She’s carved an indelible niche for herself in the OTT domain with her finely nuanced performances. Meet Rasika Dugal who candidly talks about how the OTT as a format has led writers to explore more nuanced characters and brought about the much-needed equality in the entertainment business.
You have played very interesting characters over the years. Do you think the roles that are written for women now are better than what they used to be before?
Yes, I do believe that whole-heartedly. The advent of the OTT platform and the acceptance of the long-term climax has really given an opportunity to people to say a story within a story. In a one-and-a-half-hour film, you don’t really get to explore juicy characters. But in a 12-episode series, there is an opportunity to introduce multiple tracks with flourish and explore characterisation in a detailed way. The nature of the format has encouraged a lot of well-written female characters.
Also, more interesting characters are written for women in the OTT space because it is working, and the audience is liking it. Writing finally got its due in the last few years and after a lot of experiments, we now know for sure that if something is well-written, it will be accepted by the audience.
Also, content has consciously broken formula in the last few years and that is a positive change. There has been a change in the conversations among common people about the fact that there needs to be some kind of equality in the entertainment industry. Of course, this will not happen overnight. But there is a general realisation that we need to make the entertainment space more equal. We may not be succeeding all the time, but we are moving in the right direction!
Is the audience more mature to accept women not being just black or white on screen, but also thriving on being grey?
I think the audience was always mature. In fact, we were not giving them enough content or characters that was layered to suit their tastes. The audience was dying to watch content that was breaking formula. On the OTT space, the audience is watching all kinds of genre. What is even more exciting is that there is no one genre that is successful – there are several. They were always ready for variety, nuance and details. But it was we who were not taking a chance. And by ‘we’, I mean, the producers who were not taking a chance. Actors, directors and writers were always wanting to do this, but the producers held them back for one reason or the other! The bottleneck has been distribution as a lot of new content would get stuck at the distribution stage.
Though some have loved the series, a lot of people also said A Suitable Boy did not turn out to be as good as it was expected to be. What is your take?
I take every response to my work as good response. No response in other words is failure, isn’t it? For an artiste, it is always interesting to hear people talk about her work. A lot of people have said it was beautiful and I personally feel it was beautiful too. The geography, the sets, the costumes, the colours, is very indicative of the beautiful sense of imagination that the director has. The one problem people had was the accent in which the actors spoke – that probably didn’t go down well with some.
I feel every reaction should be listened to because if people are pointing out something to you then they must have really paid attention to it. Some people said that was exactly how Indians spoke in English during the British India, while others don’t agree. The question of how a language is spoken by someone is different from person to person.
There is no one way in which someone has to say something. There will always be preconceived notions about what people have experienced in their lives. It is an interesting conversation to have and debate over, but when it comes to a show, the decision is made by the creators. We also know that not everybody will be happy with that, which is also fine.
Tell us about the second season of Out of Love.
She is trying to come to terms with being a single mother and accepting what has happened in her life. Season 2 finds Meera in a position where she has finally found her rhythm. She is content and happy till the time Akash resurfaces in her life. This season explores the psychological sides of the characters.
Even Mirzapur and Delhi Crime have been tremendously successful, making you a household name…
For both shows, I have worked really hard. In fact, when we were shooting Delhi Crime, we did not even have a streaming platform on board. It was so uncertain. Mirzapur in both seasons has managed to keep the audience engaged. There were so many difficult scenes, yet my co-actors helped me get over the awkwardness in no time. Beena is instinctive yet vulnerable. I think that is what makes her so vulnerable. Since this is the OTT, she has been written with nuance. If it were a film, we might have never known that there could be so many different shades to Beena, in the first place.