Rasika Dugal Opens Up About Her Career, Her Script Choices, And More
After a decade in the industry with all kinds of roles, big or small, one thing about Rasika Dugal is certain. From a gripping show like Delhi Crime to a light-hearted comedy like Lootcase, the actress knows how to keep her audience focused, entertained, and quite happy
When Rasika Dugal made her debut as a character actor in Anwar, little did we know that she’s going to take over our screens with every subsequent role that came her way. It wasn’t the quickest claim to fame, but project by project, Dugal showed versatility, promise, and talent. Although interviews now have shifted from an in-person conversation to a call, I was excited to chat with Dugal about her career, her choices, and the way forward.
I had started following her work Permanent Roommates onwards, and I honestly can’t point out one show or film that she did where she didn’t shine. Dugal has been a part of projects like Qissa, Manto, Darbaan, A Suitable Boy, Ok Computer, Made In Heaven, to name a few, and has played characters that know how to make their presence felt even in ensemble casts. Whether it was being Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Safia in Manto, or Munna’s stepmother in Mirzapur, Dugal’s acting prowess made sure her screen time is hers.
Speaking of recurring roles, I ask Dugal about the pressure to come back to the expectations already set when she revives a character. She recently returned as Dr Meera Kapoor in Out Of Love Season 2, and has previously done a recurring role in Mirzapur as well. “It is a very interesting exercise to have to rework and reimagine the character, because when you are playing the same person, there are going to be some changes when you play it again. Of course, there are expectations that the audience has, but normally it does not negatively affect me. It is always a motivation for me,” Dugal says.
The actor’s career graph shows a steady rise, and that definitely has to do with the kind of characters she picks to portray. How does she make sure that she is choosing the right scripts? It’s a difficult question, she laughs. “Today, I might reject a script and the next day, I might feel like I should have said yes. These are not always clear decisions. But if I have to look at the one thing that has become important for me over the years, it’s the people I collaborate with. I have been very fortunate with the kind of projects that I have been a part of. I have had such amazing directors and co-stars. I always say that I have been spoiled,” she adds.
Dugal has also been trying her hand at singing. She took a few classes during the lockdown, so maybe her fans will see her singing debut soon? But the actor shakes her head, and says that some things in life should only be enjoyed as a hobby. “I must have taken about 14-15 classes at different times in my life, with different teachers. But I am nowhere close to even calling myself a singer. It is just something I enjoy doing. This is one area that I have accepted that I am ready to fail. Even if I sing besura, I am very happy,” she quips.
After sharing a few laughs and trying to persuade her to take up singing as a career option, we change the topic to the evolution of storytelling, of cinema, how female characters are being written and perceived, and how it is changing the outlook of the audience. She says, “As a creator who wants to make a difference with the kind of work I am doing, of course, I always attempt to question prejudices, and to try to highlight them. That is the best we can do. How somebody will perceive a piece of work will be from their own experience, and their own perception of the world.”
This conversation brings us to one special film that Dugal was a part of — Kshay — where she plays a middle class housewife who becomes obsessed with a sculpture of goddess Lakshmi, and doesn’t care how far she has to go to get it. The film was released at a time when small budget films were picking up, and was critically acclaimed. I ask her if small budget films are still struggling to see the light of the day, and what has changed since Kshay. “There have been so many changes and it is interesting, as an actor, to be able to live through these changes. At that time, the idea of a smaller budget film being popular had just come about. There was a film called Bheja Fry, which kind of changed the narrative. A lot of production houses mushroomed, and people could make smaller budget films because everything was going digital. I think distribution only became the bottleneck for a very long time, and with the coming in of streaming platforms, this problem was also resolved,” she says.
She adds, “While this was encouraging, these small budget films were, in no way, at par with the kind of release that the big-budget films had. In fact, a film did not stand a chance if a big budget film was releasing at the same time. For example, Tu Hai Mera Sunday, which was a very beautiful film, unfortunately, released on the same day as a big budget film, and it did not get a chance to redeem itself.”
We move on to talk about sharpening her skills, and how she sees her craft evolve. “Even though now I know how to do something better than I used to earlier, I still have to find my newness within. I am invested in what I am doing, and I can still add new things to challenge myself in some way. I am trying to sort of balance between rawness and experience. That is what occupies me at this time.”
Rasika Dugal has worked with some really talented film-makers, but she has a list of directors she wants to work with. “I always have appreciated Vishal Bhardwaj, Dibakar Banerjee, Imtiaz Ali, Kanu Behl, Devashish Makhija. On the international front, I want to work with Christopher Nolan.”
The coronavirus pandemic cannot stay out of any conversation. In fact, we start our conversations with “I hope you’re safe”. In December last year, MW carried a series of love and hate letters to 2020, and Dugal wrote one for us as well. “My anxiety was more related to the situation outside. All these things occupied me more than the anxiety around my work. I was also fortunate that I had a lot of work that had happened right before the lockdown was imposed,” she signs off, hopeful of a better tomorrow, and optimistic about bringing more hard-hitting stories to our screens.