Rasika Dugal: Preparing for Safia Manto's role was challenging
Her face is almost identical to that of Safia Manto, wife of Saadat Hasan Manto. Rasika Dugal, who plays the wife of the protagonist in Nandita Das’s upcoming film Manto, agrees. “Even I think I look a lot like her. We haven’t used any prosthetics and make-up is minimal. In fact, the first time I spoke with Manto and Safia’s daughter, Nushrath, she said to me, ‘Rasika, your face is exactly like my mother’s,’ I got goosebumps,” shares the actor.
Luck by chance
The actress who was last seen in the Irrfan Khan-starrer Qissa (2015), and made a debut in Hindi films with a small role in Anwar (2007), has come a long way. It’s her consistency as an actor — both in films and theatre —that has helped her bag some memorable films.
Even the story behind how she got the role in Manto is an interesting account. “I met Nandita when he was part of Cineplay, an initiative under which certain theatre productions are filmed. I was acting in a play called Bombay Talkies. She liked my work and watched Qissa which had just released. Almost a year later, I got a call and she gave me the script. I asked her if I should audition and she said she would be happy if I agreed to play the role,” recollects the actor.
Behind the scenes
Playing Safia’s role was easier than prepping for it says Rasika. Manto is popular but not much is known about his wife. So to prepare for the role, the actor had to read books that threw more light on the 1940s, the era when Safia was in Bombay. “I came across Stars from Another Sky, a compilation of Manto’s essays about film stars. In the chapter on Nargis, Manto mentions Safia and her sisters, and how they were a giggly bunch of young girls who used to crank call Nargis. I also read Ismat Chugtai’s story about Manto and Safia’s first meeting. To be honest, I feel I am more suited to the 1940s era, so it was easy for me to adapt to role,” she says.
Talking about her co-star Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika says there is a lot more pressure on him as he has to live up to the public image of Manto. “But working with him was easy because we have a similar sense of humour. We’d call Nandita Lady Manto because she is so straight-forward. She speaks her mind, no matter what, just like Manto. But she is an outstanding person in every aspect,” says Rasika.
Even as she awaits the release of Manto, that will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival, the actor has signed an untitled film. She has also wrapped up shooting for Hamid, a film set in Kashmir and is looking forward to the release of two new web series, Mirzapur and Delhi Police.