Toronto, Sep 16 (PTI) When the dust settles on the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival, it is probably the uproar over Priyanka Chopra’s Sikkim faux pas that will stay in the minds of Indian movie fans. Nothing could be more out of line.
Three quality actors who Bollywood could use much more of Tisca Chopra, Sayani Gupta and relative newbie Zoya Hussain are the ones who should be remembered for their sterling performances in two of the three Indian films in the festival’s Special Presentations this year.
The two films are Anurag Kashyap’s socio-politically inflected boxing drama “Mukkabaaz” (The Brawler) and Bornila Chatterjee’s gutsy Shakespeare adaptation “The Hungry”, which journeys into the darkness at the heart of Delhi’s business and political world.
Tisca Chopra, best known for her roles in “Taare Zameen Par” and “Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost”, plays the lead in “The Hungry” the scion of a business family who is a variation on the Shakespearean villainess Tamora (from The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus).
The character pulls out the stops to avenge the brutal killing of her elder son. The actress, on her part, plunges headlong into the spirit of the woman whose ladylike demeanour hides a steely soul.
In effecting an outright inversion of the Bollywood stereotype of a mother figure into a murderous schemer, the seasoned actor is on the top of her game, informing her performance with depth and nuance.
“When you are dealing with Shakespeare, you know that you will have to go all out as a performer,” says Chopra, who credits include 2010′ “10ml Love”, a loose adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
“The Hungry is completely different in tone and tenor,” says the actor.
“The character I play has early shades of Lady Macbeth.
It was after all created by Shakespeare when he was only in his 20s. As an experience, ‘The Hungry’ is as close to theatre as a film can be,” says Chopra.
Sayani Gupta, last seen in a fleeting appearance in Anurag Basu’s “Jagga Jasoos” and a far more substantial role in “Jolly LLB 2”, leaves her own unmistakable mark on “The Hungry” as the bubbly, fancy-free daughter of a power-crazed entrepreneur whose misdeeds tear the brood apart.
“I was auditioned for the role,” says Gupta, who cut her teeth in theatre working with the likes of Atul Kumar and Rajat Kapoor.
“When I was given scenes for the audition, I was very excited. I could see how well written the scenes were. These were scenes that gave you clarity and were replete with possibility. I love working on details and this role gave me great scope for that.”
Gupta adds: “Loveleen, the character that I play in ‘The Hungry’ (which is an otherwise unrelentingly dark drama), brings so much colour to the spectrum. Director Bornila Chatterjee had given me a reference photo with bright neon lights in order to indicate to me where I should place the character in the larger scheme of the film.” The thought and preparation that went into first-timer Zoya Hussain’s role in “Mukkabaaz” that of a small-town girl without a voice but a frenetically ticking mind was no less impressive.
Hussain, an economics and political science graduate from a top Delhi college, honed her skills in theatre and before getting into the mainstream ring with “Mukkabaaz” was part of the “super indie” Mumbai film, “Teen and Adha”.
“That is where Anurag Kashyap saw me,” she says.
Hussain learnt sign language to get into the skin of a mute woman of uncommon substance in a male-dominated universe.
“We did not want to make her a caricature. She can hear, so she looks and behaves like any other person around her.
What sets her apart is that she uses her finger gestures to communicate.”
Hussain, magnificent in “Mukkabaaz”, is another wonderful addition to the independent Hindi cinema repertory.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.