Parineeti Chopra on The Girl On The Train: It will be a landmark film; I wasn't just acting, I had gone into a trance
'I may do 300 films in my life, I don’t know, but this will be the landmark film in my head, because it changed me, it made me who I am at this moment.'
Parineeti Chopra registered her presence early on in her career with Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, Ishaqzaade and Shuddh Desi Romance. Then, she tasted blockbuster success with Golmaal Again, in 2017, and Kesari in 2019, but there were misses too, including Kill Dil, Meri Pyaari Bindu, Jabariya Jodi among few others and that made her look for newer content. When she was offered The Girl On The Train, a psychological mystery thriller in which she plays a complex, intense woman, and a murder suspect struggling with grief and alcoholism, Chopra knew that this was the time to get out of the comfort zone.
The Girl On The Train co-stars Aditi Rao Hydari, Avinash Tiwary and Kirti Kulhari among others, and is an official Hindi adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestseller about gender battles and domestic violence, which was also adapted by Hollywood in 2016, starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux. The latest re-telling (Directed by Ribhu Dasgupta) that drops on Netflix on 26 February is the story of Meera Kapoor (played by Chopra), a lawyer with a dark past and a broken marriage who begins to fixate on the perfect life of a couple she sees in their home while on her daily commute in a train. The film was shot in a two-month start-to-finish schedule in London in late 2019.
The film, Chopra says, has given her a new understanding of her career. “I may do 300 films in my life, I don’t know, but this will be the landmark film in my head, because it changed me, it made me who I am at this moment. It was not just acting, I was doing something else. I had gone into a trance,” she says.
“Now after reading a script if I feel the role is too hard for me then I will grab it. Earlier I was literally saying ‘yes’ to any film coming my way. Then it became repetitive and I didn’t realise that and by then two to three years had passed, so now I am glad that I have gotten this awakening,” Chopra further adds.
While most actors prefer to not watch the source material while making a film that’s been adapted before, Chopra used visual references as the starting point. “Meera is a very intense, traumatised, alcoholic woman and has so many layers to her but for me, I used the visual references as the starting point because I wanted to pitch the alcoholism right. I didn’t want to do that filmy drunk acting. So while discussing with the director I would ask him what scenes he had in mind, what was the pitch he was looking at and I wouldn’t watch the whole scene, I would watch just for a couple of seconds to get the tone and take it from there. So our job was to make it our own, right from adapting it was made for Hindi audiences and all of us were cast.”
She furthers, “The challenge was us against ourselves, we had to be better than the previous film, we had to surprise and shock and wanted to do something new. That was an exciting challenge and the reason I did the film was that challenge.” Tell Chopra that Emily Blunt reportedly drank a few pegs before the scenes, and the actress laughs saying, “I am very impressed with her then because if I did the same I wouldn’t have been able to focus and work properly.”
For Ribhu Dasgupta, the challenge obviously was to adapt material that was not Indian. “It is always tricky. But as long as you have your own voice, your own take then it is pretty much a scriptwriting process and your version that you want to write from the top again. You have to own the film,” says the director.
Aditi Rao Hydari says that despite her character being adapted from Megan Hipwell in the Hollywood original, she has a lot more going on around her in the film, and it was the way the story has been re-told that got her excited to play Nusrat, the girl on the balcony. “I have seen the film but not read the book. Earlier I felt: what I will do in the film? Because it is about this girl on the train and it is through her eyes but I liked the way the director has brought different characters together and retold the story through Meera’s eyes. Also, it was a nice break for me in the midst of doing many hectic love stories in the south,” she says. “We are telling a story of a girl who is traumatised, dejected, she has seen this girl in the balcony and you put Aditi there and it changes everything. Aditi was always Nusrat for me,” adds Dasgupta.
Incidentally, Chopra’s co-star Avinash Tiwary is not a big fan of the Hollywood film and he makes sure to drive the point across but he agreed to do the film because he loved the script and the way Dasgupta fleshed out each character. “Ribhu and I have a certain way of working. In 2013 we collaborated on the Hindi series Yudh where we hardly spoke to each other. He trusts me that I would deliver and I trust him in giving me the right direction. It has been the same with this film as well. He has coloured the characters differently. My part is very interesting and when you watch it you would understand why I wanted to do it,” said Tiwary, who was last seen in Netflix’s Bulbbul.
If it wasn’t for the pandemic, The Girl on the Train would have released in theatres last summer. The film is the fourth title for Tiwary on Netflix and while he believes that there are many pros of OTT, it is the big screen where he wants to be. “Take out time and watch me in the theatre and allow me to create an impact and that is my personal desire. I would always want to come in theatres but this is the first time that our industry, our filmmakers and artistes have had an opportunity to create a global audience and we should take advantage of it,” said Tiwary.
Hydari chimes in, “There are good films and there are not so good films and whether you see physical box office cash or it is virtual love, I feel both are valid and important. At the end of the day, you want to make timeless films that live beyond your years where people love you for them and they take you home with them regardless of the medium.”
The pressure is the same for Chopra whether OTT or theatre. “Because the goal with this film was always to surprise and win people’s heart. I thought about the box office number a little less, for me it is still about this film making an impact. So I feel it is the perfect home watch where people will watch as per their own convenience. I am dying to hear the feedback. It is important that we understand today that cinemas and theatrical release are not what they used to be a year ago, till then we can bring our films out and the audience can watch it,” Chopra concludes.
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