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Monday, September 27, 2021

Being Neena Gupta: ‘Whether I am a vamp, sati savitri or dharmic character, it doesn’t matter’

As Neena Gupta makes our skin crawl in Dial 100 trailer, here’s looking at the bindaas actor and the mountains she wants to climb next. Spoiler alert: She wants to play a cop.

Written by Saraswati Datar | Mumbai |
Updated: August 6, 2021 5:47:40 pm
neena guptaNeena Gupta talks about her career choices and aspirations. (Photo: Neena Gupta/Instagram)

What can one say about Neena Gupta that hasn’t already been said? Perhaps one of the most talented actors we have in the business today, the actor is a living example of how time or age are inconsequential in the face of talent.

Post her breakthrough performance in Badhaai Ho!, Neenaji has been a part of multiple projects that made us think, laugh, weep, or just stare in wonder at her performance. But the Dial 100 trailer, in which she stars with Manoj Bajpayee, her character Seema Pallav was quite a revelation. Who would have thought that she could scare you or make your skin crawl?


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A post shared by Neena Gupta (@neena_gupta)

Neena shares that she was excited to be offered a part with intrigue and grey shades, especially since she had already played quite a few roles where she was a homemaker, mother or someone along the same lines. But when asked if she had to prepare differently to bring Seema to life, the actor offered an insight into her process.

“My approach is pretty much the same. For me two things are important. First, I need to look the part with my costume, hair and makeup. Second, I have to mean what I am saying; whether I am a vamp, a sati savitri, or a dharmic character, it doesn’t matter. Also, I always listen to other actor.”

She has worked in theatre, cinema, television, and is now also working extensively in shows and films for streaming platforms. But was she wary or hesitant to act for the web after so many years of work in more traditional media? “Mujhe koi fark nahin padta” she quips candidly.

“My role has to be good. I have to act at the end of the day right, what difference does it make ki film hain ya OTT hain? Think about it, in times like this especially, if we had only relied on films what would have happened during the pandemic?,” says.

What then was the content gap that she feels OTT platforms have filled? “See if you give the audiences only dal chawal, voh vahin khate rahenge. Unko pata hi nahin chalega ki chicken bhi hota hain, meetha bhi hota hain” she explains with a fun food analogy, illustrating the wider options and diversity in storytelling that Indian audiences are enjoying now. Thanks to a whole new medium of storytelling opening up, Neena adds that there is a lot more work now for artists across the board.

Last year, she was a part of Panchayat, where she played Manju Devi, who is the sarpanch on paper but an unconventional woman who manages to make the egoistic or clueless men around her see sense.

neena gupta masaba gupta A still from Masaba Masaba, featuring Neena Gupta and daughter Masaba Gupta. (Photo: Neena Gupta/Instagram)

In Masaba Masaba she played a fictionalised version of herself in a series that gave us an insight into the world of Neena Gupta and her celebrated fashion designer daughter Masaba. She was also part of the wonderful short film Pinni directed by Tahira Kashyap.

This year as theatres remain closed, her films Sardar Ka Grandson, and Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar released on streaming platforms. Later this year she will reprise her characters in the second seasons of Panchayat and Masaba Masaba. She has also said yes to other web series and two movies, making her perhaps one of busiest actors in the business today.


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But is it easy for an actor who was part of eclectic films like Mandi, Utsav and Sooraj Ka Satva Ghoda, to just let go and be a part of a light-hearted song like “Aunty kisko bola be” in the series Masaba Masaba? “I was waiting to shoot this song. That is the fun about being an actor. If you are awkward, the audience will sense that. If there is a genuine discomfort about something, I do discuss it with the makers. But otherwise once you take up a role, you need to work with complete conviction,” she says.

As she shares genres or characters on her wish-list, Neena says, “It is just the beginning for me. There is so much I want to do. I want to do Waheedaji’s roles, Shabana’s roles, maybe play a cop, or in my case a retired cop maybe,” she adds with her trademark wit that laces her videos and posts on her Instagram page.

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