Exclusive! Mita Vashisht: ‘Web-series demand powerful performers’
Veteran actress Mita Vashisht, who has worked for over three decades across platforms like television, film, theatre and now OTT, is back as a rustic police officer from Punjab, Kiran Sekhon, in Sony LIV’s first original series, Your Honor.
Talking about her role, Mita says, “She’s not a high-rank officer like Kiran Bedi but she is a woman of integrity who believes in doing her job well. What’s also interesting about her is that she conducts herself differently with different people. If there are gangsters whom she is interrogating, her behaviour is different than how she conducts herself in front of Judge Bishan Khosla (played by Jimmy Sheirgill) whom she respects and her demeanour changes entirely when she is talking to her four-year-old child. For her, to be a good cop and to do her job well is also connected to her being a mother who wants to give her child a good upbringing.”
Early photo shoot. Delhi. 1987 just post NSD. A friend had a camera. Two minutes of basic make up. In a borrowed saree and jewellery belonging to my dear Geeta di (Geetanjali Lal, Kathak maestro, from whom I was learning kathak in prep for the film Siddheshwari) # cinemaofmanikaul # actorslife #worldcinema #actorsstudiowithmitavasisht
Set in Punjab, where the actress did her post-graduation (Punjab University, Chandigarh), the series took her back to her growing up years. “I grew up in Chandigarh. The language and some of the phrases and nuances had stayed with me. When Punjabis speak Hindi, they speak in a certain way and I was familiar with that style,” recalls Mita. But the preparation for her roles goes beyond the language and physicality of her character. “You prepare for a character with your intelligence. You figure out her position as a woman and understand the reality of her being in society,” asserts the 52-year-old National School of Drama (NSD) alumna while admitting that the personal experience that you have witnessed in life add value to your understanding of the character.
This is her second outing on the OTT platform, the first being Criminal Justice where she was seen playing a corporate lawyer, and the actress is loving this space as it demands strong performers.
“Hindi films are very commercial and hero-central. So, if you aren’t the lead hero or heroine, your role will get chopped off as it has happened with me in the past but it won’t happen in web-series. Here, you can’t seduce the audience with the songs and dance. It’s a long format and one has to keep the audience engaged for six to eight hours and for that, you need powerful performers,” she says and adds that the digital space is also a great leveller. “I love the fact that the OTT platforms have given everyone a creative expanse, it is accessible and it is also a great leveller. You can’t create a fake hype about something because if a series is not good, people will stop watching after the first episode and your numbers will tell you that. So, it’s more democratic in that sense,” she adds.
Apart from acting, Mita has also been actively involved in social work. At the beginning of 2000, she had developed a theatre art module Mandala with which she was empowering the trafficked minors.
“I worked with young rescued prostitutes for five solid years and it was an amazing experience. Today, many of them are married, have kids and jobs, and some of them are still in touch with me. I had to shut it down after it got embroiled in an issue and officials started playing dirty politics over it but now, I plan to write a book about the rehabilitation and the importance of arts and theatre in the process. And, how the Mandala theatre program completely changed the personality of these girls and instilled in them confidence and the ability to question and fight,” informs Mita who had started writing the book in 2008 but then it turned into a film script which never saw the daylight. The actress now plans to make most of the lockdown period by going back to writing the book. “It will be titled Summer Moon,” she concludes.