The one thing that is clear after meeting Sobhita Dhulipala, is that she is a certified Potterhead. Her phone cover has a Ravenclaw logo, and of the 20 movies she had seen until three years ago, eight were Harry Potter films.
“When I had taken the Pottermore quiz, I was given Gryffindor as my house. But I made a fake ID and took the quiz again. I was then in Ravenclaw. My heart goes out to them, as Gryffindors are really popular, everyone wants to be one, but I support Ravenclaw, as they are too much of a minority,” says a feisty Dhulipala at Viacom Studios in Mumbai.
Dressed in a pair of black vintage trousers and a white boyfriend shirt, she amped up the style quotient with multiple silver chains and necklaces and a Jimmy Choo sling bag. The end result is that of a glammed up diva, dressing down.
Sobhita Dhulipala is busy promoting her upcoming release, The Body, the remake of a 2012 Spanish thriller El Cuerpo, in which she plays Maya Verma, a business tycoon. Emraan Hashmi plays her husband. “I had seen this film when it came out. It was very tart, cleverly made and I enjoyed watching it. It’s a heightened experience when you play a character which is not a conventional, ‘nice’ one,” says Dhulipala, whose last big outing was Bard Of Blood with Hashmi. She played the role of intelligence analyst Isha Khanna.
But the key word is nice, which keeps popping up where Dhulipala’s filmography is concerned. In her breakout role as Tara Khanna in the web series Made in Heaven, ‘nice’ was an inherent character trait. But in The Body, there are visible shades of grey.
“We need to understand that anyone who’s behaving in a bad way — through the whole gamut of emotions, screaming, crying, or generally being mean to someone, it all stems from fear. Often, the way negative characters are showcased in mainstream narratives, we only focus on the outward, negative display, the symptoms, but we completely dismiss the source of it all. We don’t think ‘why’, as in why is someone feeling so vulnerable and small that they have to be so mean to anyone. I want to display that range in its entirety,” adds the 27-year-old actor.
Growing up in Vishakhapatnam, Sobhita Dhulipala confesses to being far removed from anything even remotely related to pop culture and cinema. She was, in her own words, “geeky”, a label she still accepts as her own, and even in college in Mumbai, she spent a lot of time in the library.
Modelling happened by sheer chance. “I was bullied as a child in school. I was gawky and shy. I was the school captain, a front bencher, and was not conventionally pretty. So I turned to books; I knew that what I gained from them, no one could take that away from me,” says Dhulipala, who graduated from HR College, Mumbai, in 2012.
“Modelling was just me experimenting and discovering things. It was just like, ‘oh I cleared one round, lets do the other’.There was no plan. I am a late bloomer. College for me was the first chance to thread my eyebrows, wear lipstick, own my first dress and wear heels. I initially enjoyed the attention, but I knew it was not my cup of tea. I was lost. The minute I auditioned for Raman Raghav, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” says Sobhita Dhulipala, who was Miss India Earth 2013.
Maybe it’s that desire to breakout from the ‘pretty’ mould that reflects in Dhulipala’s filmography. She made her dream debut in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0, a film that was showcased at the ‘The Directors’ Fortnight’ at the Cannes Film Festival, where Dhulipala was nominated for best supporting performance by the critics. What followed were appearances in films like Kaalakandi, Chef and Goodachari, a Telugu film.
“Raman Raghav 2.0 emboldened me. When I was auditioning I didn’t know that it was Anurag’s film. The other films are also conscious choices. These films gave me the encouragement. You can do things you like and yet be relevant. I realise that my work choices have been experimental, because I was hell-bent on being taken seriously. I wanted to be accepted if not appreciated for the right reasons and I didn’t want to bank on my looks alone,” says Sobhita Dhulipala,who will also be seen in Anurag Kashyap’s Netflix series Ghost Stories.
We circle back to Made in Heaven, which has given her much recognition. She signed it when the digital boom hadn’t happened. “All I knew was that this was an urban story, trying to address a lot of urban angst, and it was being told by amazing filmmakers. It was forward and honest. Well decorated, sure. And I was at the centre of it all, no one knew me. I am glad that it worked,” she says.