From the theatre stage to film sets, actor Madhurjeet Sarghi’s creative journey has been an eventful one. With her roots in Jalandhar, Sarghi is known for her powerful performances in critically acclaimed films like Firaaq, Summer 2007, Manto and Agneepath and also the television drama Naa Aana Iss Des Laado which was a voice against female foeticide and infanticide. The actor’s recent release is Chhapaak, a film based on the subject of acid attacks in India. Sarghi plays the role of Aparna Bhat (on-screen Archana Bajaj), the lawyer of protagonist Laxmi (played by Deepika Padukone), who stands with her client throughout the legal battle, till justice wasn’t served. Bhat also moved court claiming due credit for her contribution in film. Sarghi talks about her Punjab connect, initial years in theatre, working with directors like Nandita Das and Meghna Gulzar, being a co-actor to Nawazuddin Siddiqui…
Here are excerpts from an interview:
Q. Please share with us a little about your background, connect with Punjab and your studies in Jalandhar.
My father Harjit singh is a filmmaker and mother Tejinder Kaur is a retired professor from Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU). She is a lyricist and screen writer too. I am the eldest of four siblings and my younger sister Sufi Raina is a kathak dancer settled in the US, where she runs her own kathak academy. My brother Param Shiv is also a filmmaker and the youngest brother Zorawar Singh is a singer .
I did my schooling from APJ School, graduation from HMV College and Master’s from GNDU regional campus Ladhewali, all in Jalandhar.
I am married to Anurag Singh, also a filmmaker and director of Punjabi movies like ‘Yaar Anmulle’ and ‘Punjab 1984’. We are currently living in Mumbai.
Q. How did your journey with theatre begin? Why acting?
I wanted to be an actor since childhood, but never said it out loud. After my first play in college I realised that it was my true calling. An actor’s job is to grasp and interpret the role assigned to him/her and exhibit it with honesty, be it on stage or on screen. Initially I would get a bit edgy, but then I realised the futility of it. I now focus on understanding and improving my craft and aesthetics.
Q. What moves you as an actor and how do you choose your roles?
I haven’t had the luxury of choosing my roles so far, but luckily whatever came my way was organically good.
Q. How was the experience of working with Nandita Das in ‘Firaaq’ and ‘Manto’, both with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in lead roles?
Nandita Das is the most beautiful soul I have ever met. I am in awe of her. She is a sorted and extremely talented woman. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is exceptionally talented. I am happy that I was a part of ‘Manto’ playing the role of his sister. The experience was truly enriching.
Q. How did the role in Chhapaak come your way? Were there any auditions?
Chhapaak literally fell in my lap. I was out with my mother and husband and incidentally our casting director Gautam Kishanchandani and his assistant Desh Deepak were also there. Desh asked me if I would like to audition for this role and I asked for a week to prepare for it. After a week I auditioned. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got to know that Meghna Gulzar appreciated my performance and wanted me on-board.
Q. How was it working with Meghna Gulzar and Deepika Padukone?
Meghna’s eye for detail is commendable and she is a perfectionist. Working on this project has improved my aesthetics. I have never come across such a meticulously crafted script . Both Meghna and her co-writer Atika Chauhan are very talented .Deepika Padukone is beautiful inside out. She is a dedicated actor. I always had respect for her as an artist but after working with her, I have this new-found regard for her as a human being too.
Q. Playing the role of Deepika’s lawyer in Chhapaak, what did it tell you about the legal issues that an acid attack victim goes through in India, in real life?
Any kind of violence scars the victim for life. Acid violence is possibly the worst infliction on another human. Our society makes thing tougher for victims and legal proceedings take their own time. Other countries have way more stricter laws to control this heinous crime. Sadly acid violence is not present in the public consciousness and that’s why Chhapaak is an extremely important film. It is truly a story of trauma and triumph. Your abuser is only as strong as your silence.
Q. Incidentally, Laxmi’s real life lawyer Aparna Bhat, whose role you have played as Archana Bajaj on screen, moved court to claim credits for her contribution in this film. How much did she help you in playing her character on screen?
Aparna Bhat came on the set once and I had the chance to meet her briefly. My director Meghna Gulzar helped me prepare for this role.
Q. Coming from Punjab, with your husband Anurag Singh also being a part of the Punjabi film industry, would you also be doing any movies in Punjabi?
I would love to do a Punjabi film, provided I like the role.
Q. Your television role in Naa Aana Iss Des Laado was widely appreciated and your character became a household name.
Laado was a popular show and I have fond memories of working on it. Apart from appreciation for my work Laado has given me some life-long friends .
Q. Your upcoming projects.
Currently I am preparing for my next theatre production.
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