The Chitchor actress talks of Telugu cinema’s resurgence story, her Virata Parvam shoot experiences, working with director Venu Udugula, actress Sai Pallavi and more
Last Updated: 07.04 AM, Jun 13, 2022
Veteran actress Zarina Wahab, a find of the legendary Dev Anand, forayed into cinema with Ishq Ishq Ishq and carved her niche with a flurry of girl-next-door roles across films like Chitchor, Sawan Ko Aane Do and Gharonda in the 70s and 80s. The Vizag girl had even starred in Adurthi’s Gajula Kishtayya and a handful of Telugu films but admits to finding greater acceptance in the Hindi and Malayalam industries.
Her next Telugu release is Venu Udugula’s Virata Parvam this weekend. Zarina reminds me that she and the director’s better half share the same name and it was the latter who recommended Venu to cast her in Virata Parvam. “Venu Udugula is one of the finest filmmakers I’ve worked with. He has a terrific understanding of emotions, explains his characters very clearly and knows to get the best of his actors,” adding that she plays Rana Daggubati’s mother in the film.
Making a film and sustaining one’s focus over three years in a role is no joke - Virata Parvam, being a film with an ensemble cast with high-profile names, took its own time to be made. “Shooting across different schedules with time gaps means it takes a while to re-adjust to the role, but it doesn’t pose much of a challenge after the initial rustiness. I always go by the director and the script, they help me transport into the character’s world with ease,” Zarina shares.
Despite being Rana Daggubati’s mother, she shares more screen space with Sai Pallavi in Virata Parvam. “Sai Pallavi is a very capable performer and makes the extra effort to dig into the depths of the role. Right when I watched Fidaa, I felt she did a very commendable job and my portions with her will be an emotional ride for audiences,” she talks of her co-star.
While she hasn’t watched Virata Parvam yet, Zarina is confident that Venu Udugula would’ve made a very sensible film, going by the responses for its early premieres in Hyderabad. The very thought of the city reminds her of the film-viewing spree at theatres with her family. “My sisters and relatives are scared when I come to Hyderabad, thinking they’ve to eat, breathe, sleep at theatres the entire day. I watch a lot of films when I’m around here,” she adds.
Virata Parvam is also the actress’ return to Telugu cinema after Raktha Charitra. When we name Raktha Charitra among her finest portrayals in her second innings, she humbly agrees but credits Ram Gopal Varma for the same. “He has a great knack for drawing you into the story and is a fine narrator. When he explains a scene and you merely go by his instructions, it naturally translates into a good performance. He sent me a lengthy message appreciating my performance in it and wondered why it took him so long to work with me.”
Zarina is particularly glad that the stature of Telugu cinema is going to great heights and earning worldwide acceptance from audiences. “Telugu cinema, honestly, was respected back in our times too and most of the popular Telugu films were remade into Hindi too. Telugu filmmakers have always put in a lot of effort with their projects, but the technological progress and the way they’ve aggressively marketed have helped them get their due.”
Not many Telugu films have come her way in recent years but Zarina never lets go of Telugu offers. “I don’t mind even not doing Hindi films but I never say no to Telugu films,” she reveals. The veteran, however, had to make an exception in the case of Nani’s Dasara recently. “I had allocated bulk dates for the film but the set work got delayed over time. In the meanwhile, I accepted a Dharma Productions’ film and they were waiting too; it was heartbreaking to say no.”
“Dasara had a wonderful role for me and it’s made by Virata Parvam producers too. I didn’t want to be a cause for delaying my Hindi film and I didn’t have a choice. This experience has made me wary of handling such issues,” she states. Between her schedule gaps for various films, she rewatches her earlier performances and says that her kids often complain about it.
What goes through her mind as she rewatches her earlier films? “I often think about why I performed a scene in a particular way and regret it. I may have done what is best for the situation at that time but they leave me dissatisfied.” Her life experiences have certainly helped her evolve as an actress and Malayalam cinema has made good use of her emotional depth. “Despite not knowing the language, I’ve been a part of nearly 30 Malayalam films and they still offer me wonderful roles.”