Raman Raghav 2.0 is a dream debut for me – Sobhita Dhulipala
Hailing from Visakhapatnam, newcomer Sobhita Dhulipala was never really exposed to cinema. Being an avid reader, books have been her best friends. It is only after an experiment of taking part in a beauty pageant, which got her the title of Miss India Earth 2013, that she started enjoying what she was doing. Soon she pursued a career in modeling but something was still missing. This is when she started auditioning for TVCs. And when she landed her debut film Raman Raghav 2.0, after her first film audition, Sobhita realized that acting is her true calling. In conversation with Pandolin, this 23-year-old actor, who has been receiving rave reviews for her first performance, talks about her life so far.
Tell us about your initial background, education and journey to Mumbai.
I hail from Visakhapatnam and had a simple middle-class upbringing. I moved to Mumbai after class 12 to pursue my education. I was always a tomboyish crazy child. I have been very disconnected and unexposed to the entertainment industry in general. I grew up reading and therefore was in a different mind space. Not that I didn’t like watching movies but I was just not exposed to it. My mother is a teacher, father is a chief marine engineer and I was a really shy kid. So I needed some kind of company and books became that. I would spend a lot of time with myself and in the library.
After college, there was a friend of mine who was working in Femina Miss India and asked if I would like to take part. And I said, “Yes of course”. But I had never worn heels before that and my idea of makeup was vaseline and lip balm. It was supposed to be a crazy experiment but I won. So it was more shocking than a surprise. I had always been interested in academics and loved economics. So I always thought that I would do something in that field. I did my graduation in commerce honors and enrolled in a Masters in Business program, but at the same time, Miss India happened. And I was just 19. Once it happened to me, I realized that there is this whole world out there and I must give it a shot, because I started enjoying what I was doing. I also did modelling after that.
How did your debut film Raman Raghav 2.0 happen?
Modelling is a great industry to try out because it looks so cool. Also, there is a lot of hard work and discipline that it requires but at some level, I felt very disconnected from it. As a person, I like being part of a creative process. I actually started auditioning for a lot of TVCs. At that point, I didn’t speak Hindi at all so I decided that if I’m going to pursue it, I should give it that respect. Through the auditions that I gave, I started learning a lot about myself. Being a person who was so shy and an introvert, it was a great challenge to put myself out there and feel so naked in front of all of those people watching me.
It was thrilling for me and I began to enjoy it because I had always been into something that was more of a creative expression. I just didn’t know that acting could be my thing. It took me some time to find out what actually was my calling. Also, I have been a classical dancer so maybe it was the same thing of emoting but through a different medium. Raman Raghav 2.0 was my first film audition.
When I faced the camera, I didn’t feel as if I was being watched or judged
How would you describe the experience of working in your first film?
The whole shoot was for 21 days, which was very hectic. We were shooting for 16-17 hours per day. It was mayhem. It was a very character building process for me. When you are acting, there is a give and take relationship between the character and you. I started to relate to the character and identified the similarities and differences between us, and tried to bridge that. Somehow I kind of became her. When I faced the camera, I didn’t feel as if I was being watched or judged.
What kind of preparation did you do for the role?
Under a week of the audition, we started shooting for the film. So there was no workshop or rehearsal. Anurag (Kashyap) sir had a lot of faith in me, which gave me a lot of confidence. He is someone I have looked up to for a very long time. And to be able to do this film in the beginning of my career was a huge opportunity. I couldn’t let them down so I gave it my all. It was a very organic process. He is someone who won’t choreograph you, so you explore a lot about yourself.
To be able to do this film in the beginning of my career was a huge opportunity
And how was working with Anurag Kashyap like?
He is incredible. I have never met someone who is so sincere and honest to himself. He is a huge inspiration and the same goes for Nawazuddin (Siddiqui) sir and Vicky (Kaushal). Honestly every actor, irrespective of where they are in their careers, would always want to work with someone like an Anurag Kashyap. He brings so much to the table that you grow so much while doing his film.
For me to work with him and share space with actors who are amazing and incredibly talented was a big thing. What makes it even more amazing is that all these people are so grounded, which is so fascinating. This inspires you to give your 100 percent.
Do you think a film like Raman Raghav 2.0 will classify you as an offbeat heroine?
Isn’t that cool? Earlier there was a very sharp distinction between a commercial film and parallel cinema but now I think that a lot has changed and all the lines are blurring. It is a great time for me to be in this industry. Now I believe that even if a film is huge in scale, but lacking in content, it won’t be endorsed by the audience. And for me, this is my idea of a dream debut.
What kind of subjects would you like to explore now? Is there a wish list when it comes to directors or actors?
I’m a very greedy actor. I would love to do period cinema because I’m really influenced by some sort of time-travel, maybe because I grew up reading. I would also love to do action films. I want to do roles that have a sense of spirit in them. I would like to do something where I get to explore myself as an actor.
For me the biggest compliment is to be part of a film with actors and a director of such merit
What is the best compliment that you’ve received so far?
I think for me the biggest compliment is to be part of a film with actors and director of such merit. Nawaz sir and Vicky were so supportive of me that it gave me a boost. Anurag sir would joke around and say, “Arrey ab toh yeh one take artist ban gayi.” (She has become a one-take artist) But it actually means a lot because you’re just this 23-year-old kid who would walk around on the set and ask all sorts of questions. The whole Cannes Film Festival experience was also amazing.
You were even nominated in the Critics’ Choice Best Performance category at Cannes.
Yes! I’m so overwhelmed and humbled by it that I want to give my entire efforts to everything I do.