National Award-winning actor Amruta Subhash on slipping into the role of a housewife obsessed with television for her upcoming award-winning film, Island City
Actor Amruta Subhash has devised her own script-reading ritual. Seated in a corner of her Bandra home, she reads one scene from the bound pages and stares out of the window that overlooks a peepal tree. She then reads some more lines, contemplates and looks at the swaying green branches again. She, then, repeats the process. “While preparing for a role, it is necessary to be yourself. One doesn’t know what’s latent within you. Greenery works for me. It helps me get in touch with my inner self. I like to read a script at one go. Sometimes, though, it can take two-three days,” says Subhash, who was last seen on the big screen as Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s sister in Raman Raghav 2.0. As one of the protagonists in her next — Island City, which releases on September 2 — she plays a housewife who embraces a life parallel to that of her favourite soap opera.
Island City, which bagged the Best Young Director award for Ruchika Oberoi at the Venice Film Festival last year, needed Subhash to undergo a role reversal of sorts. The actor’s major breakthrough in the field of entertainment came in 2004 when she headlined a Marathi television show called Awaghachi Sansaar as Aasawari, a woman whose husband physically abuses her. “At that time many viewers of the show, whenever they met me, would sympathise with me. I used to wonder why can’t they separate life from television. When I acted in Island City, it was like representing my viewers,” she says. Sarita, Subhash’s character in Island City, is in love with the male lead of a soap opera and starts imagining that her life is akin to what’s portrayed on the show. Slipping into Sarita’s character, confesses Subhash, was a “surreal experience”.
Even though Subhash has been part of several significant movies such as Firaaq (2008) and Marathi films Valu (2008) and Gandha (2009), the popular Marathi actor found national recognition only with Avinash Arun-directed Killa that released in 2015. She earned appreciation as the single mother of an 11-year-old boy trying to cope with a new school. “It is Killa that opened up several opportunities for me,” says the 37-year-old. The success of Killa also consolidated the belief that Subhash has stuck to for years. “I have come to realise that content matters more than the language of a movie or the length of the role,” she says. The validation of this belief came when she bagged the National Award for Best Supporting Actor (Female) for the Marathi film Astu (2013), which was directed by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar. In the film, she plays a Kannada-speaking nomad who appears on the big screen post interval.
Daughter of prominent Marathi actor Jyoti Subhash and niece of playwright GP Deshpande, Subhash has been exposed to the world of theatre and art since childhood. “My first guru is my mother. While growing up in Pune, I would watch her make bhakri and do other household chores and later transform into someone else, decked up in jewellery and costumes. I still remember her role in the iconic play Tughlaq, which was directed by Satyadev Dubey. He, eventually, become another major influence in my life,” she says. Because of Dubey’s prodding, Subhash ended up joining the National School of Drama (NSD) soon, graduating in 1999.
At NSD, Subhash met Naseeruddin Shah, a member of the faculty, from whom she learned, among other things, about character-building and being true to the text. Till date, the thespian continues to monitor and give feedback on her work. It is on his insistence that she returned to the stage with the play Perfect Mismatch in which she essays the role of an independent woman who wants to live life on her own terms. However, in the world of theatre, Subhash is known for her lead role in Ti Fulrani, a Marathi adaptation of Pygmalion.
During the early days of her career, Subhash sought commercial success and was cast opposite Mimoh in a film titled Spaghetti 24X7, produced by Mithun Chakraborty, which never released. Ditto, in case of Chausar (2004) with Siddiqui. Today, however, she is scouting for acting-oriented roles even as she is open to commercial projects. “I got the kind of audience I am looking for with Raman Raghav 2.0. Island City will take it forward,” says Subhash, who is currently shooting for Govind Nihalani’s next, an off-beat Marathi film.