Art & Entertainment

Manjiri Pupala On Filming An Intimate Scene In ‘Dahaad’: Vijay Varma’s Sincerity During The Shoot Made It Easier For Me

‘Dahaad’ also stars Sonakshi Sinha, Gulshan Devaiah, Vijay Varma and Sohum Shah. It is currently streaming on Prime Video.

Manjiri Pupala with 'Dahaad' co-actor Vijay Varma
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Actress Manjiri Pupala, who started off her acting career as a theatre artist, has starred in several TV shows and films. Albeit, she got the attention with her role of Puniya in web series ‘Betaal’, and was recently seen as a blind psychic in Sara Ali Khan, Chitrangda Singh and Vikrant Massey’s ‘Gaslight’. Currently, she features as a gullible and naive Aarti in Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s web show ‘Dahaad’, which also stars Sonakshi Sinha, Gulshan Devaiah, Vijay Varma and Sohum Shah. It is currently streaming on Prime Video.

In a chat with Outlook India, Manjiri talked exclusively about how she bagged her role in ‘Dahaad’, how it was to work with an ensemble cast and her journey as an actor. Excerpts from the interview:

How was it to work in ‘Dahaad’? How did you bag the role?

It was a really interesting experience to work on a project like ‘Dahaad’. When I auditioned for Aarti's character, I didn't know much about the series. Nandini Shrikent and Karan Mally's team offered me to test for 2 roles out of which Aarti's journey came my way.  But as the series got finalised and I was sent the episode scripts, I remember I simply could not stop reading. It is such a well written show. And as an actor a lot of times you are also looking at how your character graph is developing. But with ‘Dahaad’ I literally felt like I was pulled in the story just like any other reader. 

I have been a huge fan of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti's work. I literally have grown up watching the amazing projects these two absolute 'Bawse ladies' have been propelling and sphere heading. So when I got to know that this is a Tiger Baby project ; I was simply thrilled. ‘Dahaad’ came my way right after ‘BETAAL’. I was really looking forward to something completely different from the fierce, strong fighter woman - Puniyaa from ‘Betaal’ was. So the naive, gullible Aarti was the girl I immediately latched on to as an actor. 

Also, the kind of clarity and precision with which Reema Kagti works on the set is sheer brilliance! I absolutely enjoyed working with her exploring Aarti's character.  I was also fortunate to shoot with both Reema and Ruchika Oberoi over the 2 schedules, split up over the pandemic. 

Secondly, the show has an ensemble cast, tell us some anecdotes from the shoot.

Well, I was shooting the dead body sequence in the morgue with Sonakshi Sinha and Gulshan Devaiah. And until they discussed a few things over my dead body, I needed to hold my breath which was almost close to two and a half minutes. I remember Reema asked Gulshan to help me with a breathing technique for that. And it worked miraculously for the scene!!! Thanks to Gulshan I could hold my breath for over 3 mins at the end of the breath work.

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Manjiri Pupala with Reema Kagti

Also ‘Dahaad’ was the first time I was shooting an intimate scene. The first ones are always crucial. From the start of the project I was a bit anxious about the what and how of it. But it really worked in my favour that I got to explore such an intimate sequence with female directors which made half of my worry go away. Ruchika Oberoi, our director, was very considerate and supportive when we shot the lodge sequence. Also Vijay Varma was very sincere and professional throughout the shoot, which made it much easier for me.

You were also seen in ‘Gaslight’ recently, and got much appreciation. Tell us your journey as an actor so far.

Yes! All the love I have received for my role in ‘Gaslight’ has been quite a surprise for me. Pavan Kriplani, the writer and director of ‘Gaslight’ had watched ‘Betaal’ and was keen that I do this role. When I shot for it, it was such a bizarre avatar. Also quite a lot of my character track got edited out due to the length of the film. Honestly I thought NO ONE would even recognise me . But I was quite glad that so many people enjoyed the weirdo blind oracle that I became. 

I guess it is a great time to be working as an actor right now as there are such a diverse range of subjects handled by amazing storytellers. I guess I have been really fortunate to work with some unique and utterly talented people in the industry as my co-actors or my directors. I think slowly the performance mediums are also merging into each other. Few years ago, theatre, Television and films were treated much independently for the technical format and structure of these forms. So even the actors were grouped and divided into categories of the same. But right now, the demand of the content is such that the performers are swiftly moving from one per formative form to another, be it films, television or Theatre. I think this fluidity is going to help the acting aesthetics of the content we are consuming over all. 

Lastly, what are you looking forward to next? 

Well, I am really looking forward to the release of one of my projects which is very close to my heart - ‘Shehar Lakhot’, written and directed by Navdeep Singh Sir. I am playing a one of a kind role in the show.  Also I have been fortunate enough to play a very interesting, meaty character in Excel's project. We just finished filming. Apart from that there are a couple exciting things in the pipeline which I can’t discuss as yet. But overall looking forward to the coming year for sure. 

Any filmmaker or genre that you want to work with or wish to explore?

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Zoya Akhtar, Shreeram Raghvan, Neeraj Gaiwan, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwani, Meghna Gulzaar and many more....  I would love to explore every possible genre as I really don't feel like limiting myself to any particular comfort zone. 

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