As an actor you need to be vulnerable on screen – Tara Alisha Berry
A journey of an actor is never easy, and finding and exploring ones emotions is another challenge all together. Tara Alisha Berry who was earlier seen in Mastram and The Perfect Girl gives us an insight into her journey as an actor and how working on Vikram Bhatt’s Love Games was an enriching experience in self discovery. Here’s what she had to say.
From your debut film Mastram to Love Games, tell us about your time in the industry.
It’s been a difficult journey; there has been a lot of waiting around, a lot of auditions, a lot of praying. This is my passion and I really love what I do, even though it’s been difficult. But I have been working; I did Chokher Bali (TV series) with Anurag Basu, The Perfect Girl and another film called Gun Pe Done. However, even when I am working on a film, like when I was working on Love Games, I keep thinking, ‘What next?’ Because I am someone who wants to work till the day I die! It has been a fantastic journey and a challenging one and I hope that it continues this way. I never want to stop being hungry for work.
How would you describe your transformation as an actor?
I think I have changed a lot, and this film (Love Games) has by far been the most cathartic experience for me, because I have played a role which is totally unlike me. Alisha (Her character in the film) is somebody who has a lot of gravitas, and she is used as a sex object in the film. She is an independent woman, a doctor who has the ability to live by herself but still stays in an abusive marriage. I am sure that there are so many women and men who are in abusive relationships and marriages in the elite and high society, who are very scared to leave until they find the strength externally or internally. And in this film they find the strength through love, to break free from the shackles of this abusive relationship. But it starts out as Alisha being used as a sex object by Sam (Gaurav Arora) and Ramona (Patralekha) in the film.
This character is someone who carries her pain around with her. As a person, I am not like that. To play Alisha, I have had to delve deep into my own pain. And I realized that as an actor, there is so much that I actually have to express. I hope to get the opportunity to keep going deeper and learning about myself and about my emotions through the films that I am doing. After this film, when I came back from Cape Town, I was in a big mess. When you are shooting outdoors, you are in that situation 24 x 7 and you’re living that character. So it took me almost two months to get back to being Tara. I have grown a lot through this film.
Love Games has an element of sensuality to it. As an actor, how do you mould yourself for such roles?
As an actor, anything that can make you feel vulnerable, makes you a bit uncomfortable at first. Be it sensuality or intimacy or anything that we as human beings do behind closed doors or in the privacy of our own homes. In fact we do these things in private because they make us feel vulnerable. And as an actor you need to be vulnerable on screen but when you are doing such scenes, you have to work ten per cent harder to forget the 40 people behind the camera and to forget yourself. If I, as Tara, think that I have to shoot this scene or do this role, I will never be able to do it. But if I do this as an actor, then I can get there much faster. With each film, I’m learning ways to do things faster and to do so in a very authentic way in front of the camera.
Was there any special prep or rehearsal for Love Games?
We would sit with Vikram sir and Mahesh Bhatt sahab almost every day. We had readings, we talked about internal motivations and internal complexities of each of our characters. These are three very battered, broken and wounded characters. Having not been through these kind of things personally in life, they were a bit alien to me. Alisha’s personality is also not similar to mine. So to thoroughly understand these characters, Vikram sir and Bhatt sahab took a lot of time and explained the psychology and basic nature of these people. I remember Bhatt sahab telling me ‘Alisha is like a butterfly and she is trapped in a window and is trying to get out. And Sam comes and actually sets her free.’
Amongst the work that you have done in Hindi cinema, which role can you identify with most?
The role I can really identify with most is that of Ashalata from Chokher Bali as I am very much like her. Like her, I too have been really silly and naive in life. I am growing up, but I have been brought up to be a very happy and positive person and I think that Ashalata is just like that. I wear my heart on my sleeve and am into old school love. In terms of personality traits too, I am pretty similar to her.
How was the experience of being part of a television show with Anurag Basu?
It was amazing because like I said, it was one of the only characters where I could see a similarity in personalities. Working with dada (Anurag Basu) was a an eye-opening experience for me, because he is one of those people with whom you don’t get a script, you don’t have any idea about what you are doing. You just have to be in the moment and completely surrender to him. And like Vikram sir, he will take you where he wants you to be, but there will be no preparation. That is a very different style of working.
At first I was really taken aback. I didn’t know how to work like this because I am very used to preparing but slowly I got used to it. You just have to show up, be yourself, be in the moment and he will take you to places that you didn’t know you could go to. And it’s a lovely feeling as an actor because you are completely in the moment . I really hope I get to work with dada again because I think he is one of the best filmmakers in this country.
Having worked with noted filmmakers like Anurag Basu and Vikram Bhatt, how would you describe their styles of working?
They are both directors whom I feel that I can completely surrender to. They both know me through and through and they know how to get me to the place where they need me to be. The only difference would be in their style of preparation. With dada you have to be there 100% but you can’t prepare. With Vikram sir, there was a lot of preparation but once we were shooting, you can just surrender and be in the moment.
As an actor, what is the core difference in the approach to films and television?
We shot Chokher Bali like a film. There were three episodes and we shot it over 30-40 days. The treatment was very similar to that of a film; it wasn’t like a conventional TV show. So I am not sure if I have experienced actual television through this. Also the team that was working on the show came from a film background, so it was all like a film.
Given a choice, would you do more television?
Of course, I totally believe in television. At the same time I don’t think that I can do daily soaps because I always want to do something new. And in films you are always getting the opportunity to explore different types of characters. But if I get an episodic show like Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, I would surely do it.
You have also done films in the South. Is it different as compared to Hindi films?
It’s very different for someone like me, because I am very talkative. And the language barrier was a problem. So I used to be on my own and used to be a lot more sober down South. But in Bollywood, I am all over the place, talking to everyone and jumping all over the place. But ultimately the work is the same.
And finally, as Love Games is all set to release, what can the audience expect from the film?
The best thing about the film are its three characters. This film is actually about swingers and we have not seen a film in Bollywood that has touched upon this subject. This film is about how love is in a time of lust – we are in a very lust-driven world, and are in the business of titillation, whether it’s a rom com or an erotic film. We all want to look sexy and want the audience to be swooning after us, so that they come and watch these films. But Love Games has so much more than just that, because it is about these three characters. One is a sex addict, played by Patralekha, one is using sex as a painkiller to fill a void in his life while my character is being used as a sex object, which eventually turns into love. The beauty of it is that they are three very relevant people with very relevant complexities that have not been explored in Bollywood. I think that it is a very relevant film and is going to really surprise people. It has a lot of entertainment but at the same time it is a very thought provoking story.