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Outsider Insider

Geetanjali Thapa uses her small-town advantage to make a dent in the world of independent cinema.

Written by Debesh Banerjee |
January 2, 2014 12:20:05 am

The story behind Geetanjali Thapa’s entry into films has all the ingredients of a filmy plot. A small-town girl leaves home to pursue her dreams of becoming a model,bags a movie offer instead,which never takes off,but she is determined more than ever to enter the film industry. “I never thought of becoming an actor. In fact,I have never planned my career so I never dreamt of tinseltown,” says the bubbly 25-year-old actor,who has become a much sought after artiste in Indian cinema. She has worked in award-winning and critically acclaimed projects such as Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout (2013) which was screened at Cannes Film Festival last year and Kamal KM’s ID (2012),which won Best Asian Film at the Kerala International Film festival in 2012. She also received the Best Actor award at the Los Angeles Film festival last year. She has also appeared in commercials for brands such as Garnier,Maggi and L’Oreal.

In her latest film,Geetu Mohandas’s Liar’s Dice,she essays the role of a wife who sets out in search of her husband (Nawazuddin Siddiqui ) who is a construction worker in Delhi. The film is in the competition section of this year’s Sundance Film festival,(January 16-24) and has won Thapa nods from critics,after it was screened at the Mumbai Film festival,last year.

From a business family in western Sikkim,Thapa identifies with her character in Liar’s Dice,who belongs to a tiny village in Chitkul,Himachal Pradesh. “Since I am from a small town,the body language and mannerisms were already in me. I did the daily chores with the local women in a village near Chitkul,which helped me to know how they think. They are possessive about their husbands and that is one quality I admired,” says Thapa.

She left home after high school to pursue a degree in English literature from Bhawanipur college,Kolkata. Her parents would have wished her to pursue medicine but Thapa had other plans and started modelling part-time. She was offered a film,Tina Ki Chaabi,which never took off. But determined to make a career in acting,she packed her bags and headed to Mumbai. “I had been to Mumbai before,for shooting,and I knew some people. So I took risks and started giving auditions for commercials and films,” says Thapa,who has not undergone any professional training in acting. Thapa soon learnt to develop a hard exterior,as she no longer lived a “cushioned existence”. “Coming from a small town it seems like everyone is really nice. But in big cities it feels as though people are manipulative. After I moved to Mumbai,I had to think twice before anyone asked me for anything,” she says.

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Thapa has been careful in choosing roles that have shades of her own life experiences. In ID and Liar’s Dice,her characters are outsiders,looking for a foothold in society. “I get to see two sides of the coin. In ID,I am an urban girl from Sikkim who has come to Mumbai for a job. In Liar’s Dice,I am a labourer’s wife. But I relate to Charu’s character (in ID),because I share this sense of place with her. I have been living here (Mumbai) for sometime but I cannot call it home. But when I go to Sikkim,I cannot fully connect to that place either,” says Thapa,currently busy with post-production work for Oscar-winning filmmaker Danis Tanovic’s White Lies,opposite Emraan Hashmi.

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