Over the last few years, Rasika Dugal has carved a niche for herself as an exemplary actor with a range of versatile works to her credit. From a fierce and manipulative Beena Tripathi who embraces her sexuality to an idealistic young officer Neeti Singh, she has elevated the craft of acting and set a benchmark for others to follow. Away from her highly-acclaimed roles, however, the 37-year-old is your girl-next-door from Jharkhand who, admittedly, is still struggling to grapple with the uncertainties and chaos that come with showbiz.
In contrast to her usually intense roles, the actor is all set to enthrall viewers with the beauty and rich culture of her home state through National Geographic India’s documentary series, Postcards from Jharkhand. “It has given me a chance to embark on an adventure to explore and re-connect with my home state. The breathtaking views, incredible tribal community, art, culture, and, most importantly, the charm of this place has taken me back to my childhood days, making this journey even more memorable for me,” she said, on her deep connection with the state.
Tell us about your experience of doing this documentary series.
It’s like a travel show, and also about how I travelled through Jharkhand which is my home state. I grew up in Jamshedpur and was there till the age of 18 when I left for college. My parents still live there. So, I have a very strong association with the place. Doing this trip was like rediscovering my homeland. There are so many things you take for granted while living in a place. You don’t realise the value of it. Kehte hai na ‘ghar ki murgi dal barabar’. So, you often don’t visit the sites which are close to you. Earlier, we would only visit places like Kolkata, Puri and Bhubhaneshwar during our holidays. This time when I travelled, I realised that I had missed out on so much. There were some sites that truly match up to the best that I’ve seen in the country. For example, Betla National Park; it’s so beautiful and it matches up to many other national parks that I’ve been to. I really love national parks as they sort of make you humble and understand your place in the world.
Talk to us about all that you experienced for the first time in your home state during this trip.
I had always heard of sohrai art but had only seen cosmetic versions of it. Here, I saw the artform in its rawest form in a village where women do it on the mud walls of their hut during a certain festival. I met Justin and Alka who are doing some phenomenal work to preserve it. It was an eye-opener for me on several levels. I met Aruna Tetke who is trying to bring tribal food into the mainstream. For the first time, I ate ‘futkal’, something i dod not even know existed all across the state.
Despite all these things, Jharkhand tourism has still not been able to find a place in the mainstream. Do you think this show will help with that?
I hope that people find it interesting and engaging enough to visit the state more. If I can contribute to popularising the beauty of my home state, then I’ll feel very honoured.
Top three experiences in Jharkhand you would suggest to everybody.
Almost everything we’ve covered is worth visiting and should be on your itinerary. But I understand that if you are short on time, it’s difficult to cover everything. My top three picks would be visiting Betla National Park, eating at Ajam Emba tribal restaurant, and the zip lining and Hundru waterfall.
On the work front, you have set a mark for yourself in the OTT space. Do you think such platforms have changed the way content is made? What does it mean for actors?
It has totally changed my life, and for the better. It is because writing is finally given the importance it needed. There’s very well-written content and, therefore, very interesting work for actors because our work is directly and severely dependent on how something is written. A good performance happens if there is a good script. Also, the OTT space has given room to long-form content, which, in turn, allows multiple tracks to flourish and there is space for a true ensemble. Therefore, women characters are written better and are given more screen time. They are no longer victims of edits which usually happen when there’s shorter content.
What do you have in mind while choosing a script?
There are different things at different times, honestly. You speak to me this month and I’ll say that the script is most important. You speak to me another month and I’ll say it’s the people I work with. But largely, it’s the people I work with who have become most important to me. It is because filmmaking is a deeply personal but also a very collaborative exercise. It’s often very hard to find a good match who you can creatively agree with. When that works, it’s a beautiful experience and magical work comes out of that. Delhi Crime and Mirzapur are some of those experiences.
What is the hardest part of being in showbiz?
What I still find very difficult, even after being in the profession for many years, is the uncertainty of the business. Tomorrow I think my day is going to go a certain way and it completely changes by evening. The scenes I am shooting, the lines of the scenes, when I am shooting, the time I leave for shooting – everything keeps changing. It is something I continue to grapple with, every day and that’s the toughest part of the business for me.
Amid the cacophony of the acting industry, do you fear losing yourself in the process?
I love losing myself in the process. That’s my way of de-stressing from the chaos around me. I find the peripherals of the job harder – how do I manage PRs, styling, promotions, events, etc. All that is difficult for me. When I am shooting, I am totally immersed in what I am doing and that’s my primary reason for being here. I am very happy when I can do that. I think I manage to shut out everything else pretty easily as the job requires a lot from you. There’s no space for you to do anything else. Most of the roles that I have done lately have required that kind of involvement from my side – either they’ve required extreme emotional involvement like Delhi Crime or they’ve required me to learn a particular skill like training for volleyball for three months for one of my shows recently.
Social media comes with its set of pros and cons. How do you approach it?
I have a love-hate relationship with social media, I admit. There are times that I feel very happy that I am able to share some things and at the same time, receive information or just receive tidbits of someone’s life. Of course, there are pressures on social media. Fortunately for me, I’ve come to that stage in my life where I am sort of able to understand that what you see on social media might not entirely be true and might not be an indicator of a person’s life. Generally, I worry about how it affects younger people and how they are dealing with a world which is so dependent on visuals. When we were growing up, we weren’t always putting ourselves out there. There are pros and cons. There are days when I don’t want to listen to anything and see what anyone is doing or share anything. On other days, I enjoy doing so.