Rasika Dugal is ready for her big role

The actor on taking the lead in future projects and how Humorously Yours offered a breather between heavy duty roles

If you are up to date in the Indian streaming world, you’ll know just how busy Rasika Dugal has been. The actor’s critically-acclaimed film roles in Manto and Hamid last year were followed by a string of digital outings, each presenting a different side to her as a performer. There was her sexually dissatisfied housewife in Amazon Prime’s Mirzapur, for instance. And her earnest police officer in Netflix’s Delhi Crime.

Between these heavyweights, Dugal has made time for something a little lighter and the result is The Viral Fever’s second season of the web series, Humorously Yours. Having released last week, it has her playing Kavya, the wife of a stand-up comic (portrayed by Vipul Goyal). “‘Slice of life’ is not a genre I had experimented with much, and it’s quite difficult,” she admits, adding, “It is meant to look as effortless as possible, but it’s a lot of effort to construct that effortlessness.” However, since shooting overlapped with her Delhi Crime and Mirzapur dates, the show provided some much-needed relief. “It was really like a vacation for me,” she laughs.

Digital democracy

While Dugal is grateful for the character-driven roles that have come her way, the actor is clear about what she wants next. “I want to be Manto in Manto, or Hamid in Hamid,” she says. Not that she’s likely to pick a role based on its size. “I don’t have much foresight, and I think that’s an asset for an actor,” she chuckles. “I will continue to do all the roles I get, but I am itching to be cast in a role which is driving the narrative.” The FTII graduate, now in her 30s, started her career with small roles in films like Bheja Fry. Digital platforms have helped her prove her mettle, she agrees, by allowing for more interesting formats of storytelling.

But the foundation for that change, she continues, was already in place by the time she started acting. “There was still good work happening at that time because smaller films — like the ‘₹1 crore’ film — had just become fashionable,” she quips, sharing how lower-budget films like Bheja Fry were able to find audiences looking for something besides the Bollywood blockbuster. “That was encouraging to me at that time.”

Dealing with trolls

While she celebrates the change, Dugal is still wary of the inequality faced by women in the industry. “For way too long, visual representations of women have been very sexualised,” she says. “I think we’re still struggling to find a way of depicting women that doesn’t objectify them.” Does she believe that Mirzapur, with its unabashed portrayal of female desire, helped address that inequality in any way? “It’s a step in that direction, but patriarchy is so deep-seated,” she insists, sharing that along with the accolades she received for her character, Bheena, she also got misogynistic messages shaming her for the role.

It is fortunate then that she has never really considered social media as the best platform for meaningful dialogue. “These virtual conversations are, in my head, equivalent to a fight and not a discussion,” she says. “When you disagree with somebody else, they often tend to get very defensive. But that doesn’t stop me from doing the kind of work that I want to do.” Would her role in Mira Nair’s upcoming adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel, A Suitable Boy, be one such project? Alas, she is not allowed to comment yet.


Inspired by Mrs Maisel

“The most inspiring show I watched recently was Marvelous Mrs Maisel,” says Dugal. “It was done so intelligently and beautifully that it startled me. It addresses issues that women in our country are facing today, and it doesn’t judge the protagonist. I am hoping that someone writes the Indian version of it.”

Recent challenge

Among her recent projects, Dugal is quick to cite Hamid, Aijaz Khan’s drama film about a Kashmiri family coming to terms with the disappearance of the father, as her most challenging. “I felt that this reality — of losing a spouse and having no closure — was beyond my reality,” she says. “I was afraid that I wouldn’t do a good job and would do the women of Kashmir a disservice.” But with some persuasion from the director and enough preparation (including visiting the shooting spot a week in advance to brush up on the dialect), Dugal went on to nail her role.

All episodes of Humorously Yours are streaming now

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 11:47:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/rasika-dugal-is-ready-for-her-big-role/article27798985.ece

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