Actress Swastika Mukherjee decodes Qala's Urmila for us
The actress feels that though the story is set in the 1930s, it tells the travails of women which are relevant till date.
Among the films that were recently released on OTT platforms, Anvita Dutt's Qala has stolen the show for its beautifully melancholic plot woven in layers of emotions. A relationship drama set in the 1930s, the film traces a very flawed relationship between a mother and a daughter played out with equal elan by actors Swastika Mukherjee and Tripti Dimri.
We talk with Swastika to know how she played out the icy cold and layered character of Urmila Manjushri.
Excerpts from the chat:
You carried the chunky nose piece so well...
I am very fond of nose adornments and since I have a piercing I like to wear everything authentic. In fact, I was so fond of it that they gifted it to me.
You must be getting a great response for Qala?
The response is really overwhelming. The film is very dark, intense and layered and cathartic. The space is different and difficult but it's a tale that's relatable to even an ordinary middle class despite its layers. In the 1930s and 40s women were dealing with the same issues as in 2022 and it's not about women belonging to an elite class -- it cuts across all classes. I feel Qala is not a film that you can just watch and forget. It will linger with all its melancholy and sombre notes and make you feel sad in a beautiful way.
How difficult or easy was it to play Urmila Mnajushree, the most layered character in the film?
We all possess a lot of strength and courage but we are also very weak in certain aspects of life. A very strong woman can be vulnerable when in love or when it comes to children. You can often gain from losses and once you overcome your fears you will gain strength from it. But a lot of times strength is not going to work anymore. There's a beautiful quote by Rumi, "Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror, no feeling is final".
We too experience all emotions in Urmila. She has a steely exterior but there's a lot of softness, struggle and turmoil within her too and she has gone through a lot in life herself. At one point she tells her 10 years old daughter that she has to work many times harder than a boy to fulfill her dreams. So, yes, I had to capture those layers within her.
And was there any method to it?
Many people ask me how I prepare for a role, but believe me, I don't think so much. Once I read the script, and my makeup and costume are done, I reach the set and I start thinking like that character. This is the process I go through with every single role of mine. When I am in a situation, I behave the way I am supposed to. I don't do much research but I just emote according to the situation and of course, there's the script which is like the Bible and the director's vision.
All your recent roles are so different from each other...
That is where you have to take calculative measures. I always make sure not to repeat myself on screen and for that, I read the whole script and not just the portions I am in. That gives me a thorough understanding of my contribution and what value my role is adding to the narrative and whether it's substantial or not.
So what's next?
Right now, nothing. I am just reading a few more scripts, that's it. You know, some actors love to look busy by telling they are booked for the next three years -- maybe that gives them the high and makes them feel important. But for me, I need time for myself, I need to go and meet my friends, go on holiday, read books and watch films, which is also a part of my homework as an artiste.