Rasika Dugal’s lineup right now is replete with diverse genres ranging from a sports drama, dramedy, and black comedy to a supernatural-horror series titled Adhura which has hit the OTT platform today. Breaking the mould once again, she essays the role of a school counsellor in the show that is peppered with drama, tragedy and a stark representation of the society we live in. In an exclusive conversation with Filmfare, Rasika gets candid about her fears as she immerses herself in yet another character that she makes her own, committing to the script and filtering reality from fiction. Excerpts….
Have you ever experienced a spooky situation in real life?
No, but I am constantly spooked. I keep thinking something is waiting to happen to me anytime. I feel like there are things around us that we have no control over and do not understand. So I am fairly spooked most of the time. Doing a horror show was like confronting my fears in the literal sense of it. But about having a paranormal experience that I can describe, not really.
You play a counsellor in Adhura, you’ve mentioned how shooting for it left you feeling eerie – what role does human psychology play here?
I think I was not spooked while filming for sure because there’s so much around you. There are people, there are lights. I think I was spooked when I read the story and usually when I am shooting, before I go to sleep, I do the lines for the next day. With Adhura I couldn’t do that. I had to finish doing those at 5:30 in the evening. Not only is it scary, it is a very sad story. So along with the spookiness, the grief, the sadness – it was all too much to do right before you went to sleep. So I decided with Adhura I would just keep the script away at 5:30 in the evening. It was also difficult to watch the show because when it comes together and especially the sound design which is such an important component of a horror show, it becomes difficult to watch. But I had to watch it. It is a beautiful story but scary to watch.
As far as how something you portrayed stays with you and in your mind, it happens with every role and with Adhura, more than the scary part, the tragedy of the unresolved grief of all the characters in the show was moving and disturbing. I always believe unfinished conversations and things unsaid and unresolved grief is far more painful than the finality of death. That is something that the audience will also take away from this story, Ananya has written so beautifully and sensitively.
Any inhibitions before doing a horror series?
I feel horror is a very difficult genre for directors. It tests your skills as a filmmaker. In a situation of fear, for example, in life, don’t you always feel that your senses are very heightened? Any small thing you can hear very loudly. You imagine things that are not there. As filmmakers, it is very interesting for them to try and replicate that in cinema. It is an interesting genre for them and Ananya and Gaurav have done it so interestingly and light-heartedly. They never take themselves too seriously, there’s always fun on the set. But they get a lot of work, a lot of serious work done.
What is the kind of horror series you loved watching?
I have to confess, I am very scared of getting spooked. The last horror film I watched was when I was 10 years old called 100 Days. After that I watched Adhura. There’s been nothing else in between. So even when I went to film school, you know how you watch all these classics in all genres as a part of your course, but I had to excuse myself from some of it. I can’t do it, I have to excuse myself. It is too scary. Even classics like Conjuring, The Shining – I have not watched any of them. I have no reference for it.
As a counsellor you’re often bound to rely on logic, tell us about your character here – you know there’ll always be people who believe in spirits and those who believe in reality – which kind are you?
I am the one who believes in spirits. That’s why I get scared. It is so inconvenient. I am always switching on lights and sleeping and then I wake up tired. Adhura won’t even give you the option to keep the lights on and feel less scared.
Your character is stuck between going with logic and believing what’s happening in front of you – how did you sink your teeth into the character?
All of us tread these thin lines every day as we navigate life. The acknowledgement or even just the feeling that there are forces around us that are beyond us versus the need to define and control things rationally. Supriya is doing the same but is also burdened by the unresolved grief of a very difficult past that subconsciously drives all her decisions.
How different is it to shoot for something supernatural as opposed to drama?
As an actor, I don’t think it is about living that moment and responding to it as if it’s real rather believing it is not. So it is not different as opposed to working in other genres. But for filmmakers, every genre is a very different exercise. And I think Ananya and Gaurav have used horror and supernatural tropes to say something about the society we live in and the reality we live in.
If I have just finished a project and if I have time, for 20 days I will sit and think about how a certain shot was done, what I could have done and all of that will happen. And sometimes it is okay if I am just thrown into something else and my mind is distracted. As long as I get the prep time I need for a project and they are all different for different projects. Sometimes I need more, and sometimes you need less. Some are professions you don’t understand so you need more time. For Delhi Crime, I did not know about the police force so I had to spend more time trying to understand. Then Mirzapur it is not really about the profession, it is about this woman and how she is. Then there are accents to master. So basic prep time is good, if that is not there then I feel uneasy.