Every film and every role demands some kind of prep from the actors featuring in it. The upcoming series Grahan, releasing June 24 on Disney+ Hotstar VIP is no different for actress Zoya Hussain, who plays IPS officer Amrita Singh. The Hotstar Specials series has been inspired by Satya Vyas’ popular novel Chaurasi.
Talking about the prep, Zoya says that when she first read it, she felt “it’s a big responsibility” portraying the woman officer given the charge of a leading investigation. She explains, “I was a bit nervous about how it would turn out, given the nature of the character and the narrative. Being an IPS officer comes with a certain pressure attached to the job. While we are storytellers, this is a story of actual people. So I had to play the part with a certain sense of responsibility, respecting the uniform.”
Interestingly, what made it easier was knowing the director Ranjan Chandel from before — he was one of the writers of Mukkabaaz, which also marked his debut. Zoya adds, “I love the way he writes. When he was putting this series together, I wanted to collaborate with him, be a part of this story.”
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Considering that IPS officer Amrita Singh is different from the characters she’s playing, she says, “Amrita’s is an actual profession. She is a cop. A large part of their upbringing and adult life goes into prep, the physicality, the strength and determination. Normally, my characters are a bit grey here and there, but Amrita is in control when it comes to her job.”
Zoya continues, “Interestingly, there’s also a little softness in her, she is a real person, a mix of everything opposites. Just like every person is hard and soft in varying degrees, no one is all hard or all soft. So we all have a certain amount of vulnerability, and the idea was to get that balance right.”
Before shooting, she also underwent a series of workshops with actress Pooja Swarup, starting with some sessions with Pavan Malhotra, who plays her father in the series. “We needed to be father-daughter from the word go. I had seen so much of his work previously, I was looking forward to working with him,” she says, adding, “I have a lot of scenes with him. When we started shooting, the chronology of the shoot was such that in the initial days, it was just the two of us. So focus was on getting it right and with conviction. That way, the entire shoot was planned very well by the makers.”
Zoya’s prep also involved a lot of reading and research, on the police world, services, historical events, while portraying her part responsibly. “We’re not just actors here to act, but we have a certain responsibility we take on, willingly or unwillingly,” she avers.
Interestingly, Pooja Swarup would begin Zoya’s workshop sessions with a mini workout. She explains, “When you do a play or a shoot, if you do something physical, it opens up your body, your voice. Just being relaxed doesn’t work, one needs to push the voice, emotions and body as well. I tend to hunch and fight a lot. Amrita Singh is not that kind of person. She is someone who is very sure of herself, her thoughts, her plan of action, her job, duty.”
Since the series is based on Satya Vyas’ book Chaurasi, did Zoya read it before beginning filming too? “I had read the book a long time ago, so I did revisit it. However, the series is not directly based on the book, but inspired by it,” says Zoya.
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In keeping with actors borrowing inspiration from real-life people for their reel-roles, was Zoya also inspired by any real-life woman cop for her portrayal of SP Amrita Singh? She says that she didn’t know many people in the services during her growing up years, but had some relatives in the IAS (Indian Administrative Services) and also the parents of a few friends were in the services. She says, “They’re very disciplined, they have such long and extensive training, they are exposed to so much — crime, politics etc. I didn’t meet anyone to model my part on, but I was enamoured by Sanyukta Parashar (IPS Officer of Assam); how she speaks, how she conducts herself. There is a lighter side to her, but she’s extremely dynamic and charismatic.”
The most difficult part was how to make the character believable as a cop. “You see the personal life of the chapter. So, whether it’s the scenes at the police station or anywhere else, the focus was on essaying the part with authenticity and blend it into a real person, and not make it look gimmicky, even unconsciously,” she signs off