Exclusive: Rasika Dugal on working with Mira Nair in A Suitable Boy and getting her due as an actor

Rasika Dugal on working in a black comedy like Lootcase, her upcoming series A Suitable Boy and Mirzapur 2, and reflecting on her journey as an actor
Stills from A Suitable Boy, Manto and Mirzapur featuring Rasika Dugal
Stills from A Suitable Boy, Manto and Mirzapur featuring Rasika Dugal

AFTER GIVING REMARKABLE performances in films like Qissa, Manto and Hamid and web-series Delhi Crime and Mirzapur to name a few, Rasika Dugal leaves everyone surprised with her role of Lata, a whiny homemaker running the house on a tight budget in black-comedy, Lootcase.

Days after the release of the film, we spoke to the actress about doing comedy, working with Mira Nair in much-anticipated series A Suitable Boy, bringing Beena Tripathi on screen for Mirzapur and what’s in store for its second season, her journey in cinema over the last decade and if she feels she has gotten her due in acting. Excerpts:

Q: Tell us about the much-anticipated series, A Suitable Boy. How was it working with Mira Nair?
The series has come out on BBC One in the UK but in India and for the rest of the world, it will release on Netflix sometime soon. Working with Mira Nair was on my bucket list for a very long time. I was in awe of her earlier but now that I have worked with her, I am more in awe of her (smiles). Apart from enjoying working with her, I enjoyed having conversations with her and it is very lovely to see a person who has so much experience and is still so full of life about what she does and is so respectful towards the people that she is interacting with. And, if you see the cast, there are actors from everywhere in the world and it was an enlightening experience to interact with them continuously for three and a half months and exchange creative ideas. I think we make an interesting ensemble.

Q: The recently released Lootcase sees you doing a comic role. How did you go about it?
It is very different from the work that I usually get offered. It’s a comedy, plus it also has a song that I am lip-syncing and there is a dance number along with it, so I was very excited. 

When it comes to comedy, I always felt that I have a flair for it because I have done comedy in theatre earlier. Having said that, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about how to go about it so I would tell myself every day that today I am going to have fun on the set. But, our director Rajesh Krishnan was very precise about the timing of everything — that was his way of getting the jokes right and I was on my toes getting the timing right throughout.

Q: They say comedy is more difficult. Do you agree?
I don’t think between drama and comedy, one is more difficult. The idea is that people should resonate with what you are doing and connect with it in their own way — with their own set of experiences and idiocracies, and that can happen by making them cry, laugh or emoting any other way.

Q: The audience is also eagerly waiting for Mirzapur Season 2. What in store for Beena Tripathi’s fans?
Mirzapur has a very loyal audience who keeps asking for the second season. It is, in fact, one of the most asked questions and it is very encouraging for all of us. When it comes to the second season, the writers have done a phenomenal job of introducing some new characters and taking old ones to a very interesting space. So, you will see Beena Tripathi again but just like the real-life where we all change a little while carrying on with our inherent qualities as we move on in life, you will see Beena in a new light while still having the ‘Beenaness’ of Season 1.

Q: Beena is very unusual from what we usually see you in…
Beena is very different from what I had been doing at that point — Mirzapur was shot right after Manto and Hamid — especially in her physicality. She demands attention when she enters a room, starkly opposite to Safia (Manto) and Ishrat (Hamid). Exploring that physicality was something that I found very challenging but interesting. I am thankful to casting directors for imagining me in a part like that. I enjoyed playing her in Season 1 and exploring a different side to her in Season 2.

Q: Having been a part of the industry for close to 15 years, how do you reflect on your journey so far and what is it that you desire as an actor from Bollywood?
As an actor, you desire an environment which is competitive but in a healthy way. I feel the kind of variety, quality and the quantity of the work that I had done in the last few years is something that I find very desirable. Even one such project in the life of an actor is something which is rare and I have found many of them… projects like Qissa, Manto, Delhi Crime and then to have Lootcase, which is very different from all of these. The kind of variety that I have had in my work is something that I feel very grateful and proud of. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

<em>(L) A still from Qissa featuring Rasika Dugal and Tillotama Shome; (R) A still from Hamid featuring Rasika Dugal</em>
(L) A still from Qissa featuring Rasika Dugal and Tillotama Shome; (R) A still from Hamid featuring Rasika Dugal

Q: Do you feel you have gotten your due?
I feel like I have gotten my due. I have done very interesting projects and that’s getting my due. And, I am very proud of the work that I have done.

Q: What is it that brings you on board for a project?
It keeps changing from time to time. But, right now, the people whom I am working with hold a lot of importance. I believe that an actor’s job is very vulnerable and the space that you are working in should respect that vulnerability so I am not interested in working with people who aren’t respectful of people they work with... Filmmaking is a very personal and collaborative experience and therefore I really want to collaborate with people who share the same sentiment. Of course, the second thing is whether this piece of work is making me do something that I haven’t done before — for instance, right now I am really interested in doing a biopic and see how that will work out for me.

Q: How do you wrap your head around the ongoing debate on social media?
I don’t see it as a debate. There are several conversations going simultaneously. I feel that the sentiment, generally, is that people want an environment that is competitive but healthy. But, we haven’t reached a space to have a dialogue yet. Dialogue is when two people listen to each other and get influenced by or imbibe certain things from each other’s experiences but for now, people are sharing experiences, which people have a right to do but that’s about it. I also feel that the immediacy and the frequency of conversation on social media don’t end up being productive because of the need to respond immediately.

Q: Lastly, what’s next?
I was supposed to start shooting for Anshuman Jha’s directorial debut Lord Curzon Ki Haveli right when the lockdown began. It stars Arjun Mathur, Tannishtha Chatterjee and I. So, I am looking forward to start shooting for it as things become fine.


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