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Anjali Patil on identifying with her character Zeenat in Mirzya

On bagging Mirzya

It all started at the 2013 National Awards, which I was attending for my Telugu film Naa Bangaaru Talli. Rakeysh (Om Prakash Mehra) sir was there to receive an award for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. We met for a short time. Later, I heard that his production house and casting director Adore Mukherjee were trying to reach me, so I emailed them and we met. Rakeysh sir briefed me on what he was looking for and on the character, after which we did screen tests. He added some points and we did another screen test and that’s how I bagged the film. It was the kind of film I wanted to do, and the kind of people I wanted to work with. What more can you ask for than a film that has been written by Gulzar saab and directed by Rakeysh sir?

Working with Mehra

I have always been a big admirer of his work, his narrative style and the risks he takes, which you don’t see a lot of directors doing. He is always trying something different, whether in Aks, Rang De Basanti, Delhi 6, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag or Mirzya. I really like that he never plays it safe. So I knew it would be interesting to work with him. I had a comparatively small role in the film, given that I usually play the protagonist, but this role was special. I knew that even though it was small he would make sure it left an impact.

On her role

Rakeysh sir is always clear about what he wants. He envisioned Zeenat as a mistaken Sufiana lover. She has a unique charm, no boundaries and I related to the mystical part of Zeenat’s personality. Also, I am a traveller and Rakeysh sir once said, ’You are first a traveller, then an actor.’ So Zeenat’s nomad life was something I could connect with really well.

On prepping for the role

There were reading sessions and discussions on the film and my character. Rakeysh sir is every actor’s dream director. He tells you his perspective and his vision, but then he lets you do what you want. He listens to you, he goes with the flow. To understand more about the flavour of the film, I read quite a few novels. That helped me get
into character.

On the industry

I trained in direction at NSD but I somehow bagged a film as an actor and that’s how I began my career. But I am always thinking from the director’s perspective. I understand the camera; I am well versed with the technical aspects of filmmaking.

Changing scenario

Today’s films are about story and script more than stars. Directors look for actors who suit the characters they have in mind, so I believe it’s one of the best times to be in the industry.

On future films

There is Nimmo, produced by Aanand L Rai, then Newton with Rajkummar Rao, Mrs Scooter, Bardo – a Marathi film, and a few more.

Soumita Sengupta
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