Anuja Sathe plays the lead role of Ashraf and Leela Paswan in the series.
Ek Thi Begum 2 released on MX Player a few days back. The series revolves around the character of Ashraf, played by Anuja Sathe. In the second season of the show, Ashraf has changed her name to Leela Paswan to avenge her husband's death and rule over the underworld.
Sounds familiar? The plotline is almost similar to Sushmita Sen's show Aarya, which also released in 2020. In the both the shows, the wives avenge their husband's death by taking over the underworld business all by themselves. However, Anuja explained to OTTplay about how the two stories are different because of one particular aspect.
The actress also spoke about her switch from Marathi to Hindi film industry and why she hasn't been a part of any film since the 2018 release, Parmanu. She also spoke about the boom on OTT and how she thinks the platform will benefit.
Excerpts from the interview:
There is a lot of hype around Leela Paswan. How would you describe her? What is the difference in Ashraf aka Sapna from Ek Thi Begum and Leela Paswan in the second season?
We have created the hype because Ashraf has come up with a different identity this time. Nonetheless, I would describe her as the same. The character has not changed. Only the identity of the character has changed. The vengeance, pain, anger and rage is twice the intensity. Ashraf has not changed. Only her name and look has changed.
A series like this requires a lot of action. The original show also had some action but here we are expected to see a more full-fledged action sequence. So would call Leela bolder than Ashraf in that sense?
I would call her fierce than she was. Ashraf has always been a go-getter. This time, the hurdles are bigger. So obviously, Ashraf has to be bolder and fierce throughout the journey. The new characters added in the second season are more dangerous and a deadly combination.
Did you have to undergo any special training for it? Take me through that.
Very honestly, there aren't high-end action sequences. There isn't physical combat as such. However, we've tried to keep the action sequences as real as possible. We're not showing Ashraf in a superhero kind of light. She's still a woman battling a lot of people and herself at the same time. We do have action sequences which involve a lot of firing, shooting, running, jumping and pushing. We had a lot of safety measures taken care of and body doubles to perform the stunts. I strongly believe in us being actors and them being professionally trained to perform stunts. We have gone for the safety of the actors that is usually suggested by the action masters and the makers. I did attend a workshop where I was taught to fire the gun. I learnt not to blink and say a dialogue at the same time. It's a very difficult task and almost multitasking. I had to learn those small bits. It was still very challenging while we were shooting those sequences.
Since there is a change in character from Ashraf to Leela, did you have to practice a different body language as well. Is there a change in the way she walks, talks etc?
Yes, of course there is a change. Leela is dressed in western clothes which were 90s fashion. The costumes also helped me a lot. In the previous season, I was seen in traditional Indian wear. When you have a shirt where you can pull the sleeves up or pull up your jacket and walk, it automatically changes the body language. I would credit the costume team and my director who decided the look for me. It helped me a lot to get closer to Leela.
People are now familiar with Aarya which has a similar concept as Ek Thi Begum. There Sushmita rules the underworld and here, you. How do you see the two roles as different?
They're quite different. Even though the crux of the series is similar, we are trying to show the drama which happened back in the late 80s. It's a period drama. At the time, the women were not considered as strong as men. That way, the series is very different from what Arya is. That series is based in 2020, where women are actually out there. During our period, a lot of women weren't perceived that way.
You started your career in the Marathi world. Tell me about your switch to the Hindi film industry.
(Giggles) When I started, I did Marathi TV and films for almost six-seven years. Then I got an opportunity to do a Hindi show in which I played a cricketer. I got an opportunity to do a film called Blackmail with Irrfan Khan. Then Parmanu happened with John. The journey till now has been fantastic. I do feel I have connections with the Marathi industry since I started off with the language. It happens to be my mother tongue too and I am closely attached to that fraternity as well. So I don't want to stop working in Marathi but at the same time, I see myself growing in the Hindi industry as well.
While you made your switch to the Hindi film industry, we're yet to see you in a movie after Parmanu. Are you facing a struggle in finding work in films?
I found Begum right after Parmanu. At the same time, I was working on another TV show, Jhansi Ki Rani. Juggling through the schedules was crazy. Some really good films came my way but it was impossible to refrain from my previous commitments and get into another one. It would be very unprofessional because of which I had to let go of some of the opportunities.
Thanks to a time like COVID-19 when movies could not release in theatres, we all learnt that there is another option - web series. You already had Ek Thi Begum releasing at that time. So would you say that OTT is a great platform for actors struggling to find work in films?
It is because of OTT platforms, we can see the hidden talents in everybody. Be it a writer, director, actors or the technical crew, the opportunities have opened up for everyone which is great. A lot of great content is coming up simultaneously. There's a lot of great talent. It's a great scenario and opportunity to be a part of.
Now that theatres are going to open up in Maharashtra too, do you think that it will affect the OTT trend? Especially since many people were waiting to go back to watching movies on the big screen.
I don't think so. It is now a parallel medium. There are a group of people who will want to go out and watch a film in theatres but series are only available on OTT platforms, right? I think it can perfectly co-exist. It's a great thing to happen. There are different mediums coming up with different formats, stories and content.
Ek Thi Begum wouldn't be the same if the show was censored. So what are your views on the ongoing censorship debate?
It's best to leave that to the OTT platforms. There are certain business decisions that are to be made. I'm just an actor who will definitely do what pleases me. It's my choice if I like to or don't like to do something. Censorship needs to be sorted and left to the OTT platforms.
What are your upcoming projects?
There are a few things in the pipeline now but I cannot reveal anything without an official announcement. It includes Marathi films, Hindi films and web shows too.