Rasika Dugal, who plays the writer’s wife in Manto, in­sists that it was im­por­tant for her not to idolise the au­thor in or­der to do jus­tice to her role

India Today - - LEISURE - —Sukant Deepak

AAc­tor Rasika Dugal, who plays the writer’s wife Safia in Nan­dita Das’s film

Manto that was screened at Cannes a few days ago, says the pres­sure she faced was noth­ing com­pared to Nawazud­din Sid­diqui. “Af­ter all, he por­trays a writer who has not lost his pop­u­lar­ity. Ev­ery­one is so ex­cited to see how Sid­diqui has con­ceived him,” she says.

Of course, she had her share of chal­lenges too. Like por­tray­ing some­one who has not been writ­ten about much. Though it was the di­rec­tor who spent time with Manto’s fam­ily and col­lected

anec­do­tal in­for­ma­tion, Dugal, who made her de­but with An­war (2007) and was last seen in Anup Singh’s

Qissa (2014), made sure she fa­mil­iarised her­self with Manto’s work. “I read the five vol­umes of his

Das­tavez, his es­says, short sto­ries and col­umns.” More im­por­tantly, Dugal en­sured she was not in awe of him. “Af­ter all, one does not wake up next to a great writer, but a hus­band. It was im­por­tant that I con­cen­trated on the man-woman as­pect and the times they lived in.” Still in touch with Manto’s youngest daugh­ter Nus­rat, the ac­tor says she just had long con­ver­sa­tions with her, and didn’t make any “en­quiries” about her mother. “That would have led to a lin­ear por­trayal.”

Now that stu­dios are in­vest­ing in smaller projects, Dugal is cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about con­tem­po­rary In­dian cin­ema of­fer­ing more in­ter­est­ing roles. She says, “Let us not for­get a small bud­get also means less risk. Don’t ig­nore the eco­nomics.

Also, Nan­dita Das had to fight hard to keep me in Manto as the stu­dio was look­ing for a big­ger and bet­ter-known star.”

Af­ter her role in Ama­zon Prime’s

Mirza­pur, she’s also ex­cited about the op­por­tu­ni­ties in web se­ries. “One can ex­per­i­ment with con­tent, de­sign and push bound­aries. They have come as a boon for ac­tors like me look­ing for solid roles,” she says.

Not happy with the kind of in­signif­i­cant roles be­ing of­fered in ‘main­stream’ films, Dugal, who will next be seen in Hamid, says it makes lit­tle sense for her to ac­cept a project that of­fers no com­plex­ity. “What will I learn in a strait­jacket por­trayal? I am in­ter­ested in build­ing a pro­file that boasts of strong char­ac­ters.”

Is that the rea­son she is in­ter­ested in se­ri­ous and grey roles? Like any ac­tor, Dugal re­fuses to be type­cast: “Look at my comic twist

in Eve Ens­ley’s The Vagina Mono­logues. I’m not look­ing for grey ones. That they man­age to find me is an­other mat­ter.”

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