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Interview Hindi Marathi

Want to do Malayalam movies, so am learning the language, says Amruta Subhash

In an exclusive interview, the actress speaks about her journey so far, her deep bond with the late filmmaker Sumitra Bhave, and her plans.

Keyur Seta

A casual glance at Amruta Subhash’s filmography would reveal a penchant for content-orientated roles and a knack for avoiding typecasting. Having worked in films such as Devrai (2004), Nital (2006), Valu (2008), Gandh (2009), Masala (2012) and Balak Palak  (2013), along with television shows, the actress has ensured that she stands apart from her contemporaries.

Amruta said that just when she had started wondering what kind of roles she would get after reaching a certain age, the over-the-top (OTT) revolution took place. This afforded her the opportunity to play challenging characters in shows such as Selection Day (2018), Sacred Games (Season 2, 2019) and the recent Bombay Begums (2021).

Amruta can now be seen in director Sumitra Bhave’s last film Dithee, in which she plays the rustic character Parubai. In an exclusive conversation with Cinestaan.com, Amruta spoke about her deep bond with Bhave and looked back on her own career so far. She also spoke of her plans for the future. Excerpts:

Your latest Marathi movie, Dithee, turned out to be director Sumitra Bhave’s last film. You did quite a few films with her. How was your personal rapport with her?

I was very fortunate that she came into my life when I was much younger and innocent. Because of that, whatever she taught me will always remain fresh. I was her disciple. That is my first relationship with her. And it’s a coincidence that The Disciple (2021) has her voice as the guru. At the same time, she was my friend.

A scene from Dithee

She used to bring out things from me that I was not even aware [I possessed]. For example, she made the film Astu! (2014) after seeing my father deal with Alzheimer’s. She had seen how sad I was. At that time, I was unable to deal with my sorrow. So, she wrote the character Chanamma for me in Astu! The character was such that she had overcome her sorrow. Whatever I wanted to do in my personal life, she let me do it through the film.

Sumitra Bhave (1943–2021): Filmmaker who continued her social work through cinema

Chanamma taught this to me. She keeps saying, 'Let it be, it’s okay.' She helped me heal. People used to ask her [Bhave] why aren’t you roping in a Kannada actress for this role? But she was firm about casting me. Apart from my acting capabilities, she knew my personal life. She also knew that by doing this role, I will be gaining a lot personally, which I did. We shared such a deep bond. 

There was equality on her sets. She used to ask me and others about a particular shot. Although the final decision was taken by her and Sunil [Sukthankar, her co-director], she used to seek everyone’s opinion on the sets. Even if a spot boy made a suggestion, she would consider it. She taught us to behave with everyone with equality and love.

Amruta Subhash with Mohan Agashe in Astu!

At the end of Astu!, Mohan Agashe sir addresses me as aai [mother]. This wasn’t part of the script. But after she saw the relationship between him and me, she suggested it to him at the last moment and it touched me. When I got the National award for that role, MS Sathyu, who was on the jury, told me, 'That ‘aai’ got you the award'. If Sumitra maushi hadn’t suggested that, I wouldn’t have got the National award.

How did you prepare for your character?

Mostly, Sumitra maushi’s films were shot in different villages. We shot Dithee in a village near Pune. There was a house where a woman similar to my character lived. I am very grateful to her for she taught me how to drape a saree in a different way. The very first preparation Sumitra maushi asked me to do was to change my voice since I was playing a character older than myself. She said my voice should be thick like that woman and I should drain it of all sweetness. At the same time, it shouldn’t look fake.

She also pointed out how healthy that woman had become because of all the experiences she must have had in her life. Even during the dubbing, I had to be careful about my voice. I was glad when some people asked if someone else had dubbed for me. As I said, Sumitra maushi used to always help me find something different in myself that even I was not aware of.

A scene from Dithee

What are your criteria when it comes to picking a project?

