Paatal Lok actress Niharika Lyra Dutt: My character felt one-dimensional initially
Praised for her journalist act in Paatal Lok, Niharika Lyra Dutt on lending gravitas to her role in a male-driven narrative.
What happens to a rank outsider who dabbles in theatre for a living and doesn't have a Godfather in the industry? In 2020, when OTT platforms have democratised the game, you land a prominent role in a tentpole series. Niharika Lyra Dutt, who played the no-nonsense journalist Sara in Paatal Lok, shone in the episodes, standing tall in a world of morally corrupt men. "It's a gutsy story told with great precision. I played her with conviction because I align with her ideologically. Sudip Sharma [creator] wanted her to be the antithesis to Sanjeev Mehra — she mirrors what he probably was when he was younger, but his idealism has eroded over the years. She keeps poking her nose into things and feels the need to be on the right side of the moral spectrum," says Dutt.
Sara is, in fact, one of the few characters whose name and personality remains largely unchanged from the thriller's original source material, The Story of my Assassins. "Initially, I didn't know about the book. When I found out, I asked Sudip if I should read it. He advised against it because the adaptation was differently built."
Niharika Lyra Dutt
A pointed criticism against the show is that its female characters aren't as fleshed out as its male counterparts. Did she find it problematic? "I found Sara one-dimensional in the first four episodes. But when I read it in totality, it worked for me. This show is set in a man's world where the women are trying to create a space for themselves. I liked Dolly's character who is married to a man who is stifling her. I wanted more of Cheeni too. In the story about how people become criminals, the women still shine. In the scene where Renu [Gul Panag] slaps Hathiram [Jaideep Ahlawat's character], she ensures she puts him in his place. In this season, it would have been difficult to bring in the women's stories. We needed to be loyal to the larger narrative."
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