From puducherry to Bollywood, how has the journey been so far?
Very endearing! It was during my stay in London when I became part of a theatre company called Theatre of Relativity and got an opportunity to hone my acting skills. Once I finished my studies and moved to India, I was feeling quite stagnant and looked for interesting work. I got in touch with Atul Kumar and Ajay Krishnan who were looking for actors at that point for Contacting the World, a theatre festival held in Liverpool. So that project required me to shift to Mumbai. I knew that Mumbai was my best bet if I wanted a career in acting. After DevD I didn’t get a film for two years. I spent that time writing a script and putting up a play, Skeleton Woman, and then co-wrote That Girl in Yellow Boots with Anurag. I wasn’t so marketing and PR savvy, and kept myself busy with workshops and my craft.
You’re known to be an actor who revels in art house films, but you manage to also do interesting commercial films in between — how do you choose your roles?
It’s important for me as an actor to push boundaries. I want to do every genre, and have the opportunity to stretch myself as an actor.
We know you speak Tamil fluently. When do we get to see you in a film down South? And in Tamil specifically?
I am doing my first Tamil film right now. It is an experimental film called Emma and Angel with director R Arvind. In the film I whistle a lot and had to really practice whistling.
From writing to theatre to films… which form do you prefer more or hold dearer?
Acting is my big adventure. Writing has always been my therapy.
You’ve always been a strong voice around many issues and you’re known to be a proud feminist — what drives you to be so vocal in an industry that doesn’t necessarily support strong women?
It seems obvious to me that women have found strength and solidarity in each other’s stories of injustice and inequality and are speaking up. I hope men can join the conversation and take an active interest in the movement towards equality.
What is your opinion on the place women are given in Bollywood?
Blaming Bollywood for society’s attitudes is like blaming a mirror for reflecting what it sees. As a society we need to decide where we put our money, what we value and what we consume. There are plenty of powerful realistic movies on the depiction of sex workers — from Salaam Bombay to the recent Love Sonia — but few people choose to watch those films. Now I think there’s more awareness. I have received code of conduct drafts before doing a play; I have learnt about actors agreeing on touch before intimate scenes. There have been difficult conversations with men about the subjects that are ongoing. I think the provision for safety has increased; as women we are demanding certain standards and productions are responding to that.
You’ve recently turned designer and co-creator with Hidesign; how has that experience been?
Hidesign opened up a new opportunity for me. When Dilip Kapur approached me to collaborate on designing a collection of bags with Hidesign, I was quite surprised because it’s something that I had never done. Ideologically, I associated with everything about the brand — the use of ethical leather, vegetable tanning and the fact that 90% of their workers are women. With two collections out, the journey with Hidesign has been thrilling.
What can we see you in next?
Made in Heaven is out on Amazon Prime, go watch it now!
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