Kiran Rao’s ‘Superpower’ and How the Cast of Laapataa Ladies Found Themselves

For Nitanshi Goel, Pratibha Ranta and Sparsh Shrivastava, it’s been a dream debut.
Kiran Rao’s ‘Superpower’ and How the Cast of Laapataa Ladies Found Themselves
Kiran Rao’s ‘Superpower’ and How the Cast of Laapataa Ladies Found Themselves

Fun fact: Laapataa Ladies (2024) is set in 2001 and for Nitanshi Goel, this posed a challenge. Why? Because she wasn’t even born in 2001. Speaking of challenges in the workplace, imagine being a food delivery person tasked with delivering biriyani to Sparsh Shrivastava only to find the young actor wants to chat with you (and delay your next delivery) because he’s modelling his character in Laapataa Ladies on you. Or googling “Some DIFFERENT married girls from Bihar” as Pratibha Ranta did, to figure out her character Jaya’s body language. 

For the young cast of Kiran Rao’s charming film about a bride swap in the fictional Nirmal Pradesh, Laapataa Ladies has been a dream debut. Goel, Ranta and Shrivastava shared memories from the film shoot during a chat with Film Companion.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

FC: Tell us about getting into your role.

Pratibha Ranta (PR): I had related to Jaya so much that I was already half-way there psychologically. What I had to work on was the body language, the costume (and we had a lot of help in that department), and the dialect.For her dialect, we had long discussions with Kiran (Rao) ma’am and we were working out the finer details of the way this person will speak. This is a confident girl who is taking a stand, and more importantly, she is educated — so she has interacted with other people who speak in Hindi and that stuff needs to reflect in the way she speaks. She’s more educated than Phool and Deepak–

Nitanshi Goel (NG): Some words you say very clearly…

PR: Yes, she has a cleaner pronunciation. So when we were on set, I had to be cautious of how Sparsh is saying certain words and then be able to differentiate between how he says it and how I have to say it. … The other thing was the saree that I had to learn to manage. Because for girls like Jaya, they are very comfortable in that attire, and I can’t look uncomfortable. … But also, Jaya wears salwar suit before she gets married, so it is relatively new for her and there’s also a discomfort in her body language because she is in a new environment. So I had to fold all of that into the performance. I was also watching videos on YouTube but this kind of character we haven’t seen before so it is hard to find a template. I would search “Some DIFFERENT married girls from Bihar” (laughs). 

Sparsh Shrivastava (SS): I’ve never been to an acting school so my method is a little atrangi (different). For Deepak, I was looking for something specific, his innocence. He talks softly, he wears those 2001 kinds of clothes, so I went out and bought those kinds of clothes. …  There was a Zomato delivery partner called Sanjay who had come to deliver my biryani and I saw Deepak’s innocence in his eyes. He was wearing a mask, so all I could see were his eyes and I found that tender innocence in his eyes. So I tried to spend some time with him, and tried to talk to him. But he was very wary of this whole thing — someone who doesn’t understand this industry would naturally be a little worried. But even that hesitation and that fear I picked up from him. As a dancer, the body language is easy for me to pick up. I have fully experimented with this character. 

NG: Prepping for Phool was a process. The first thing I did was that I learnt to make round rotis (laughs). Phool makes perfectly round rotis and I did not have that talent. To learn that, I made rotis in my house for two months (for lunch and dinner). Then, her body language was very important for me because Phool doesn’t have a lot of lines and I just have to use my eyes and my body language to convey all of my feelings. I created this era with Kiran ma’am because I have not seen this era in my lifetime. 

Nitanshi Goel as Phool in Laapataa Ladies
Nitanshi Goel as Phool in Laapataa Ladies

FC: What was it like working with Kiran Rao? 

PR: It is a very collaborative work environment. She is so open to inputs and she works with you to find the right pitching for your character. The other really incredible thing about her is the notes and feedback she gives.

SS: Kiran ma’am’s superpower is that she knows exactly what isn’t working and knows how to fix it. She doesn’t stop you midway, she lets the take happen. Then she will call cut and will come to you and tell you exactly how to do that line, or say that word and it will work. It is like magic.

NG: The really awesome thing about her is that she lets you do your interpretation of it first and get it out of your system. So, we will do it however we think it should be and then she will tell us how to make it better.  …  For Phool, I thought that there should be a scene where she breaks down and it wasn’t there in the initial script. I was a little hesitant to pitch it but when I did, Kiran ma’am said, “I was thinking the same thing!”

Pratibha Ranta as Jaya/Pushpa Rani in Laapataa Ladies
Pratibha Ranta as Jaya/Pushpa Rani in Laapataa Ladies

FC: The camaraderie between the three of you is beautiful. Did you do workshops for chemistry?

SS: We spent a lot of time together and that friendship developed organically. Pratibha toh mera bada bhai hai (Pratibha is like my bro), and with Nitanshi — you know their [Deepak and Phool’s] relationship is so innocent that I was trying to figure out how to bring that out. I decided that I was going to do it the old-school way. Main toh chup chup ke dekhta tha usko innocently (I tried to recreate the innocent love of stolen glances). One day Nitanshi’s mother caught me doing this (laughs). I had to explain to her that it was just a part of my process. I’ll have her tie a rakhi after this (laughter fills the room).  

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