Rasika Dugal on Hamid: Didn't want to be part of a film on Kashmir without enough knowledge
Rasika Dugal on learning dialects for her act as a mother from the Northern state in Hamid
Rasika Duggal was weary about playing mother to a boy who wants to speak to God about his missing father in Aijaz Khan's Hamid — set in Kashmir — as she did not want to do injustice to a land she knew little about.
"I didn't want to be part of a film on Kashmir without enough knowledge. I told Aijaz to find a Kashmiri actor because I didn't want [the film to be portrayed from] an outsider's [herself] gaze on Kashmir. The role I was playing needed to have an actor with a first-hand experience of what people were going through," says Dugal, quick to add that she was also taken by the narrative, and hence eager to play the part. "Mainstream narratives on conflict situations usually carry a political undertone. The human stories from these situations are usually left out. This was a story that people across borders could connect with."
With the role landing in her lap, Dugal ensured she left no stone unturned to look convincing as a Kashmiri mother. Apart from lapping up books based on the goings-on in the state, she was particularly moved by a documentary about a Kashmiri woman, Parvina Hangar, whose son was reportedly abducted.
"The documentary saw her, along with another woman, speaking about their story of their missing children, rather matter-of-factly. Parvina runs APDP [Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons], which works for families whose loved ones have disappeared. A small couplet that they used in the documentary, which translated to 'I'm waiting, can you please come back,' was something that stayed with me."
The actor made her way to the Northern state a week in advance to settle in and get familiar with the local village accent, which, she says, is far distanced from "the way people speak even in Srinagar". "There are so many different accents used [in Kashmir], so it was tough to understand which I should follow. It was also about adapting that accent in Hindi, because the people may not use that language." The locals she interacted with, she reveals, were warm and courteous, and particularly bothered with the way they had been stereotyped.
"People were conscious that what was being reported about them in the mainstream media was primarily about stone-pelting, and showed them as violent people. They were unhappy with this depiction, especially since they are warm."
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