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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Bold, Sensuous, Shocking – Rasika Dugal talks all about Being Beena!

Versatile actress Rasika Dugal talks to Aakanksha Naval-Shetye about making tough choices and playing one of the most popular OTT characters Beena Tripathi in Mirzapur series on Prime Video   

An actor par excellence, Rasika Dugal aces in every role she essays on screen whether the movies or the OTT! From Qissa, Manto, Delhi Crime to Out of Love, Adhura, Lootcase, Fairy Folk, Made in Heaven, Chutney, amongst others and of course Mirzapur where she has proven her mettle as Beena Tripathi. Now readying for Season 3, the actress is thrilled with the love she got for the impactful character which Rasika says is nothing like her at all in real life. We caught up with the versatile actress in Dubai and over a candid tete-a-tete, we explore her affinity for playing strong and definitive screen characters on screen and get her to spill the beans on being Beena Tripathi    

Everyone’s super-excited about Mirzapur 3 coming up. What’s the headspace like?
Just Mirzapur 3 and taking in all the excitement!

Do you ever get called out as Beena instead of Rasika?
A lot! A lot! Mirzapur fans are everywhere and they’re very expressive and they’re very loyal and it’s great for us. We enjoy that!

 

“…If they (the makers of Mirzapur) had thought stereotypically, maybe somebody like me wouldn’t have been a choice for Beena Tripathi at all because the body language is so different, body type is so different  from what you imagine a sensual woman to be like.”

You have come to be identified with a lot of definitive and strong women characters on screen. Is that something you have purposefully worked towards?
Not really, but maybe subconsciously you kind of aspire to be in a situation of power. So a woman who is sort of holding her own and finding her way around like Beena Tripathi for example who’s very overtly doing that, is something which I guess subconsciously something that many women aspire to be. But also somebody like Neeti Singh in Delhi Crime for example, who will not be overtly termed at all as aggressive or, in fact is very soft spoken and is very gentle, but is still making very strong choices and taking difficult and bold decisions. So, yeah I think subconsciously that’s what happens and I think I’m drawn to well-written scripts and any well-written script will have that complexity and a layer to every character. So yeah I guess I’m just drawn to well-written scripts and subconsciously drawn to women-oriented roles.

We have seen you shine through in some very layered and complex characters, like in Hamid, or Qissa… But what was your reaction when Mirzapur was first offered to you? Playing a character that is nothing like you and completely pushed you out of that comfort zone…
That was exciting to me. But to be honest, when Mirzapur was first offered to me, I was like ‘have they made a mistake? Were they wanting to call somebody else and they accidently called me?’ Because, I somehow felt like it was a very out-of-the-box casting and I’m very grateful to the casting directors of Mirzapur and Karan Anshuman and Gurmeet Singh for thinking out of the box and being able to visualise me in that role. Because if they had thought stereotypically, maybe somebody like me wouldn’t have been a choice for Beena Tripathi at all because the body language is so different, body type is so different  from what you imagine a sensual woman to be like. But I think they didn’t do that and I’m so grateful for that and it’s so much fun when casting is done like that. Even for other parts when they cast actors who I would have never imagined in a certain role, it’s always so nice to watch that.

“They were tough decisions because I was getting many interesting offers in daily soaps at that time which I was not finding interesting  from the content point of view, or from a performance point of view.”

And you took everyone by storm with that one…
It’s a very well written role and I was just waiting to sink my teeth into something like this which required me to have a physicality different from mine. Beena is sort of very sure of what she is doing and you can see that in her body language. The real me, I am generally a person who’s a little… you know all my gestures are a little small and Beena is not like that. She really sort of owns the space that she is in at that time. and I really felt like that would be interesting for me to do physically.


You’re one of the most look forward to characters in Mirzapur 3!
Yeah! One of the best things about the show is that every character is so well etched out and they’ve build such a solid ground for the characters right in the beginning, right at the out-start that it’s been very easy to therefore build on stories in subsequent seasons. Otherwise if you don’t do that work properly, then it becomes very difficult to take those characters forward in subsequent seasons. So I find Guddu Bhaiya so interesting, and of course Munna Bhaiya is everybody’s favourite, everybody is lamenting that Munna will not be there this season. So yeah, but all the characters are very interesting. Like if I had been offered something else besides Beena Tripathi… no actually I do love Beena Tripathi! I change my mind (laughs).

