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There are very few parts and very few scripts that acknowledge women as sexual beings: Rasika Dugal

Rasika Dugal chats about Mirzapur, her character Beena and working on an audio book

By Priyanka Roy

  • Published 22.11.18, 8:26 PM
  • Updated 22.11.18, 8:26 PM
Rasika Dugal
Rasika Dugal Rasika Dugal

She may play a frustrated housewife in Mirzapur, but Rasika Dugal’s firebrand Beena is no pushover. Beena uses her sexuality to call the shots in the Amazon Prime original that’s opened to positive reviews.

A t2 chat with Rasika. 

Priyanka Roy:

Mirzapur has dropped to good reviews, with a special mention for your act. What’s been the general tenor of the praise that’s come your way?

Rasika Dugal:

We usually only get positive feedback, no one tells us the bad side of our performances, and so we actors always tend to live in a bubble (laughs). People have said the show is very engaging and entertaining. The first thing that most people have said is ‘What a cast!’ That I have to agree with; the fact that it’s got a phenomenal cast is one of the reasons I decided to be a part of it.

It’s also been some good out-of-the-box casting; I don’t think Ali (Fazal) has ever been cast as a gangster before, it’s also a first for Divyenndu, and I have definitely not played a role like this before. I think we should give credit to the show’s directors and those involved in the casting process who stretched their imaginations a little bit and thought of all of us in these roles.

In Bombay, people usually tend to cast you in roles that you’ve played before. Even though they may consider you to be a talented actor, they just think it’s ‘safer’ to have you play the same kind of roles over and over again. I had never played someone like Beena — in terms of how she uses her physicality, how she treats men….    

Priyanka Roy:

What’s it about Beena that made you want to play her?

Rasika Dugal:

There are very few parts, and very few scripts, that acknowledge women as sexual beings, or simply just recognise that women have desires. In our cinema, a woman’s sexuality is either projected as titillating or she is shown as a victim of sexual violence. Those two conversations are what our cinema is comfortable with, but as soon as we start talking about a woman’s desires, things suddenly become very uncomfortable; either people get very ashamed or very quiet.

On the other hand, male desire is something we talk about all the time, almost to the point of exhaustion!

So when the part of Beena came along, I just found it so refreshing. Also, I liked the idea that she’s very mysterious. A well-written character is one where you don’t know in which direction it’s going; the character could spring a surprise any moment. Beena is privy to a lot of conversations, but you don’t know how her brain is processing all that information and how she’s going to use it. 

Priyanka Roy:

Did you have any apprehensions about filming the sex scenes?

Rasika Dugal:

Considering that this is the first time I was playing a part like this, I knew I needed to be careful. I needed to give it space during the shooting space, and also ensure that people around me gave it the same respect. I was lucky that the show’s directors Karan (Anshuman) and Gurmmeet (Singh) were very sensitive to my comfort on set. We had very frank conversations about everything before we started shooting. I think we achieved what we set out to achieve in a way that was sensitive to and comfortable for everybody. Everyone working on this show was very professional and mature and so any trepidation I might have had in the beginning was quickly taken care of. I think I lost my apprehensions once I watched the series after its completion… I felt ki theek hai

Rasika Dugal as Beena in Mirzapur
Rasika Dugal as Beena in Mirzapur A still from Mirzapur
Priyanka Roy:

You’ve just lent your voice to an audio book called The Last Boy To Fall in Love by Durjoy Datta. Was this first-time experience limiting or liberating? 

Rasika Dugal:

It was interesting, I would say. On screen, you have many tools to use as an actor; there is body language, gestures, the look, there are props…. In this situation, there was only my voice. I really enjoy watching animation films and I have always been curious about how such well-established actors in Hollywood lend their voices to animation films. This was an opportunity for me to discover how it feels. I also like the fact that this gave me the freedom to do the same thing in different ways.

On the set of a film, if you gave a lot of retakes, you are holding up 100 people who have been working for many hours. Here also, we had time constraints, but there is more freedom to do many variations in a take. There’s also instant payback — you can immediately hear what is almost the finished product. I am looking forward to doing more work in this space. 

Priyanka Roy:

A web series, TV shows, a slew of films, an audio book… is it the busiest you’ve ever been? 

Rasika Dugal:

I’ve not been as happily overworked as I have been over the last two years (laughs). I have spent a significant amount of my career not having much work, so this is more than welcome. While the space has definitely opened up with the advent of new viewing platforms, I am also happy that there are such diverse parts that have come my way in these two years. I have been extremely lucky to have been noticed in films that didn’t do well or didn’t have the kind of release they should have had. For example, my role in Qissa (a 2013 film co-starring Irrfan Khan and Tillotama Shome) is something I will always be proud of. 

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