Interview: Actor Sampa Mandal talks about playing former cricketer Neetu David in Shabaash Mithu
Theatre artiste Sampa Mandal will be seen essaying the role of cricketer Neetu David, the current chairperson of BCCI’s women’s selection committee, in Shabaash Mithu
It was her childhood dream to be on stage as a performer someday and actor Sampa Mandal has walked those several extra miles to live her dream. Hailing from a lower-middle-class family in Barrackpore — an industrial neighbourhood that was immortalised by Mangal Pandey in 1857 — Sampa went against her family’s wishes to pursue acting.
Drawn to the theatre since her early days of college, Sampa was discovered by thespian Adrija Dasgupta at a workshop, who encouraged her to apply to the National School of Drama in New Delhi. Besides theatre, Sampa has been spotted in films like Sonchiriya, Article 377 and Maxim Gorky’s Mother. After her role as a panchayat chief in Amit Masurkar’s latest film, Sherni, Sampa is all set to carve her own small niche in the world of acting.
The soft-spoken artiste will be seen playing cricketer Neetu David, currently the chairperson of BCCI’s women’s selection committee, in the upcoming film Shabaash Mithu that has Taapsee Pannu essaying the role of cricketer Mithali Raj. We speak to Sampa about her role. Excerpts.
Tell us how you are preparing for the role?
I have already shot for the film for three days. Initially, I was very apprehensive to play Neetu, who was a left-hand bowler and I am a right-hander and I’d never played this game before. So, it was very tough and I trained under coaches Nooshin Al Khadeer and Devika Palshikhar. Besides, I’m also trying to bring out Neetu’s personality, how she talks or reacts. I haven’t yet met her in person. I messaged her on her social media account that I am playing her role, but I think she hasn’t yet seen the same.
Though we are a cricket crazy nation there’s a subtle apathy when it comes to women’s cricket or any women in sports even if they are super achievers. Your take?
Absolutely, and though I call myself a feminist I feel ashamed that I never knew any woman cricketers or for that matter the female sportspersons who have made our nation proud. When it comes to cricket, Dhoni, Tendulkar or Kohli are household names but how many of us still know about Jhulan Goswami, Neetu David or Mithali Raj and her ilk? Apart from Shilpi Marwah, Mumtaz Sorcar, Taapsee Pannu and I, the rest of the team actors in this film are real-life cricketers. When I heard the stories of their struggle and inequality in terms of financial compensations, I was shocked (the highest contract value for female cricketers is Rs 50 lakh which is half of the lowest pay grade for male cricketers).
How are you preparing to stand out in Shabaash Mithu?
Initially, I wasn’t too keen on this role, but when I read the script, I loved Neetu’s part. There’s a scene where Neetu gets a call to play for India on her wedding day and she takes permission from her would-be husband to go instead of getting married. I think the audience will love that part. It was so amazing to play that part.
There’s Vikas Verma’s short film Sapna and I’ve just signed a web series to be directed by Amit Khanna besides a big-budget Hindi film.
Anyone you want to work with in the future?
Manoj Bajpayee and Anurag Kashyap.