After Aarya, Sushmita Sen is back with another noteworthy performance in Taali, which is based on the life of transgender activist, Shreegauri Sawant. The web series, streaming on Jio Cinema, sees Sushmita play Sawant and is currently basking in the success of the series. With OTT, Sushmita began a new inning and is winning hearts with her choice of roles. The former Miss Universe gets candid about playing Sawant, working in OTT, and more. Excerpts:
What were your thoughts when you heard the title ‘Taali’?
Actually, it wasn’t called Taali at all. There was some problem with the title that we were planning to take up. I remember that was, Ashtami (Durga Puja), we were shooting and deciding if we should call this or something else. I suggested a generic name which would not qualify any difference... A name that would celebrate one community and also not make us feel ashamed to like it. And, then this word came out of my mouth: ‘Taali’.
What changes did you find in your perception when you were offered this role and after meeting Gauri Sawant?
Before meeting Gauri, I felt I understood them well. But after meeting her and others who have worked with us, and hearing their stories individually, I felt I didn't know anything about them in real life. I had sympathy then and even now. It’s not new to me. We should not suppress the voice of any community. They should be included and allowed to live their lives with dignity. We all should find a voice for them.
We have worked extremely hard. I think what makes it inspiring is Gauri’s story itself. We all loved Gauri since the time we researched her story. We felt that we have heard the name so we know everything about her. But, after the research and meeting her and others, our preconceived notions and perceptions change. I think the most incredible thing happened through the journey of Taali. There are so many who are not so lucky.
Would you credit the OTT platform for showing such hard-hitting subjects, which couldn’t be shown on the celluloid earlier?
I’m from the 90s. I come from a distribution network that was in the Naaz building. Therefore, I come from a time when Taali could have never been made. From my experience, the work I have been privileged to do in my second innings is only because of OTT that allowed us to do something different. Now, I can take my work to a larger audience and I have huge respect for the platform. All of us have watched stories about transgenders and characters in different films. I don't remember when a transgender character was presented with respect. This credit goes to our director as he wanted to present Gauri respectfully.
Would you like to do any biopic on a sportswoman of yesteryears?
I would love to do any kind of inspiring work. I haven't thought about anything in particular. It’s a good thing when you don’t plan to get Gauri’s biopic. I will leave my options open. Whenever I get a chance I would be delighted to take it up.
How was your experience of working with Marathi actors?
Marathi actors are wonderful. I would get sleepless nights even if they had a one-and-a-half-day scene, but they came prepared. They are amazingly raw theatre actors. You have to pull up your socks as they constantly want to be absolutely perfect. They are live wires and play with honesty and depth.