Midway through her acting course at the Centre for Performing Arts in Pune, in 2007, Anjali Patil realised this was not something that she wanted to do for the rest of her life. “I was bored of acting, though I played major roles in plays by Badal Sircar. I found I was getting typecast in certain roles. So once I graduated, I thought of changing my track to theatre and stage direction,” says Patil, whose plays the lead in her first international independent film project, With You Without You. The Sri Lankan film by Prasanna Vithanage, looks at the relationship between a married couple in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Last year, Patil received the National Award-Special Mention for her role in the Telugu film Na Bangaaru Talli, which is a true life story on sex trafficking. In 2012, she received the Best Actor award at the International Film Festival of India in Goa for With You Without You, which released in theatres on Friday.
In 2010 she pursued a course in design and direction from the National School of Drama (NSD) which gave her a perspective on the life of actors, which until then was always seen behind a director’s lens. “Most of the time, actors are treated like they are dumb or cynical. When I assisted in the production of plays at NSD, I saw the hardships that actors face every day,” says Patil. She bagged her first acting assignment in Prashant Nair’s critically-acclaimed independent feature Delhi in a Day (2010), during acting auditions at NSD. That film, she says, happened by chance. “Prashant came to meet my batch mates for a role and then asked me if I wanted to act in the film,” says the 24-year-old actor, who grew up in a middle-class home in Nashik, Maharashtra. Patil is taking Dhrupad lessons from the Gundecha brothers and teaches acting part-time at a nearby school. In 2010 she had the lead role and was the producer for a short film titled Green Bangles. It was India’s official entry to WIFTI (Women In Film and Television International, Los Angeles).
Most of her acting assignments, like her latest one, Vithanage’s With You Without You, have been driven by instinct and have gone on to become significant hits. She had not seen a single film by Vithanage, but picked the movie based on her information that he is a “well-known director from Sri Lanka”. “It happens to be the best out of the 50-60 scripts I have read so far. I am very intuitive and by that definition you can call me stupid. But my thought process has paid off for me, till now,” says Patil. She essays the role of a Tamil refugee in Sri Lanka, who marries a former Sri Lankan army man.
For the film, Patil dubbed in Tamil and Sinhala. It helped that she has acted previously in a Telugu and a Malayalam film, so she could pick up the nuances of the language faster. “There are not many dialogues for my character. For me, more than a post-war film, it was a tragic love story,” says Patil, who also played the role of a Naxalite opposite Abhay Deol in Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh (2012), which also starred Arjun Rampal and Manoj Bajpayee.
This movie she says, was crucial in determining whether she wanted to pursue acting full time. “When I read the part, I knew that the audience would relate to my character. That was the only thing I thought of before accepting the part. It feels strange thinking about it now, but I am still learning a lot with every film and from meeting new directors. Though the number of scripts that I receive has increased after the National Award, I have a long way to go,” says Patil, who hopes to return to direction someday. Her forthcoming projects include Sheeladitya Bora’s Hindi film Mrs Scooter, about a newly married girl who gets a scooter as her marriage present; Sanjay Chhel’s provocative film Kill The Rapist; and a significant role in Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny Fernandes. The release of a Malayalam project, Apna Desh is currently stalled.