Such a long journey for you…I have watched you evolve and it is impressive…how do you assess your career so far?
Thank you! Your messages after you have watched my work have always been something I have looked forward to .I like and enjoy and feel proud of the mixed bag my career has been. I think, most importantly, it was been a lot of fun! I have had the opportunity to experiment with different genres, to play impactful roles in an ensemble cast (Mirzapur, Delhi Crime), to headline some projects (Out of Love, Adhura) and to work with some of the best actors in our country. I feel most grateful for the people I have had an opportunity to collaborate with.
Do you think it is important to be working with like minded artistes?
I think meaningful creative collaborations are such special experiences…. and with Qissa, Manto, Mirzapur, Delhi Crime, I have had so many such. So, there are days when I sit back and feel ‘Wow… all this really worked out!’ And of course, there are days that I feel ‘There is a long long way to go’.
Would you say the journey so far has been difficult?
It has been a rollercoaster ride with so many ups and downs. I think it’s been very interesting to experience my ever-changing relationship with uncertainty, rejection, failure and ‘success’ .I know now that they are all here to stay in varying degrees in different times and all have to be treated as fellow-travellers on a long journey. What I have enjoyed the most on the journey so far is my relationship with my work. I don’t think I have ever felt more connected to anything else in my life
What would you say was the turning point in your career?
It is difficult to identify one turning point. But I have tried to identify the few that were turning points in different ways.For me, my turning point as a performer was with a film called Qissa. I got an opportunity to work with talented, committed and caring co-actors like Irrfan, Tisca (Chopra) and Tillotama (Shome). And with a sensitive director like Anup Singh who could create an environment for a performer to thrive in and explore possibilities that you never thought existed within you.
The other turning point?
With Manto it was a coming together of my love for the progressive writers and that time in history with my love for cinema. That role was so special for that. Also, I hadn’t had work for a while and Manto kind of put me on the map. I will always be grateful to Nandita Das for fighting many battles to cast me as Safia.There is one more.
And that is?
With Mirzapur, I had the opportunity to play a part which was dramatically different from me and from the parts I had done before. It helped me showcase my range as an actor and prompted creators to imagine me differently. It also gave me the opportunity to reach a much wider audience and to experience the joy of being part of something that has a huge following.
Why do you think success took so long to happen?
I never had a timeline to reach somewhere and neither did I have one destination in mind. I guess with this profession you really can’t have one. Things evolve and change so quickly that, in my opinion, it would be counterproductive to be stuck to one idea of where you see yourself going.
Also, I don’t think I can claim to be ‘successful ‘. Honestly, this is not some false modesty. I believe life is always a work in progress and every actor’s journey unique. That is the most beautiful and the most terrifying thing about it. You get to carve your own path but you are often befuddled by the lack of precedence or help while you are on it. While today I might often be in a position to be able to choose from a few offers for work (after all, there were so many years where there would only be one offer …at best) I do find the decision-making process daunting. The challenges might have changed a little but are still very much there. Today, I find myself treading the lines between instinct and strategy. Between wanting to maintain and better what I have while realising that to truly experiment, I have to be ready to let go of that. So yes, this wonderous journey continues
Do you see the OTT as a blessing for talented actors like you?
Absolutely! I feel lucky to be an actor in times like this. Personally, my work in the streaming space has helped me access and connect with a wide audience. Even though the films I had done before had been beautiful experiences, they were largely independent films which would invariably get stuck in the distribution bottleneck. I feel the streaming space has so far been largely democratic and has opened up opportunities for much newness ..In terms of genres, story ideas and talent actors, directors, writers…Also, what is interesting, is that the long form format of a series allows for a true ensemble. Multiple tracks can coexist and multiple characters have an opportunity to be well etched out. I think this luxury of time in a screenplay has done huge service to the number of interesting parts for women and to how they are written.
What made you accept the offer to do Adhura do you believe in ghosts?
I think primarily it was the excitement to experiment with a genre I had never explored before. And a genre that I have not watched at all! I am very easily spooked. And, I guess, that comes because of a feeling that there are forces around you that you might not entirely comprehend or have any control over. So, yes, I do believe that there are things around us that we might not know of but I don’t know if that necessarily makes me a believer in ghosts.
Your forthcoming projects?
My forthcoming projects are going to be an interesting mix, I think. The year gone-by has been about experimenting with new genres and working with relatively new filmmakers and spending much time learning new skills for the work (Learning how to play Volleyball, learning how to play the piano). There is a sports drama series ‘Spike’ where I play the role of a volleyball coach, “Lord Curzon ki Haveli” – a black comedy thriller. “Fairy Folk” – an improvised film. “Little Thomas”- a dramedy.” And everyone’s favourite show ‘Mirzapur’ is returning with its third season in which I am reprising my role as Beena Tripathi. Also, Delhi Crime has been greenlit for a third season and am looking forward to being Neeti Singh soon again. Currently, I am shooting for a new show with Applause Entertainment which is being directed by Rohan Sippy .