows about. People only know about his exploits on the field, his controversies and the great cricketer that he was. Nobody knows about these two strangers who were married together. She was only sixteen, and he was a bit older. They had a silent love story. She was the pillar of his life who supported him through thick and thin. We’ve explored that part. So it had to be as real possible.
What excited you the most about Naureen’s character?
I am very lucky to be playing Naureen. According to me, hers is the best character. She has been the only constant in Azhar’s life who has seen him right from the beginning. Her character is not one-dimensional. It starts off as a sixteen-year old, and evolves through the different phases of Azhar’s life.
So did you take inputs from Naureen about her state of mind during her difficult phases?
As actors, there is this turmoil that you know nothing about the character that you are trying to play. But at the same time, I am not the kind of person who will overstep my boundaries and make the other person uncomfortable. We have to respect the person and not cross the line. I would rather stick to the script, and in case of any doubts, ask the director. Thankfully, I got most of the stuff from her. I have met Naureen in a very personal capacity. And there were some really amazing things that I got to know from her. But then, with Naureen individually, it needs to be extremely private and sensitive.
Because Naureen is such a private person, was it easier to interpret her character onscreen?
Just imagine the dilemma of knowing nothing about the character that you are going to play! How difficult would that be. The case is different with the characters of Azhar and Sangeeta. You can watch their live feeds and earlier footage to know about them. Their style of speaking and dressing, etc. But with Naureen’s character, I had to rely on Tony sir’s inputs. People make it even more difficult by adding words like “she was really shy,” or “she was really soft-spoken.” It isn’t enough. I had to stick to the main script. And there wasn’t a single reaction that could come out from me as Prachi. It had to be purely Naureen.
Initially I was perplexed as to how this will all add up. But when I met her, everything fell into place and made sense. There was a certain grace and elegance about her. There are a lot of sequences in the film which are about eye-contact. That is because I saw her gaze. I also noticed the way she speaks. She is a very confident person, which I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise. You imagine what somebody in the 90’s, Hyderabad, Muslim, conservative, would be like. But all of those presumptions got cleared after meeting her. I could imagine what she would be like in her younger years, because they were more innocent back then.
Are there any parallels that you can draw from the romance in Once Upon a Time In Mumbaai and Azhar, both with Emraan Hashmi?
If you have seen the song (from the film), Azhar is always trying to steal a moment with her, but there is always somebody in the house. Even the way we go out today, wasn’t the same as in the 90’s. It was very different. In Once Upon a Time In Mumbaai, these two people are pretty much in love with each other. It was an underworld backdrop. He was an aspiring gangster, who was constantly pursuing my character. They knew each other, they weren’t strangers as in Azhar. In Azhar, we are discovering each other. Emraan and I are two actors who share great onscreen chemistry. When you see Azhar, you will start seeing it in a completely different light.
Azhar is your first film with director Tony D’Souza. How would you summarize the experience of collaborating with him?
Tony has a soul in his filmmaking, which you will see through this film. This film, and the narrative that he offered me with respect to my role in Azhar’s life was very interesting. It was very promising right from day one! My views about Tony have only become better after working with him. He is a gem of a person. You will never see him hassled. That makes it even easier for us. He is a fabulous director. And the way that he has handled each of our roles, has brought out something unique and different from each of us. In terms of the characterization, it is real and not caricaturish. The different aspects of the film, whether the cricket, the wife, the lawyer; he has brought them all out beautifully.
-Transcribed by Shikhar Goyal