Hitlist Web Awards: Dia Mirza, Rasika Dugal, Amruta Subhash redefined how women are perceived on screen
As part of the run-up to the mid-day and Radio City Hitlist Web Awards, leading ladies and nominees Dia Mirza, Rasika Dugal and Amruta Subhash discuss how the advent of OTT has changed gender dynamics on and off-screen.
On the surface, their three shows share little in common. Yet, Hitlist Web Awards nominees Dia Mirza, Rasika Dugal and Amruta Subhash find themselves bound by a common thread — the three redefined how women are perceived on screen. In the heartbreaking Kaafir, Mirza told the horrors that a Pakistani woman is subjected to when wrongfully accused of being a militant. Dugal reflected the struggles of a woman in uniform, her aspirations and ground realities, with her restrained act in Delhi Crime. Subhash, who went from the domesticated woman in Gully Boy trying to stand up to her husband to a woman who brings down Mumbai's biggest gangster Ganesh Gaitonde in Sacred Games 2, aced every nuance to perfection.
Seated on a couch in the mid-day office, the off-camera conversation among the actors flits from the dire political situation in the country to Subhash's temptation to devour the Japanese cheesecake sitting on the centre-table.
But once the camera starts rolling on the Sit With Hitlist Huddle — as part of the run-up to the maiden edition of mid-day and Radio City Hitlist Web Awards on March 19 — the actors don't shy away from hard talk.
To begin with, the ladies unanimously agree that the advent of web has brought stories sharply in focus. Or as Subhash sagely declares, "The universe conspires for good stories."
"Delhi Crime was the most sensitively written script. Often, things get lost in between the written word and the screen. I trusted Richie [Mehta, creator-director] completely, and I wouldn't have signed the show if it was anyone else [at the helm]," begins Dugal, who flew down from Delhi for the meet.
Watch the entire interview here:
Coincidentally, Mirza binged on Delhi Crime before she left for the shoot of Kaafir. "Mohit [Raina], Sonam [Nair, director] and I had a long-drawn conversation about how finely crafted that show was. It was [commendable] that the lens of the storyteller was not judgmental," analyses the actor. She reasons that the similar empathetic gaze of Kaafir drew her to the story. "We never dehumanised any character. I was sold at Bhavani's [Iyer, writer] story. It took 13 years for this story to materialise, and 15 minutes for me to say yes."
The OTT boom may be in its nascent stage in India, but its ripple effect can already be felt. Where there are strong stories, there are well-rounded characters, thus giving female actors that long overdue opportunity to break out of stereotypical roles and inhabit powerful, author-backed parts.
"My character was written as a male part in the novel [Sacred Games], but Varun Grover [screenwriter] changed it to a female part in the show," marvels Subhash, aware how this seemingly minor tweak signals a significant change for women. "After a certain age, we are [deemed] fit to only play mothers. In Gully Boy, I played a mother to Ranveer [Singh], but look at the nuances of her character. This is the beginning of something vital for us."
While she shares the sentiment, Mirza — wisened by the 19 years in the film industry, and hardened by the gender inequality prevalent in Bollywood — asserts that the change has been much needed. "I have had directors tell me that I am too pretty to be in their movies. That's sexist in a way."
Even as digital offerings break formula, Dugal rues it's a long road ahead for depiction of women with sensitivity. "The good thing is that people are writing progressive things on paper. But unfortunately, the visuals are still sexualised in their prism."
But Mirza applauds the brave approach and stark treatment that many web shows employ — a feature not many Hindi movies can boast of. "I remember throwing up after the rape scene in Kaafir. I was bruised and battered by the end of it. It was the most real moment of the show."
Subhash, who comes from the background of theatre and regional films, views OTT as a convergence of cultures. "This heralds the beginning of true ensemble. Finally, good content is here, and so are the actors from all over," she says, adding, "Now, we discuss the arc at length, the graph of characters, the backstories. It's all brewed with care. The character I play was directed by both Anurag Kashyap and Neeraj Ghaywan. They both have different processes. So I approached my character, keeping the period in mind."
To which Dugal quips, "I have never been on a show where I have been told that I have time [to imbibe the character]."
(From left) Mayank Shekhar, editor, Hitlist with Hitlist Web Awards nominees Rasika Dugal, Dia Mirza and Amruta Subhash
Jokes aside, Subhash says Sacred Games 2 was one of the rare outings that offered her 'Brahma sharn' — that moment which is rewarding for the character. "[In the scene] where Saif's [Ali Khan] character asks, 'Mathur ka kya?' while my [on-screen] daughter is sitting there, I say, 'Bloody Mathur' aur main zindagi bhar ka rona ro deti hoon. It encapsulates my hatred for the man because he died too soon, leaving me alone."
Dugal says she found her moment in the mayhem on screen. "For me, [that moment is] when I fire the water cannon at the mob. My character wants to save the girl who is brutally raped, but then [as part of the Delhi police] she has to fight the mob that is fighting for the same cause. It breaks her."
Hitlist Web Awards Timeline
- Voting lines for public close on March 8.
- There are 14 categories you can vote in. Log on to www.hitlistwebawards.com to cast your vote.
- You can also vote via SMS. Send HITLIST <space> category name <space> your choice (a/b/c/d as on the website) to 57575.
- The awards will be held on March 19, in Mumbai.
- Watch the full Sit With Hitlist huddle with actors on the website, www.hitlistwebawards.com
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