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‘I am half-naked in the film!’

Did you choose acting or did acting choose you?

Considering my mother (Lilette Dubey) who she is and considering her sister (Lushin Dubey) had a children’s theatre company, my sister (Neha Dubey), myself and my cousins all started acting from the age of 4-5. Since we could basically walk and talk. So acting definitely chose me. It’s in my genes. I am blessed with a certain amount of talent, which hopefully people should see soon. Acting is something I cannot escape and I am grateful for it. I went on to graduate from Yale and I majored in theatre studies. Theatre has been very close to my heart. I have written and directed plays, assisted my Mom and I have performed with her in over half-a-dozen productions.

Is it true that you were supposed to make your film debut with Anjan Dutt’s The Bong Connection, in the role eventually played by Peeya Munshi?

Yes I was, at some point. Anjan has worked with my mom and sister (in Bow Barracks Forever) and we are all very fond of him. He had met me several times but things didn’t work out. A couple of years back I did The President is Coming and now here’s Aisha.

Given your background are you comfortable doing commercial Bolly films like Aisha?

Aisha is a contemporary coming-of-age film. It’s a wonderful platform. It’s a great role. I love my role in the film. When you like the script and you like the people you are working with, it’s half the battle won. Yes, I was always in a dilemma whether to get into films at all. Five years ago if you would have asked me, I would have said ‘never’. But then I learnt to hold my tongue and never say never. As a working actor I have realised that the more mediums you explore, the more challenging it is. Bollywood today is a wonderful new medium. There will always be that mirch masala film because it is the release for the man on the street. I accept that. I have no judgements on it. But I also believe that Bollywood has changed drastically in the last few years. And there are lots of opportunities today for actors of all sizes and shapes.

How Bengali is your character Pinky Bose?

I play a half-Bengali and half-Punjabi character and being the theatre actor that I am, I have tried to incorporate elements of both. So Pinky is extremely outrageous, outspoken... a munhfat girl. She is very funny also. But at the same time, I have tried to play her very dry, very sarcastic, very blunt. This character is not there in Emma. She is inspired from other Austen heroines. She is Aisha’s best friend in the film and she keeps Aisha grounded. Aisha is a little bit in a bubble and Pinky keeps bringing her back to reality. This realness and earthiness, I feel, is very Bengali. And a very simple physical attribute I gave her was the specs! That’s the intellectual bit (laughs). As for the clothes, I keep joking that I am half-naked in the film! Apparently I am the most petite person and so I can carry off anything. So I am given the most bizarre colours and the most short dresses. My clothes are out there but I am still the Bengali thinker.

Will it be a mix of movies and theatre from here on?

Yes. Theatre is something I will never let go of. And in this movie business, I have to be careful. It’s a tough business. You got to have thick skin. You should be able to take rejection, take criticism.... There will be periods of no work. And you have to accept the fact that there will always be someone who is more talented than you are and more beautiful than you are. You can’t let it get to you. So, for me, it will be theatre which will help me stay grounded throughout my life.

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