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Exclusive | Made in Heaven 2’s Pravishi Das: ‘There’s a certain lyricism in Zoya Akhtar’s storytelling’

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Pravishi Das describes Zoya Akhtar and Sobhita Dhulipala as extremely intelligent women

Exclusive | Made in Heaven 2’s Pravishi Das: ‘There’s a certain lyricism in Zoya Akhtar’s storytelling’

Pravishi Das plays Sobhita Dhulipala's sister in Made in Heaven 2

Last Updated: 06.37 PM, Aug 28, 2023


Whether it’s for the effervescent characters or the controversies circling the portrayal of certain narratives, the second season of Amazon Prime Video’s romantic drama web series Made In Heaven have remained in news cycles in the past few weeks. Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, the seven-episode show revolves around two Delhi-based wedding planners - Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur) and Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala). 

OTTplay recently caught up with Pravishi Das, who essays the role of Tara’s sister Karuna in Made In Heaven 2. The actress - who is known for her work in films like Rang De Basanti, Chup, Saawariya and Turning 30!!! - spoke at length about the gradual change in the portrayal of women in Hindi cinema, her experience of working with Zoya and Sobhita, muffled voices on gender pay parity and more. Excerpts:        


Q. You have been in this industry for several years now. How do you think the portrayal of female characters has changed over time?

A. Okay, for the purpose of this conversation, let’s keep ourselves limited to the Hindi film industry, because otherwise it’s a much larger dialogue. If we talk about the history of cinema in the South or cinema from Bengal or the world, the conversation becomes far too large and there is no one sweeping truth, because we’ve had some very strong female characters in Bengali cinema as well as in the South industries.

Growing up as a little girl - us being the ‘cable TV generation’ - there was a big exposure suddenly to popular culture, in terms of films and songs that were not there before that. I remember, we used to go to the theatres once every two years or so. My first film in the theatres was Maine Pyar Kiya. Can you imagine? I’d never seen a film at a cinema hall before that because it was not the thing to do. And then, suddenly it all came to our living room or bedroom. And it was deeply disturbing what you saw as a little girl. There used to be so much eve-teasing in those films and songs, not just by the villainous characters but the hero in the movie as well. Ironically, we have all loved these films and songs. But now when you look back, it’s horrific and scary. The internalisation that has happened for boys and girls. Even girls started thinking of themselves as an object. 

What is the entire beauty myth about? You have to present yourself a certain way in your physical appearance. Otherwise, you’re not attractive as a woman. There’s only one idea of beauty, only one colour of skin, only one hair texture. Unless it’s that, beauty cannot exist. But, I think, that is also how society is evolving, in any sense. There was very little female voice in the film business 20-30 years ago. There were a lot more male writers, DOPs and directors. And it was mostly only the male actor’s medium. And, therefore, the female characters remained the ‘object’ for a long time.

But today, things have changed. We all have different hands, so when we put our impression on clay, it’s bound to come out different. From your hands to mine, the shape of the clay will change, even if we’re trying to make the exact same thing. Forget the rest of it, our socioeconomic backgrounds, our skills and talents, and our exposure to everything have also changed.

It’s like a bit of a relay race. You pass on the baton from one athlete to another. So, when storytelling goes from the male point of view to the female point of view, they’re bound to change. However, you could be so restricted by commercial constraints that even as a woman filmmaker, you sometimes end up making the same thing. But otherwise, when there were movies about women as principal characters, the majority of them were ‘angry’ characters. And rightly so, because when you are the pioneer, the person breaking the wave, you have to come at it with a lot more force. Now, things have changed. There is a lot more confidence and a sense of security. And because there is a lot more breathing room now, the anger has subsided and the communication style has changed.

Q. You play Karuna Shastry in Made in Heaven 2. Tell us about your experience of working with Zoya Akhtar and Sobhita Dhulipala…

A. I think Zoya is one of the most phenomenal storytellers of our times. And I won’t say male or female, I think she is a phenomenal storyteller and filmmaker, because there is such lyricism in her communication.

