Sobhita Dhulipala on Made in Heaven: I thrive on playing parts that are more conflicted than I am
Sobhita Dhulipala talks about the acclaim for her performance in the Amazon Original, the female gaze of the show, and what it took to play Tara Khanna.
She captured the narrative of pop culture the whole of last week with her nuanced portrayal of Tara Khanna, a socialite who strives to have it all, in the swashbuckling web series Made in Heaven.
Equal parts vulnerable and tenacious, she aced the part with her beauty, powerful acting chops and a striking screen presence. Delivering an indelible performance of a flawed protagonist, one could not but root for, Sobhita Dhulipala has showcased that she has arrived and how!
The success of Made in Heaven comes on the heels of another successful outing for Dhulipala (Goodachari in Telugu) proving that irrespective of the medium or language, this former beauty queen can ace them all. As she basks in the glory of many well deserved accolades, Sobhita talks exclusively to Firstpost from Rajasthan, where she is shooting for an upcoming Netflix show.
How and when was Made in Heaven offered to you? What was your initial reaction?
I auditioned with the casting team and was called in for a look test a month later. I met Zoya (Akhtar, co-creator) and Nitya (Mehra, showrunner) there, and was thrilled to learn of their support and that they were keen on me doing the part. A week later, I got the confirmation call and was delighted to be working with such a unique set of storytellers.
Did the fact that the series was helmed by mostly women add a lot of aesthetic value, especially in the way intimate scenes were handled? How different is the gaze of a woman behind the camera than a man?
While we were shooting, it never occurred to me that I was directed being a woman or man. Sensitivity isn’t limited to gender or age. Inclusivity and honesty are very very important aspects of storytelling, and matter most to me. Beyond that, I didn’t think of anything else.
How easy or difficult was it to slip in and out of what felt like two different characters, one this sophisticated young woman and another a secretary who is trying to make her mark.
(She is) a middle class girl who is now an industrialist’s wife. There’s a lot of aspiration, class struggle and inner turmoil. It was extremely joyous and delightful for me to be playing a character with such depth and dilemmas. We did have a week-long workshop with Mr Neeraj Kabi to catalyse our camaraderie. Frankly, I thrive in playing parts that are more conflicted than I am.
What was the experience of working with such a big ensemble cast? Your chemistry with Jim Sarbh has been talked about as has been your easy camaraderie with Arjun Mathur.
All the four directors and the entire cast — they have a very strong sense of self, both as individuals and as storytellers. I rely on my instincts as an artist and found this experience of character building to be extremely gratifying.
Your character has shades of grey. Was it a conscious decision to not make everything black and white?
Tara Khanna is grey. As we all are. You, me, everyone. We all lean towards darker or lighter as per our state of security. Acting isn’t lying. Acting is revealing, in the guise of a character.
My personal favorite scene was at the end. When you are overwhelmed with jewelry and lie down in the bath tub as if you have come to a decision. Can you talk about what was going on in your mind in that scene?
It was quite a complex moment for me emotionally. The tangible luxuries of a grand lifestyle pitted against the inadequacy of the most basic human security and comfort, like the hollow sound of a seashell. It was a special moment.
As a web series, Made in Heaven, tackles a lot of issues — from infidelity to sexual orientation — without a filter, something which might have been censored in a film. Do you think web series give a lot of freedom to explore uncharted territories?
It was shot like any film would be shot, albeit we shot for a lot more content/screen time. The fundamental difference being, emotions were expressed as they are, without being needed to be dumbed down for faster consumption or out of fear of being amputated through censorship. It (the format) does make a huge difference to the narrative.
Made in Heaven is being touted as India’s coming-of-age web show. What are the things you have been listening to?
Thank you. I’ve been listening to all things that put a swing in my stride!
You have started getting these interesting roles, from Goodachari to Made in Heaven. What kind of characters do you see yourself doing?
The medium is of no consequence to an actor. The approach remains the same. It has always been important to me to be part of content that moves me and is authentic. I want to be as amused by my own choices as anybody else.
Finally, what are you working on currently and the question on everyone’s mind — When can we binge-watch season 2?
I’m doing a film with Rishi Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi, The Body, directed by Jeethu Joseph; Moothon with Nivin Pauly by Geetu Mohandas and a show for Netflix by Red Chillies (Entertainment). This is the release line up for 2019. Season 2… soon!
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