What is your role in Red Alert?
The role of Saralakka that I play in Ananth Mahadevan"s Red Alert is a humane character, who has negative shades too. It is not a negative character at all. Saralakka is one of the Naxalites who is not only educated but also very sincere and honest to the core. Saralakka knows for sure what exactly she is doing and is a very courageous person. Saralakka is an introvert who is also very alert. In fact, Saralakka"s eyes show her alertness.
How did you prepare for your part?
I make it a point to make an autobiographical sketch of each and every character that I set out to do, whether it is a big one or a small one. I believe no role is big or small and what is important is the character that I play. Preparing from the mental point of view for my character of Saralakka was more important than getting to know about the physicality of the character. Ananth provided me with all the paper cuttings about the Naxalite movement in Telangana. I saw a lot of pictures too.
Did you have any reference point to draw from real life?
I remember, when I was in my college, I had a friend who was a hardcore communist. She used to read a lot of newspaper avidly daily and hence knew that Naxalites are educated. One day she was caught in the vortex of her movement and disappeared all of a sudden. She used to send letters to me but never mentioned about her whereabouts in her letters for fear of being caught by the police. In fact, what appealed to me about the Naxalites was that they are made of different stuff when compared to all of us mortals, they are actually very down to earth.
Who are your role models as actor?
My role models in films are Nargis in Mother India, Sridevi in Sadma and Anupam Kher in Saaransh. I confess, I have not worked as hard as these actors have done in these films till date. With the exception of my role as Phoolan Devi in Bandit Queen, I do not have any other role in any other film, which has made me feel proud of myself as an actress. I pray for the day when I will be able to break my own record of Bandit Queen.
How happy are you with the way your career has shaped till date as an actress?
When I look back at my career as an actress right from Bandit Queen till Red Alert, I have absolutely no regrets at all. It has been a very interesting journey. Though the kind of roles I have essayed in films are more or less similar, I have played varied roles on the stage. The biggest plus point with films is that today more people are recognizing my potential as an actress, whereas not many have seen me on the stage.
How would you define acting as a craft?
I"d say that acting maut ki tarah hain. Like death, acting bhi aap ke paas bolke nahin aati hai. I still feel that I have miles to tread as an actress. Manzilein door hain. I love acting, whether it is on the stage or in front of the camera for films. I do not plan how to act or when to act in which way. I act out the way my instinct tells me when I have my own comfort level.
What are your strengths and weakness as an actress?
Even now I get quite tense when I start shooting for any film of mine. In front of the camera when I enact a role of mine, genuinely I feel like dying every minute, because as an actress I am aware of what my negative points are and am trying to overcome all the limitations with which I have been saddled, though I would not like to divulge what my plus and minus points as an actress are.
In what way has Seema Biswas of Bandit Queen changed today?
Though I feel that it would be very difficult for me to be objective to evaluate about the way my career has progressed, I would not hesitate to state that today I have become extremely conscious and often think many times before I say anything to anyone on the sets lest people feel that I am throwing my tantrums. Earlier, frankly speaking, I used to say and do whatever I wanted on the sets and get away too. You can say that I have actually changed that way as a person.
How do you deal when you are thrown in front of the camera with non-actors?
Quite often, I have had to share the screen frame with non- actors too. If a non- actor with whom I am acting in the film is open to my suggestions and the director also allows me to guide him or her, I am game to correct my co-actors as and when they go wrong and also tend to give them tips about whatever I know about acting. However, if and when I see resistance on his or her part, I do not dare to venture to correct my co-actors as and when they make mistakes. What is interesting to note is that most of the time my co-actors get the shock of their lives when they realize that I am very down to earth as a person, though I seem to have been saddled with the image of a very haughty actress.
Which are your forthcoming films?
Besides Red Alert, I also have a few other films up in my sleeves like Smita Thackeray"s Society, David"s Queens (English) and Deepa Mehta"s Cooking With Stella. Society is a funny movie in which my co-actors are Dimple Kapadia, Sarika, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. I play a very interesting role of one of the owners of a flat in a housing society in Mumbai. The film is directed by the award winning director Rahul Dholakia, who had earlier directed Parzania and is now ready with his next release Lamha starring Sanjay Dutt and Bipasha Basu. I play one of the queens in Queens, which has been directed by David, who is not a foreigner but an Indian, while in Cooking With Stella, believe it or not, I am playing the title role after a long period of time. Though I play the serious role of Stella, the film has a very hilarious story.
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