And when it is as lyrical as Zoya brings it out to be, even men are able to accept it. They see the logic, sense and cultural nuance in it. When communication of any kind is done with a lot more conviction and gentility, it lands better, at least with an urban population, and even with the rural population. And, I suppose, that’s the beauty of it today. There’s such a diverse plateau. You can be any and every filmmaker.

For instance, Devashish Makhija has a very strong point of view, and he puts it out quite strongly and starkly. So, there’s room for everybody here. And the wonderful thing is that now filmmakers are feeling a little bit like authors. When we read books, you can tell the temperament of the author, the politics of the author. And it’s so fabulous that it is coming through now. It is getting ahead of the concerns of commerce and a voice gets established and you understand.

Coming back to my experience of working with Zoya and Sobhita in Made in Heaven 2, one thing that is common between them is that they’re both extremely intelligent women. I personally appreciate women who know their mind, who are discerning, who have a point of view, who have a worldview and have their own politics. Zoya has an inherent respect for the dignity of the other person’s life, and I saw that in her conduct with everybody on set. I also see that in each one of her characters, whether it is a tiny little character that comes and goes or it is the leading the story or it’s a supporting character. 

Zoya is also very respectful toward others. I’m sure there are stressful days, but the days that I was shooting with her, there’s a wonderful energy about her. There’s a bonhomie and a warm atmosphere on the set. She had this smile on her face, and it’s all very reassuring for an actor. Because you’re there for a little while, if you get a nurturing environment, it helps you bloom.

Q. What female characters do you think deserve more prominence on screen?

A. I think we need female characters with a lot more assertion. We have to get over this notion of ‘women should be seen, not heard’ in corporate rooms, families, romantic relationships, and otherwise. There should be assertion of their identity and personality, unapologetically and non-aggressively. Of course, aggression should be there where it’s needed, but only with a genuine conviction. We also need to make space for more older female characters in our films and shows. Boxing women in the concept of youth and beauty is something we need to storm out of. 

Even in Made in Heaven 2, you will realise that the mother’s character is explored in many different ways. Mothers are fabulous and the central point of everything in families. But generally what happens is that we don’t let mothers be human; we don’t let them make mistakes; or be wrong. For instance, I was very excited to see Dimple Kapadia and the role she had in Pathaan. I mean, do we not know these women in our lives? Of course, we do. They don’t have to be relegated to just the suffering grandmother in the house or some such, or some floozy who is just only attending kitty parties in her spare time, apart from looking after the family. 

Exploring the many shades of male characters is also the need of the hour. There are all types of men in society - delicate, fragile and nurturing, to name a few. Whether it’s men or women, it need not be flat cardboard characters. To see them in all their shades and glory of their fortunes and failing I think is damn important.

Q. What’s your take on OTT platforms?

A. The number one thing is the diversity of stories being told, and also the freedom to flesh out a character in all its shapes. I think when you’re playing to such huge commercial considerations, you have to play it really safe. The more successful you get, the less risk you can take or the larger number of people you are trying to reach, the smaller you have to become as a creator. When you’re making a big film, I think you’re trying to cater to such a large audience that you really can’t risk it one way or another. And that’s why I think it’s been such a mystery always about what works at the box office and what doesn’t. But in OTT, I think the distinguishing thing is that the more individualistic it is, the better scope it has. The individualism of the voices seems to be striking a chord with the audience. 

Q. In terms of gender pay parity, how far do you think the industry has been able to drive home the point?

A. Of course, we know that there is this issue, and I think women in general need to stop being coy. You’ve got to be able to put it out there. Women have to come out and have this conversation in the public domain, rather than worry about not going to get the next job or so. It’s not about attacking people. That’s not where one is coming from. One is coming from the space that we need to change this social trend in the professional space. And it has to be done as a united voice. Otherwise, there will be one person who will be deemed the troublemaker. 

That said, there are also production houses that are making it a point to either maintain equality in payment for all or if the woman or the female artiste is more experienced, she is paid more. 

Q. Anything that you watched on OTT recently?

A. I really enjoyed watching Kohrra [on Netflix] and Dahaad on Amazon Prime Video, recently. 

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