Narada News Exclusive Interview with Dear Zindagi star Ira Dubey
Actively involved in stage performances since the age of six, Ira Dubey has had a prolific career in both films and theater. At Yale, she is trained in many acting techniques and theories, and performed in over ten productions there, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, The House of Bernarda Alba and Beckett’s shorts.
The 32-year-old actress narrates to Narada News, giving a little sneak peek about her role in the upcoming film Dear Zindagi, the experience with her Rhode Film Festival winner film M cream and much more.
Q. What is the background story of you playing the role of Fatima in Dear Zindagi?
I must give full credit to Nandini Shrikent who is our casting director. She got in touch with me and Gauri took the final call. Also, I heard about the other people working on the film – director, actors – Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan, and all the other new people who are a part of the cast like Kunal Kapoor, Angad Bedi and Aditya Roy Kapur. There were workshops conducted with the star cast.
I went through the script in one go with some ended cups of coffee and I loved the script. I decided to be a part of this project. I’m also a very big fan of Gauri. I loved her first film ‘English Vinglish’ which I thought was one of the most sincere and heartwarming films that I’ve seen in recent times. I liked her poise as a director and was very keen to work with her.
Q. You mentioned that you were keen on working with Gauri Shinde. What was the experience being directed by her?
Being a female director and writing a female centric story with a bunch of actors in a big scale production including Shah Rukh Khan is not an easy task. I’ve always felt that on a film set, the director is the captain of a very large ship. Everyone follows that director’s vision, their attitude, etc.
We take the lead from the director and Gauri used to come on set every morning with her trainers, her mad crazy hair, which I love, and used to be always smiling. She was always positive. She was extremely encouraging to all her and it was a real blast with her. I thought she was incredibly in control and did a great job in handling a huge bunch of people.
Q. Working with a bunch of actors, there must have been memorable incidents. Can you tell us any behind the scene incident?
Well, there were two-three incidents that happened. One day when I had a scene with Alia, where I was supposed to tell her some bad news, it was very difficult for me to communicate. We met each other in our office canteen and we’re eating vada pavs. That day, I must have eaten at least 15 vada pavs to ace that scene. Everyone was making fun of me saying I don’t have to eat it, but I just said, it’s helping me! And I felt so unbelievably sick. I don’t think I touched a vada pav for the next six months.
There was another incident where Kunal Kapoor (I don’t think people know this about him but he’s quite a prankster) we bonded quite a lot. The funny thing was that during takes Kunal was very charming and in between shots I’ve seen him get completely violent with this life-sized doll.
In another incident, we finished the night schedule on an outdoor shoot. We were a bunch of people together including some from our makeup team, costume team, Gautmik and Priyanka Moodley. We decided to do bungee jumping at 1 in the morning and it was fun, adventurous and spontaneous thing we all did together.
Q. Being part of the film M Cream, how was the experience when the film travelled to multiple festivals and won the best feature film at Rhode?
I must share this news with you that it’s now on Netflix. So, we’re all very proud and very happy.
This film was a very long journey. We finished shooting it almost three years before it got a release. When we won the award in Rhode Island, I was there and it was an amazing feeling. It has been a very fulfilling project because it’s a performance driven part with an excellent driven cast. It’s a road trip, coming of age story as a feature film.
Its director Agneya Singh was just 23 when he shot the film, and I believe he is soon going to be a huge talent. It’s a realistic film with a very intense yet challenging role.
Q.What is your idea about Netflix and what are your favourite shows?
I don’t necessarily only watch shows on Netflix. I watch many shows like Newsroom, Narcos and I’ve just started watching The Crown, which is a wonderful show. I used to love Downton Abbey, Grey’s Anatomy and House of Cards.
To answer your question about these platforms, I think, it’s fabulous. Being on these platforms for actors, especially, is amazing because you’re getting such good exposure with worldwide access.
Q.Having started your career in theatre and now working in films, if you had to pick between the two, which one would you pick and why?
This is a tough question and favourite for many.
In a film, you push yourself as an actor and use different skills, and on stage, you have only that one opportunity, so it’s a rush of a different kind. I have been doing theatre for so long and that’s something that will be very close to my heart. It’s a nasha, something that every actor would go back to. Some of our finest actors from Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) sir to Shabana (Azmi) ji, Om Puri and Anupam Kher; everyone comes back. You can never let it go.
I feel that they’re both so different and they have such an appeal to both, I can’t decide for one. Also, I feel in cinema abhi bahut kuch karna hai( I have a lot to do). I feel that people have not seen my work enough and theatre is something that people do respect, know, watch and appreciate.
Q. In an interview with Divya Palat, when questioned regarding the theatre experience between Delhi and Bombay (Mumbai), she said that the theatre spaces need to be inexpensive in Mumbai for a better experience. Do you agree? Does that mean that we don’t see variety in Bombay (Mumbai) like we see in Delhi?
Yes. That is a part of it. Sometimes people tell me that we’re not getting the stark for good theatre in Delhi so I think there are two sides to it. The Hindi theatre scene in Delhi is rich and diverse. In Bombay (Mumbai), you have so much different theatre that is thriving – Gujarati, Marathi theatre.
In the West, people can still live off theatre. Working actors in the West perform like it’s a job for them. In India, especially, we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love it, are committed to it, are passionate about it and it’s a great platform for talent to go after their craft.
The problems that go with it that need attention one of them is the absence or the lack of locations – good and inexpensive venues that isn’t present in Bombay (Mumbai). The other thing that needs attention is the fact that we don’t have training in theatre. There are very few schools that teach you not just acting, writing and direction, but stage design and lighting design. Those are very valid professions in the West. If we in the theatre community don’t give it that respect that we want others to give it, how will things change? So, I think that it’s very important that we must stay committed to it and maintain that it’s a very viable profession.
Q.What are the other projects in the pipeline?
There is an independent feature film that I’ve finished shooting called Shehjar, which is a story of a family of four Kashmiri people who come from Srinagar to Bombay. It talks about various global issues that are very prevalent today but told through the eyes of these four people. It’s directed by Nikhil Alag.
I opened a new play this year called A Doll’s House. It’s a famous classic play, produced by Ila Arun and directed by Pushan Kriplani. We’ve only performed four shows. We’re planning to tour with it very soon. So, for the next few months, I’ll be touring with that show.
Dear Zindagi releases on November 25 in your nearest theatres.