Ready to explode

Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan and Sunil Grover talk about their roles in Vishal Bhardwaj’s quirky Pataakha

September 26, 2018 02:33 pm | Updated 02:33 pm IST

Flamboyant avatar: Sunil Grover with Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra

Flamboyant avatar: Sunil Grover with Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra

Set in a small village in Rajasthan, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha is the story of two sisters, Badki and Chhutki, who just can’t stand each other. Based on Rajasthani writer Charan Singh Pathik’s short story titled Do Behnein, it stars Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra in central roles with Sunil Grover, Vijay Raaz, Saanand Verma, Namit Das and Abhishek Duhan providing support.

For both Radhika and Sanya working with a filmmaker of Bhardwaj’s pedigree has been like a dream come true. Like most newcomers Sanya had to struggle a lot before she finally got her big break in Dangal . Since then she has never looked back. As for Radhika, the transition from television to movies has so far proven to be a good one. Already her upcoming film Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, wherein she plays a martial artist, has won the People's Choice Award: Midnight Madness at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. “While working for television you don’t get much time to dig into the character because the telecast has to go every day. But here you have a lot of time to prepare. You can ponder upon a character for good three days and nobody is going to question you and in fact people are going to ponder with you, allowing you to get a better understanding of your character,” opines Radhika.

The actors in New Delhi

The actors in New Delhi

Sanya first met Bhardwaj on the sets of Badhai Ho , her next scheduled release after Pataakha in which she stars opposite Ayushmann Khurrana, where she got a one liner from Bhardwaj . “He gave me three scenes from the movie and asked me to audition for it. I was really excited and for me those auditions were obviously to test whether I could play an aggressive spiteful young lady like Chhutki who has a strong dislike for her elder sister. At the same time she is very passionate and has her own dreams which she wants to fulfill in life. I was hoping that even if I don’t get picked for Pataakha , Vishal Sir may consider me for one of his upcoming projects,” recollects Sanya. Fortunately for her, Bhardwaj finalised her just three days after the audition. “He called me up and asked me if I was willing to gain 10 kilos for the role. I told him that I would be happy to gain a lot more for the opportunity to be directed by him,” guffaws Sanya.

Radhika, who recently returned from the TIFF première of Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, had to go through two rounds of audition before she got finalised for the role of Badki. “Badki is quite cool and carefree but being the elder sibling she sees herself as the boss of the house who likes to think that the younger one doesn’t know anything,” tells Radhika. Working with Bhardwaj at such an early stage in her acting career has proven to be a wonderful experience for her. “Working with Vishal sir was like a dream. Despite the position where he is at right now he is always open to ideas and suggestions. He gave me great freedom as an actor. We really enjoyed a healthy equation. At times I was able to convince him to do things my way and on other occasions he would convince me,” recounts Radhika.

Break from telly

Sunil Grover, who is taking a break from television these days, is busy with a bunch of acting assignments in movies. His next release after Pataakha is Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bharat alongside Salman Khan that’s scheduled for Eid next year. For Grover, working with Bhardwaj was like the fulfilment of a strong desire. “Although, I really liked the role offered to me, I had such a strong desire to work with him that I would have agreed to do it even if I had not liked it,” reveals Sunil Grover. Interestingly, his character has a lot of grey shades to it. “I play a character called Dipper who loves to instigate fights between Badki and Chhutki. But he also helps them in times of difficulty. All these realistic characters are part of a story that’s written by Vishal sir like a poem. His way of filmmaking is very artistic, it’s his own expression. The way he blocks his scenes and encourages an actor to feel like the character, it really brings out the raw emotions,” opines Grover.

The actors were required to attend workshops in order to prepare themselves for the roles. “Internally and emotionally, I could relate to Chhutki but bodily I was not there. You see, I am not as loud in my expressions and gestures. So it was important for me to get myself out of my comfort zone as an actor. I am glad we did a lot of acting workshops with Atul Mongia, who is an acting coach, and Vishal sir which really helped me in my performance,” reveals Sanya. Another major challenge was to get the Rajathani accent right. The dialect used in the film is actually spoken in the village called Ronsi which is three hours journey from Jaipur. Charan Singh Pathik on whose story the film belongs to the region. “Although, the dialect is a bit similar to Haryanvi, the idea was to be so comfortable with the language that we could easily improvise as and when required. At the end of the day, we didn’t want to just stick to the script and also Vishal sir would encourage us to improvise. So we did a lot of reading and also stayed with Charan Singh’s family that really helped us to get the dialect right,” remembers Sanya.

The time that the actors got to spend together not only allowed them to understand one another better but it also helped in their performances. “Working with Sanya has been great. Touch wood, our friendship off screen is pretty good! So that really helped us to deal with each other in the film because it is very easy to pull each other down but to have that kind of maturity and professionalism to keep film above our individual performances is something I really admire about Sanya and I have gained a friend out of this film,” asserts Radhika. “Sunil has been great. He is so funny. Whenever I see his face I know there is some joke that he is hiding even when he is serious. He is very good in what he does and it was lovely working with him,” adds Radhika. Working with Radhika and Sanya was a great experience for Grover as well. “Radhika and Sanya are not just talented are also very hard-working girls. So they would do their homework, prepare their scenes before coming to the sets. It’s really nice to work with people who are so upbeat,” avers Grover.

While Pataakha appears to be all about sibling rivalry, one wonders if there is more to it than meets the eye, as so often the case with films of Vishal Bhardwaj. “ Pataakha is an experience, an emotional ride. It is not just about two sisters who are constantly fighting. It is about their dreams and the obstacles they have to deal with. Their story will not only inspire you but will also make you laugh. What you have seen in the trailer is just like the tip of the iceberg.” assures Sanya.

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