“The beauty of acting lies in the attempt to understand the character and bring it out alive most truthfully.”
Tell our readers about your academic achievements and your interest in modelling and acting.
Achievement, I believe is too big a word for me and I feel there is still a long way for me to be able to list out any. Academically, I pursued a Masters in English Literature when simultaneously I initiated my journey as a fashion model. Having walked the ramp for some really wonderful designers, it was right before the pandemic when I also started auditioning. During the pandemic, my thirst for learning the craft of acting grew and I started attending online workshops and reading about it. I have always been inclined towards art, especially performing arts. Even as a child, I was very expressive, opinionated and spontaneous. I would enrol in various competitions, be it dance, skits, debates, anything without the knowledge of my parents! My exposure to the arts was also through my mother introducing me to knitting and sowing and my father making me read his poetry and listen to Mehdi Hasan ghazals. It’s fair to say that the seed of interest had been sown very early on in me, it’s only once I started nurturing it is when it started reaping.
How has your professional journey from modelling to acting in internationally recognized feature film ‘UnWoman’ been?
My journey from modelling to UnWoman was surprisingly quite smooth. When I auditioned for this film, it was one of my first few acting auditions and probably the first one for a feature film. It was around three months and multiple rounds of auditions later when I was brought on board and I gave my entire self to this film. I still remember how our director and my co-actor, we would all get on zoom calls and rehearse from morning till night for our scenes because we were all stuck in faraway, three different cities due to covid. Professionally, as an actor, I feel the journey began for me after I came back from the shoot in November 2020. Since then, it has been a roller coaster ride!
What challenges did you face in playing the main character of “UnWoman,” a film about gender equality?
More than gender equality, I feel our film focuses on the humanness of any individual irrespective of their gender / sex / sexuality. I play the character of Sanwri in the film who is an intersex by birth and a woman at mind, heart & soul. One of the major challenges I faced as a cis-het woman playing this character was to understand an intersex individual’s real-life challenges. But the beauty of acting lies in the attempt to understand a character and bring it out alive most truthfully, is what I have learnt till date and that is what I attempted at.
What are your personal views about gender equality in the present times? What changes do you think are needed to improve our society’s attitude and practices regarding gender equality?
I believe that for a country that gave the world Kama Sutra and has numerous ancient and mythological references to the harmonious existence of every individual, currently we are still a long way from acceptance, which actually is the bare minimum. There is still a lot of taboo surrounding gender, sex and sexuality, especially in the rural areas. I think at a very core level, our education system needs to incorporate gender studies, consent advocacy and sex education in schools for the upcoming generations. We, as a society have to make an effort at transformation and we definitely are doing it. But for the adults to be able to move away from their own prejudices, we must educate ourselves too. The onus of making us cis-het people understand what the LGBTQIA+ community stands for is not of the people from the community but of our own.
How well was ‘UnWoman’ accepted by national and international audiences? What expectations do you have from the audience?
To answer this question, I would like to share a memory that has been etched in my heart. Last year our film was premiered at the prestigious Kashish Film Festival in Mumbai, and I and a few of us from the team were present there and it was an overwhelming and heart-warming experience for me. KFF is one of the most renowned queer film festivals of our country and the audiences were so kind to us and I don’t think I can ever forget the hoots, the cries, the laughters, the love that the audience shared with us when UnWoman was screened there. I still remember people coming up to me and hugging me for playing Sanwri the way I did and so many of them said that they did not for once feel that I was a cis-het female playing the character. That, I think, has been one of my fondest memories from a screening of this film. Internationally too, the film has been receiving applause and our team continues to ensure it reaches as many people as possible. Honestly, I do not have expectations from the audiences. What I do hope for is that this film should be able to make them look at the harm our unkindness can cause to a person from the queer community and if even one person decides to be kinder and more accepting, we would have sprinkled some magic through our film.
Do you have any compliments for Pallavi Roy, the director of ‘UnWoman?’. How satisfied is she with your character portrayal?
Patience is one of Pallavi ma’am’s strongest virtues, I feel. She invested a lot of her time, effort, care and love in me while training me to play Sanwri. I do not think I would have been able to bring out what I did, had it not been for her perseverance and belief in me. As far as her being satisfied of my character portrayal, I think she would be the best person to answer this.
You were very active in theatre, so can you tell us about your achievements in theatre?
Stage for me is like coming home. I remember playing the character of a witch as a kid in the story ‘Hansel & Gretel’ and that’s my first memory of theatre. During my college years, I was a volunteer at the renowned META awards event during which I watched a lot of plays. However, my theatre journey began after I returned from the shoot for UnWoman when I enrolled for a physical theatre residential workshop by Theatre Flamingo in Goa. Since then, I have been in the constant pursuit of learning and unlearning. In Mumbai, I have been an understudy in various spaces and have been a part of a few plays as a backstage and production manager. In the last two years, I have also acted in a few plays and the journey continues.
What is your biggest achievement in cine career?
I think my biggest achievement is yet to be unlocked but I also feel that it is not always about the big wins but the small ones that make you thrive and strive for more. I did experience one such small win last year when I was signed up to play a consequential part in an international web show titled ‘Slave Market’. This was also the first time I crossed borders and shot with a team that was from all across the globe.
How was your experience while working for the international web show ‘Slave Market’?
My experience was surreal, exciting, beautiful, adventurous and exhausting! I travelled to Egypt to shoot for the show last year and earlier this year we wrapped the second season in Abu Dhabi. A director from Tunisia, a makeup team from Spain, co-actors from different ethnicities and parts of the world, shooting for ‘Slave Market’ gave me a sense of how big and beautiful this world and how I am just a speck of star dust in it wanting to share stories and create a little bit of magic through it.
Who supported you the most in your career?
I cannot really name just one person as an answer to this. I am very fortunate and blessed to have an entire tribe of people who have crossed paths with me and supported me at every point in the best way they could. From my elder brother to whom I owe my existence to his wife who is my personal cheer leader, to my parents who despite the society’s pressures are in the constant pursuit of trying to understand my career choices, to the friend who lent me her clothes in my initial years of modelling, to the first photographer who saw something in my eyes and never charged for clicking me, to my friend who teaches law but is always a call away to help me make auditions, to my best friend who holds space for me every time I question my choices, to the person who has brought magic in my life by introducing a team to me who now manage my work, to you who is today interviewing me with such enthusiasm, the list is too long of each and every individual who has supported me and continue to do so!
How do you deal with criticism in the field of acting?
I think I am very critical of my work and quite receptive of feedbacks. I have a very childlike outlook towards life and I am a learner for life. This is just the beginning for me and I have faith that as long as I am giving my best at the moment, my work will speak for itself.
Who was the most inspirational person in your life?
For me inspiration comes in the littlest of things. I find a lot of inspiration in the nature and every person I come across inspires me in one way or the other. However, if I am to pick one, as an actor I have been very inspired by Smita Patil.
Please tell us about your upcoming projects.
I just finished shooting for Season 2 of Slave Market and I have been auditioning and waiting for something exciting to come my way.For over a year now, I have also been training to be an Intimacy Professional so I am working on finishing my course mandates, meanwhile working on a short film which will be shot in Chennai and it is going to be my first independent work as an Intimacy Co ordinator.