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“Actresses have been stereotyped as babe, bhabhi and biji”

As Tisca Chopra gets ready for her digital show, she talks to Bhakti Mehta about what made her select Hostages, the kind of roles that attract her and more

What is the response you have received for the promos and the trailer?

What I am hearing from people who have seen the trailer and how people are reacting to hoardings is positive. People who have made it internally, my director, the producers, everyone else, seem to be very happy. But I have not seen anything except what I have dubbed and I do not watch the monitor when I am shooting. So, it is going to be very new for me.

You have had a connection with the digital world through short films but this is the first time you are going full throttle with web series.

Yes! It is very exciting and I am deeply excited that it is with Hostages, which has a character like Dr Meera Anand. It has been one of the most mouth-watering characters any actor could hope for. It was just amazing.

The trailer does look interesting especially from the point of view of a gripping thriller.

I am so happy to hear you say that. (Smiles)

What grabbed you about Dr Meera Anand?

There are certain stereotypes when we write female parts in India. When someone is a mother, the attributes attached to that character are of being sympathetic, sad, sobbing, a ‘heavy mom’. In Hostages, she is a mother but she is someone you want in your corner. She is sharp, sassy, badass, bright and stubborn. She is trying to maintain a grip on her work life, her family life and her married life but things are slipping out of her hands. That’s what the story is about.

So, characters with a spine attract you.

I don’t mind playing a spineless character provided the story is about that character finding their spine. Eventually, she must find her ground, dig in her heels and say, this is it, this is what I am going to do. According to me, that is a great story.

People have different opinions on working in films versus working in the web space. What is your take on this?

I don’t think there is a difference. As an actor, you are not looking at the duration of your performance. I think there should be a certain familiarity with the person you are playing, their thoughts, their life. I love playing stuff like that. In theatre, we have done 90 shows across 2-3 years, where we have stayed with a certain character. Once you start getting into that space, you keep getting to know that person more and more in a manner that you keep getting to know yourself. You discover more facets about your character with the different kinds of situations the character is put in; you realise there are aspects to that person which may not have been there on paper. And then you start running with it. The web world allows you that space to run with it.

Is that your take on the booming web space?

I have a couple of thoughts on that, actually. It is interesting that what you do on the web does not depend on the ‘weekend’. The pressure is not on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. It remains for perpetuity on the platform it is streaming on. You don’t have to immediately get off the ground. In fact, the minute something is streaming or has dropped is when you can start pushing people to it. It can grow by word-of-mouth. And it inevitably does, which is wonderful.

The second interesting thing about the web is that there is a whole bunch of talented people who don’t necessarily fit into either the categories of directors, producers or actors with regard to the hero-heroine formula of storytelling that we have seen in the past. They might not enjoy that. Not everything can be a love story. It is not like now there has to be one love interest followed by a song and all that. That’s a tired narrative now.

What you see across the world is that people are really watching a Breaking Bad or a Game Of Thrones or something else and it is sharp and binge-worthy. People are not interested in watching the same people do the same things, over and over again, the same three tired actors doing the same stuff. It is not about hero or heroines but about the character.

I have always said that there three kinds of roles for women in Bollywood. From 16 to 25 there is ‘babe’, 25 to 45 is ‘bhabhi’ and 45 onwards it is ‘biji’. Babe, bhabhi and biji are the three stereotypes actresses have been put into. Humanity cannot be compartmentalised into these kinds of boxes. If you are a mother or even a bhabhi, who are you exactly? What kind? What’s going on in your life? What’s going on in your head? Like this short film I did, Chutney, she is a bhabhi-type character but look at her inner world! When you peel away the layers of a character, you see many things going on; there is a richness to them like there is with all of us.

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