You’ve been acting for a few years now and I’m sure you’ve been getting several offers for films from down South. How open were you to the idea of working in a Tamil film? Or was it something you didn’t expect to happen?
I was always open to it. I knew this was something that would happen sooner or later. As an actor, I want to cover as many landscapes and mediums as possible. Tamil as such wasn’t something I was far removed from. My father was posted in the Andamans for three years and we would always travel out of either Chennai or Kolkata to get there. Back when I was living there, I started learning Bharathanatyam and my teacher would speak to me in Tamil. So I’ve always had a special connect with the language.
When the team approached you with Mehandi Circus, what performance had they watched of yours to give you the titular role?
They said they watched Masaan and wanted to cast me. Like you said, it is the titular role and it’s a character they’ve worked a lot on. It’s a blessing to be trusted with such a role.
What was it that got you hooked to this film? Was it the narration or was it your belief in the director and crew?
I choose my films very instinctively, but I guess I’ve always nursed the idea of working on a film about a circus. Growing up, I was always very fascinated with the idea of how they perform, travelling from one place to another. Even on stage, I wanted to perform a part that’s related to circus. But when the team approached me for Mehandi Circus, I had already watched Cuckoo and Joker, both scripts written by Raju Murugan sir. So I knew what had gone into writing this film. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.
Did it help that you play a North Indian character who is “allowed” a certain amount of leeway in her Tamil pronunciation?
It helped. It’s my first Tamil film and I know I will get better with each film. I certainly had an advantage because the character is from the North, so the gestures and body language needn’t be exact because I play a circus performer who travels the country, picking up languages wherever she goes.
A lot like the life of actor, don’t you think?
Exactly. Even though the language was new, the emotions are universal. They transcend language.
What was your technique to learn your lines? Are you a natural at picking up a new language?
I wouldn’t call myself a natural. I’ve only lived in places where I can manage with Hindi or English, so when I have to perform in a new dialect or accent, I need to work on it. It was the same with Mehandi Circus as well. I would get my dialogues and I’d sit my director, ADs or even the producer Vineesh to learn my lines. What I would usually do is record whatever they’re saying. And then I would go back and listen to those words without paying attention to their modulation. I take the words and meaning and try to make them my own.
So you mean you’d listen to the words but not the how they’ve said it?
Yes. They might have their way of saying a particular line but I shouldn’t let that influence how I perform that. In a Hindi movie, I usually work using a written script so this isn’t an issue there.
Were there scenes or moments during the shoot where you felt, “oh, I could have done this better had it been in Hindi,”?
Maybe in a scene or two. There was this one instance where I was given the dialogues to a lengthy monologue just a couple of hours before the shoot. I got worried because I need more time to prepare when its in Tamil. In a Hindi movie, two hours is enough to learn and perform, but here I need to work more. It also helped that I was in safe hands…the director and team were very patient with me.
Did it take you much longer to complete this film as compared to a Hindi film?
Not really. I started learning my script quite early and I even found a Tamil teacher to train me in Mumbai. I then travelled to Chennai for a week for a workshop. Compared to a Hindi film, Mehandi Circus gave me a “going-to-school-wala” feeling. There was a lot of homework that wasn’t usually there in a Hindi film. I was a bit nervous and I had to prepare. But the shoot and the dubbing after wasn’t all that difficult. I was happy when the director was happy.
Was the fact that you’re going to dub for yourself a clincher?
It was one of the reasons. I don’t think acting is limited to expressions alone. A lot of it is the way you say your lines. I couldn’t imagine another voice speaking for me.
What were one of the Tamil dialogues you struggled with?
Oh I’ve forgotten all the lines now.
Is there a phrase or word from Tamil you’ve caught yourself using even back home?
Only nandri (thank you).
Would we be seeing a lot of more of you in South Indian movies?
Of course, I’m always looking out for interesting films to do, the language is secondary.
It was nice speaking to you, I’m hearing wonderful things about Mehendi Circus and your performance in it.