In her decade-long career, Rasika Dugal, who has done a mix of feature films like Manto and Qissa, short films like The School Bag and web series like Humourously Yours and Mirzapur, feels that it’s a great time for actors, writers, and directors with the advent of online streaming platforms. She also feels that it is a good time for the films that do not get their full time in the theatres but can now be watched on these platforms. In a conversation with Media India Group, the actress talks about her show Mirzapur, it’s relevance in the current social structure and more.
1. What do you think about your character Beena in Mirzapur? What inspired you to play her on screen?
One of the reasons I jumped on to the opportunity to play the role of Beena in Mirzapur was that I had never been offered a role like this before. For example, in the film Manto, I had played Safia Manto, who was a warm and a gentle person, completely opposite to Beena, who is more like a sexually charged being. There are very few characters on screen where a woman is acknowledged as a sexual being and holds a space where she and her desires are explored in a way that are explored through Beena in Mirzapur, and that’s what I liked the most. Also, Beena is a very interesting character. She demands a certain attention whenever she enters a room. For any actor, it’s a desire to play a role that varies in emotional quality. I’m really thankful to Anmol Ahuja and Abhishek Banerjee for casting me in the show.
2. What do you have to say about all the mystery surrounding your character in the show and why did Beena secretly wanted her husband dead?
Just because there’s a whole lot of mystery surrounding the character of Beena in the show, you really don’t know what’s going on in her mind. At a superficial level she’s the bahu (daughter-in-law), who maintains tradition and who’s part of a puja (prayer) and who’ll be at the service of her in-laws, but there’s something else happening under all those charade. I think this is the beauty of the writing. It keeps the audience wondering in a lot of situations by not disclosing everything.
As far as the intention of killing her husband is concerned, I think, more than wanting to kill her husband Akhandanand (Pankaj Tripathi), she wanted her child to run the empire and not Munna (Divyendu Sharma). She wants the downfall of Munna and not Akhandanand. This is what I think and is just one aspect to it. However, the audience is left free to think and have their own reasons about the things left open by the writers.
3. It is very rampant in the country that young girls are married to old men in remote areas and have very less chances of being satisfied- say physical dissatisfaction- but what about other aspects? How do you think these girls suffer on a day-to-day basis?
I cannot really speak for them because I don’t know how exactly they suffer in those conditions in real lives. What I can say is, from the script point of view, that it was important to show Beena’s dissatisfaction in this marriage because that is how the story establishes.
Otherwise Akhandanand is a type of a husband who wants to please her. In fact if the roles are reversed in this situation, she almost has this male like quality of questioning him at every point and very authoritative. In this series, because Akhandanand is a man who is respected all over Mirzapur, nobody dares say anything to him, and he’s not actually able to handle his relationship that well, which is the irony.
Beena is playing that woman we don’t hear much about in real lives, but might be existing in the relationships you’re talking about. We don’t know what really happens in real situations but she is in a way breaking stereotype of what a woman feels like and instead of accepting her fate and mourning over it, she asks for what she wants.
4. Nowadays web series are a fresh way of reaching out to the masses in India, what do you think should be the focus of future web shows be? Whether they should be more influential or commercially skewed?
I think they are doing very well so far. They are very path breaking in the content they have and they’ve also invited new people to join the game, like new actors, directors, and writers. This is really encouraging and is also working well commercially, as far as I know. So I hope it remains a sort of free space in terms of content and inviting new energies. In fact, it has also been a space where a multiplicity of genres have worked well. I did a web series with the TVF called Humorously Yours which is a very light-hearted show, and even a dark and serious show like Mirzapur has been doing well. This is a proof that the audience in India had been waiting for new content for a while and are absolutely ready to watch different kinds of genre.
5. You’ve worked with some of the finest actors in industry like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, and Ali Fazal. Was there any sort of pressure you felt while working with them or was it pretty much convenient for you?
Well, I never feel worried about working with good actors. In fact, I worry about working with bad ones because a scene is actually made what two actors share with each other in the time between action and cut and that is the only thing you can prepare for years for the role. But what actually matters is what you do at that time. You really need generous and warm responsive co-actors who respect you as much as you respect them; and all good actors know this. They know that a scene is not just about them. It’s about all the characters who are present in that scene.
6. Do you plan on doing more web series?
Yes, of course, it’s an interesting format. I’ve done season 2 of Humorously Yours, which is going to come out soon and another one called Delhi Police in which also stars Shefali Shah, Adil Hussain and Rajesh Tailang. It’s been directed by Indo-Canadian director Richie Mehta and co-produced by Ivanhoe pictures.
There are other films that are ready to come out. I think generally OTT platforms, besides web shows, are a great place to watch films that survive only for a little time in a theatre. Earlier films had a life of only two weeks in a theatre. Now, even the films that don’t have money to publicise can release online where people would be watching them. It’s a great time to experiment with content and a great time to be an actor.