Meher Vij has delivered an award-winning performance in Secret Superstar. Here, she tells Suranjana Biswas how she changed from being hyper in real life to a docile wife on screen
What was the brief you were given about the story when you were approached for the role?
Initially, I did not get any kind of brief about the story when I was approached for the role. The brief I received was about my character. I was told that I should not portray the character in a clichéd manner and that we needed to go with the flow and make it look really friendly. The makers weren’t looking for a clichéd mother-daughter relationship. We wanted it to look natural on the sets. I wasn’t really given a brief about the film; we just did readings. It was a beautiful story and I was convinced about it. So I just did it.
Did you have any apprehensions about playing the character of a mother?
No, I wasn’t scared of being typecast. People are much more open-minded now and aware that we are actors and that we are here to create different characters. When someone plays the role of a mother, it doesn’t mean she is capable of playing only a mother. She can play other characters like a doctor, a sportswoman or even a psycho. Also, we have many examples like Vidya Balan and Aamir Khan, who have portrayed different kinds of characters. If you are committed, you can play any kind of role. That’s what I believe.
What was your initial reaction when you were offered this role?
My reaction was one of amazement. I couldn’t believe I was going to be working with Aamir Khan Productions and that they were offering me such a strong role. I couldn’t believe it and thought someone was playing a prank. I received a message from Advait (Chandan) saying that after watching Bajrangi, he wanted to cast me in this film as a protagonist. I replied that I was not in town, just to see whether he was serious. So I told him I would meet him the next day and I did. He narrated the story and told me that he wanted to cast me. I was surprised and also very happy.
What were the challenges you faced while playing such a strong character?
It was challenging for me throughout! My character is very different from who I am as a person. I am not like Najma at all. I would never tolerate being hit by my husband. I am not one bit submissive or even close to being like that. I am hyper, anxious, crazy and I can’t sit in one place for more than 10 minutes. I have to keep moving. I am not this person at all.
I have been telling everyone that all I did was follow Advait and I couldn’t have done it without his support. He helped me be a lot calmer on the sets. He has taken my graph to a different level. I told him he needed to calm me on the sets because I am not the kind of person who would not react to being beaten up by her husband or any other kind of domestic violence. I have not seen this kind of behavior closely. Advait could see everything in its totality.
Advait is a first-time director. Was he open to suggestions and new ideas? What was your equation with him, on and off the sets?
It was just brilliant to work with him. He is a very nice guy and – I have said this before – his approach to his work is very honest, very pure and very unique. He is also very innocent, which reflects in the film. The film leaves you with a certain sense of innocence and sweetness and that’s because of Advait. He is a writer, a director and he has thought of this film for many years. He has seen it in its totality. He has a nice vibe which is very infectious.
The chemistry with your co-star is being talked about a lot. What do you have to say about that?
With Zaira, it was amazing. We did not prepare for any scene. We did do a lot of readings but we did not plan the dialogue or the scenes. We just went with the flow. I had a very instinctive connection with her from day one which is hard to find because you usually don’t connect with actors this well. You may work with a lot of good actors but you barely connect with them the way I connected with Zaira. And she too connected with me. I guess all this translated on screen because it was all so natural. This is probably what people can see and like about our chemistry.
The response from the audience has been very encouraging. How does it feel to be appreciated for your work?
The response is overwhelming and it is incredible because I had not expected so much appreciation. It is definitely a thousand times more than I had expected. We knew that we were making a sensible film but we didn’t know that we would get so much love from the industry as well as the audience. It makes me feel very grateful. It will take some time to sink in. So I am confused and happy at the same time!
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I have been getting many offers but it is too early to decide anything right now. I will probably wait a bit before I decide what I want to go forward with. Right now, I am in that zone where I am really enjoying this process. It will take some time for me to decide what I can and must do, what roles would suit me and what roles I can justify.