Supriya as Hansa Parekh from Khichdi
Supriya as Hansa Parekh from Khichdi

Supriya Pathak, whose versatility as an actor ranges from Hansa Parekh of the Khichdi franchise to Dhankor Baa of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, is keeping a busy schedule. She has three films up for release in 2021: Abhishek Bachchan-starrer Harshad Mehta biopic, The Big Bull, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Toofan, a sports drama that will see Farhan Akhtar play a boxer, but first it is her friend and colleague, Seema Pahwa’s debut directorial, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi, which is set for a theatrical release on January 1st! We spoke to the actor about her the film, and why she has not yet ventured into the OTT space. Excerpts:

How did you land the role?

In the beginning she just told me she has written this script, and I actually went there to listen to the reading as her friend... I wanted to know what she’s written. After listening to it, I told her I loved it and we were casually chatting when she suddenly said: “I want you to play the Amma”, and I was like “WHAT?!”. [Laughs]

Then Seema said she had actually written it for herself, but since she will be directing the film, and it is her very first outing as a film director, she wanted to focus only on that, and not act in it. I understood where she was coming from. And hats off to her that she didn’t bring the actor in her at all to the set. She was the director through and through.

Supriya Pathak opens up about her apprehensions about the OTT content

The OTT platforms are churning out some interesting content. As an actor, do you think that’s the way forward?

Yeah sure! I think that the OTT platforms are a real blessing to all of us. But then I have always believed that we have to move forward, we have to make good films with a good cause and with good actors. It has to be a complete amalgamation of all these things. In this country, if one thing works, we have a tendency to dole out cookie-cutter versions of the same. We saw the same happening in television and I am worried that it might just become the case with the OTT content as well.

If you look at the OTT content that is happening in other countries, there is so much variety. If you don’t want to watch one genre, there will be twenty other new genres that you can choose from. But in India we seem to be getting stuck with the underworld gangster genre… the language, the settings, the tone is very similar. If you don’t have the stomach for all the blood and gore or if that particular genre is not something you like, you just have almost nothing to watch!

What you are saying is very interesting as I think we are seeing a similar thing happening in the name of ‘content-driven cinema’ today…

Absolutely, and I think it is a high time that we change that. We have so much variety in our country, we have such creative people, and even the audience here is so diverse, that we need to explore different kinds of stories. We need to make films not because it has something sensational, we need to make films because this is what we want to tell our people. We need to invest ourselves in the story we want to tell first rather than focusing on the profitability and the marketing prospects of it.

These small-town stories were supposed to bring the focus back on the middle class and the familial ties — something that the middle-of-the-road movies of Hrishikesh Mukherjee/Basu Chatterjee did…What do you think went wrong?

I think the youngsters today want everything real quick. So, they think ‘oh! this works, so then let’s do something like this’. But one needs to understand that if one thing works, may be two of the similar kind might, but the fourth one won’t, because by then the audience would be bored of watching the same content.

In my time the movies were content based and also issue based. Those were all stories that people really wanted to tell. The director was sure of both the content and the intent. They were not making films with the mindset that ‘yeh acha lagega, isko hum market kar sakenge’. The conversation was always, ‘yeh issue ko humko age lana hai’. It was never that ‘let’s make it into a sensation’.

I have a lot of faith in the youngsters, they are experimental but often the out-of-the-box becomes a box in itself. One needs to tread with caution.

Now your daughter is also doing movies. Do you think young actors these days have better opportunities?

No! Although my daughter hardly discusses her projects with me, I feel that the roles the younger generation is getting are of all very similar genre. Apart from playing the regular stereotypes or portraying some kind of weird relationship on screen, there isn’t much. I think it is the slightly older actors, in their late 30s, who are actually getting the interesting roles these days.

But are things improving for female actors of your age — while we had Neena Gupta headlining Badhai Ho, we also had Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar essaying roles of octogenarians in Saandh Ki Aankh…

It’s absolutely to my mind a director’s prerogative, if he wants to do it because he feels that the younger actor will be able to put more zest in it than the actual actor of the age group then it’s his call. Also, it is a great opportunity for the actors! Playing a character of a different age group, of a different generation is every actor’s dream. I would love to do it, I will dive right in!

I have a lot of faith in the youngsters, they are experimental but often the out-of-the-box becomes a box in itself. One needs to tread with caution.

But yes, the opportunities for female actors have always been far less than that of their male counterparts, especially after a certain age. But I think stories are changing and what is working with the audience is getting made more, and in this whole thing, the roles that are getting offered to the actors are also becoming a bit different from what it was a few years back. The men always had good roles written for them, and yes, now women are also getting that platform to be able to perform and tell stories. I am not complaining, I am getting some very interesting roles, and then I am also doing some because I feel like being part of those stories.

But how come you are not doing any web series?

I haven’t been offered anything really nice. I hope I do soon; I am waiting!

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