You entered the industry around 2007 and then the big boom happened with the OTT…
Yes, I think it was 2015-16 that I actively started working in the streaming space. I started with a small part in TVF’s show Permanent Roommates. The writing was so new and fresh and it was very slice of life but so interestingly written. And then I did another show with them – Humorously Yours and then a short film called Chutney with Tisca Chopra which at that time hit 1M views overnight which was very rare then. It was quite impactful. So from 2007 to 2016, there were many years where work was not as much it is now…

But you did not succumb to the lure of television shows!
No I didn’t. I held out on that. They were tough decisions because I was getting many interesting offers in daily soaps at that time which I was not finding interesting  from the content point of view, from a performance point of view. So yeah, that was a tough time when I had to really sort of… you know when I didn’t have much else happening, but I had to say no to what I was being offered. So that’s always difficult. But I’m glad that I held out.

How did you sail through that?
I think it’s always hard to say no. I mean it never gets easier. In fact it just gets tougher. Because you’ve nothing to lose when you’re starting out and you don’t have so much work but the stakes keep getting higher as the work becomes better and bigger and so then you feel like am I making the right decision, am I losing out on something by not doing it. So in one sense when you have little, it’s very freeing. Because then you’re not sort of racked up in too many ideas of what you might be losing.



What is the real Rasika like? What do you do when not in front of the camera?
When I’m not facing the camera? I think I make everything work related. Even if I’m reading a book and find it interesting I’m like ‘what if this was a show that we would all be in’. you know ‘what would this be like’. So I think it kind of finds its way back into thinking about work very often. And that’s not always the best thing to do and I try and compartmentalise things but no I’m a little obsessive in this regards.

If you had to take one trait from Beena and add it to Rasika, what characteristic would you pick-up from her?
She very silently observes everybody and knows exactly what the other person’s weakness is which I am not at all good at doing in real life. I will not know what the other person is thinking in life and I kind of go through the whole… a little bit zoned out in my own head a little bit. Beena is like very much in tune with what everybody around her is thinking and doing which is why she’s able to manipulate people. So I’d love to have that trait. And silently so. Like you’d never know what she is thinking. With me I’m an open book, you’ll know exactly what I’m thinking, I’m saying what I’m thinking. You know all that is happening. So yeah, I quite admire that.

You’ve also done Banana Bread with your husband (actor Mukul Chadha)…
Yes, we had co-written it, he did most of the writing to be honest but we kind of brain-stormed on it together.

So anything further happening on those lines?
Nothing concrete. We keep trying with ideas as creative people living together. We think it’s an opportunity to sort of bounce ideas off each other and we continue to do that but nothing concrete.

“Yeah, I mean some characters are very relatable and some are very aspirational. For example, Neeti Singh in Delhi Crime was very relatable. When I read it, I was like this is me, this is how I was in my college days.”

Did you see a little bit of yourself in any of the characters, like this is the closest that you in real life would be like?
Yeah, I mean some characters are very relatable and some are very aspirational. For example, Neeti Singh in Delhi Crime was very relatable. When I read it, I was like this is me, this is how I was in my college days. Very idealistic very ‘wanting to change the world with my own hard work’ and all of that. And Neeti’s journey through subsequent season and how she gets jaded, but still doesn’t leave her sincerity  is something that I’ve been very drawn to, to see how that progresses. So Neeti Singh is definitely one that I related with completely.

But not with Beena…
Yes, Beena was somebody I didn’t understand. When I read the script, I was like ‘yeh toh… this is not me at all’. But then to get into somebody else’s skin, to understand how they are wired, how they think is a very interesting exercise as a performer. And we sort of look for those opportunities.

At what point did the pat on the back come for you!
As an artiste, it is always wanting more. I mean that’s how you sort of keep yourself motivated in a sense. But yes, I think I’m very grateful for the variety of roles that I’ve had. And I hadn’t imagined that for myself. I was so much in the throw of things when I was looking for work and trying to find my ground in Mumbai and after a few years, I didn’t have any idea of what exactly I want to do because you can’t in this career! You have to kind of improvise along the way. You can’t come with a set idea ki mujhe ye chahiye and then you’ll achieve that. Aisa nahi tha and I didn’t have set idea. All I knew was that I wanted to do different kinds of acting work, different kinds of performances. And I did get a chance to do them very close to each other so I got opportunities to explore versatility and also to showcase it. I think in that regard I’ve been very lucky.

So what are the upcoming projects?
A bunch of stuff that I’ve shot for but the next I think will be Mirzapur 3 which will come out soon. I’m scheduled to shoot Delhi Crime 3 this year. And there are a few films, one is Little Thomas with Gulshan Devaiah, another is Lord Curzon ki Haveli with Arjun Mathur and two new shows – one which I’m very excited about which is another very different role which is very snappy sassy role and I’m really looking forward to see how that has panned out.

 

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