The first and foremost criterion is content. Content is king, queen, my lover; I have an affair with good content. I will keep saying this for years to come. If the content isn’t impressive, you can’t do anything. If Agashe sir hadn’t said aai, I wouldn’t have reacted in that way. It has to be there in the content.

Naseeruddin Shah taught me something very interesting when it comes to accepting roles. He said he would choose a role only if its conflict is seen on the screen. Such roles will always be remembered. For example, I had only 10 minutes of screen time in Astu! but [the role] was memorable because her conflict was visible as she was wondering whether she should allow this man [Agashe's character] to stay with them. Just when she started developing affection for him, he had to go. So, in those 10 minutes, all such conflict was visible on screen.

In Bombay Begums, your character Lily stood out from the rest. How important was this web-series for you?

It was very important because for the first time I got to play a seductress as she is a bar dancer. I love dancing but nobody had visualized me dancing before. Even Alankrita [Shrivastava, the creator of the series] said that earlier she couldn’t imagine me in that role. But it was casting director Shruti Mahajan who suggested that they should at least audition me.

The actress in Bombay Begums

I auditioned for the role and then Alankrita was like, 'Wow, I never imagined you could do that.' I told her that’s because I never got a chance to do that. That’s why Bombay Begums will always be important for me because people got to see another side of me, as a dancer. And it was always a dream to work with Alankrita because she tackles different subjects brilliantly. Also, someone as wonderful as Pooja Bhatt came into my life. She is so honest, dedicated and lovable.

You worked with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in his first film as a leading man, Chausar (2013). Years later, you worked with him in Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016) and Sacred Games. What changes have you seen in him through the years?

When we were doing Chausar, he didn’t even have a proper place to stay. But when we met for Raman Raghav, he was a star. He had done films with big stars then. But it was such a pleasant surprise that he was exactly the same as a person.

He taught me how to digest success. He used to speak in the same way when he used to ask me to do rehearsals. He praised my film Killa (2015). He told me a lot of good work was being done in Marathi cinema and he would like to work in the industry. He has always been a fantastic actor. His passion for the art is the same.

In Sacred Games, despite playing the main role, he used to be there on the sets on the dot. It’s great to have a friend like him. He is a very good human being too.

Amruta Subhash and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Sacred Games

How do you see your journey so far?

I am very grateful for my journey because life has given me the opportunity to do everything I wanted. Initially, I worked in different forms like movies, daily soaps and ads. I am happy that I got to do good films. To have people like Umesh Kulkarni, Avinash Arun, Sumitra Bhave, Sunil Sukthankar and Sachin Kundalkar working in the industry was my good fortune. Else, I wouldn’t have got such roles.

It was my dream to work with someone like Anurag [Kashyap] in the Hindi arena. He gave me such different roles. Just like Nawaz, he is a fantastic person. I had given auditions for all three projects I did with him. Just because I was a part of Raman Raghav didn’t mean I didn’t have to give an audition for Sacred Games. After that, I auditioned for Choked (2020). It is only your talent that will help you get roles.

Amruta with Roshan Mathew and Saiyami Kher in Choked

When I was acting in Marathi films, I felt that after a certain age, I should do meaningful work. But I used to wonder how, because at that time, there were limitations in terms of women getting roles after a certain age. But then the universe listened to me and OTT happened and look at the roles I kept getting on Netflix!

Kusumdevi Yadav was a male character in Sacred Games, but they changed it into a female one. What else can the universe do for you? OTT now continues to give me more wonderful opportunities. After Bombay Begums, I have Dhamaka on Netflix, which is a completely different project. I am grateful to all the filmmakers who have trusted me.

Before Sacred Games, I had never done a character like Kusumdevi Yadav, but Anurag was sure I would be able to play her. Ram Madhvani sir did the same in Dhamaka as that was also a new character for me. I am curious now what life has in store. I wish to do a lot more work. I wish to act in Malayalam films, so I am learning the language. I am also improving my English. I wish to do good content in different languages.

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