Interview Hindi

It is challenging to play a rape victim, Anjali Patil on Mere Pyare Prime Minister


The actress gets talking about her experience, looks back at her career and reveals the reason behind her unconventional choices in an exclusive interview.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

Anjali Patil is one actress who has carved a niche for herself without succumbing to commercialisation. In her seven-year career so far, Patil has given an array of performances in Indian as well as international films like With You, Without You (2012), Chakravyuh (2012), Naa Bangaaru Talli (2013), Newton (2017), The Silence (2017) and Meri Nimmo (2018).

With Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Mere Pyare Prime Minister, she has taken up the task of exploring another challenging character. She plays a single mother from the lower strata of society who gets raped. Mere Pyare Prime Minister was released on 15 March.

Patil got speaking to us about her experience, looked back at her career and revealed the reason behind her unconventional choices in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts:

How were you cast in Mere Pyare Prime Minister?

It all began with Mirzya (2017). It was a small part, but the way I and Rakeysh sir connected as actor-director he was pretty sure we would be working again soon. And almost a year later, he gave me the script of Mere Pyare Prime Minister. With him, there is no option of choosing because he has been one of those directors you grew up watching in Aks - The Reflection (2001), Rang De Basanti (2006), Delhi-6 (2009). He is a special and brilliant director of Indian cinema.

What exactly is your character of a single mother in the film?

Her name is Sargam, is a very strong, independent woman. She falls in love when she was 16-17. The man runs off. But she wants to bring up the child. So, she comes to Mumbai. It’s a very strong decision for a girl to bring up this child with a certain sense of responsibility to make him a good citizen. Although she is not very educated, she is a very progressive thinker. She treats her child as a friend. They play, bully, sing and entertain each other.

With child actor Karan Dave in Mere Pyare Prime Minister

Sargam gets raped. The boy senses the change in the mother. He doesn’t understand what exactly is rape, but he understands that it has caused her tremendous pain. He wants his mother to be safe, happy and smiling again. So, he writes this letter to the prime minister.

You also played a rape victim in Kill The Rapist. Must have been very taxing, even mentally.

Yes, but Kill The Rapist is not even released. It was a very different film. I would rather not talk about that film at all. Instead I would talk about my Telugu film Naa Bangaaru Talli (2013), which is on human trafficking. My character gets caught into the human trafficking nexus. She gets abused and beaten up. That was really taxing on my body, mind, everything. Even Mere Pyare Prime Minister is challenging because as an actor you don’t just act. You let all those things happen to yourself; to this actual physical body.

But it is also an opportunity to share the pain of people who actually go through this. So, it’s not just about this one rape victim but all rape victims.

You had a small role in Mirzya. Now you are playing a lead in his next. How was it working with him? It is said that he is a perfectionist.

Yes, he is a perfectionist. We would go for 16, 17, 18 takes [laughs]. The night we were shooting the rape scene was also very gruesome and challenging. The Holi song is shot in a single take. That was also an incredible difficulty of our lives. Rakeysh sir has a certain understanding about films. He always gives a big canvas to the actors to play. He will gently navigate you through it. He works very organically with everyone; not just actors. All the things I wanted to change or add in the character, he organically took those aspects in the script.

A still from Mere Pyare Prime Minister

Everything that comes on the way while making a film looks like a challenge probably in the beginning, but then it becomes an integral part of life. We forgot about it 3-4 days after climbing. It just became a part of the process. For the first 3-4 days we were staying in these houses. We were allotted some houses. We became part of the family. I used to sleep on the same bed. I would also get ready and eat there. I would eat their food if I got bored by the food on the sets.

Your film choices have always been unconventional. What do you look into before saying yes to a project?

I think my choice of work has been a reflection of the way I live my life. Maybe 1-2 years ago, my answer to this question would have been, ‘I don’t know why I choose these films.’ But probably now I realize that there is very subconscious decision behind choosing these films because of the education and upbringing I have had. I come from a very simple, middle-class family where education and certain principles like being honest and hardworking were important.

I then studied in drama in Lalit Kala Kendra for six years. I was studying philosophy. I was reading various writers, playwrights and watching world cinema. All this has affected me so much that it’s important for me to have that reflection in my work because I am living my life in a certain way, which is not affected by the money and commercial aspects of success. My life is all about the art and what I am creating through different mediums, be it direction, acting, writing poems or cooking food.

The thought of doing some mainstream or commercial film never crosses your mind? You’ll get noticed more by doing so.

This question keeps coming to me again and again and again. And I keep thinking, how do I give an interesting answer to this without offending the people from commercial Bollywood. In the beginning I used to give a smart answer like, yes I would like to do commercial films and this and that. Now I feel like, I don’t know. If it’s something interesting and falls into the way I am living during that particular time and if it attracts or pulls me, if the director convinces me with the character and if the story convinces me, okay yes [I would do it].

It has never been about commercial or independent films. All these people came to me
with their scripts because somehow they had this idea of me as an actor and felt like I can do this role. If this happens with any other commercial director, then yes. But there is never this calculation that I need to be seen more. I just want to do my work. Whatever happens of that work, just happens.