Amongst a huge ensemble cast of Made In Heaven Season 1 and 2, Pravishi Das has made her presence felt as Karuna Shastry, the sister of Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala). In a candid conversation with Cine Blitz, Pravishi talks about her character in the show, working with Zoya Akhtar, being spotted by filmmaker Shekhar Kapur in Delhi, and how the city of Mumbai shaped her as an actor.
What did you like the most about playing Karuna Shastry in Made In Heaven (MIH) Season 1 and 2?
Pravishi Das: I am fond of straight talkers. I appreciated that about Karuna’s character. She is not naïve. She has very strong convictions of her own. She knows what she wants out of her life and what her priorities are. She has figured out what her personal moral compass in the world is and she lives by it. In the limited world that she is able to be part of, she is very joyful. And I like that very much.
Given the family that Karuna is from – her sister and mother – there’s a lot of emphasis on manipulation and how that’s the way to go ahead in the world. But Karuna doesn’t simply think like that. And it’s not like she can’t see what’s happening around her but she chooses otherwise and that too with confidence. I really liked that.
What has been your experience like with the elements explored in Made In Heaven through your character?
Pravishi Das: The title of the show itself takes us in the direction of looking through what is projected and what is the reality. We are all in a perception game. Our selling perceptions, I mean that’s what the social media universe is about, right? We want to sell our perception to the world which is not our reality. Similarly, the show is anything but heavenly at so many times.
Through my character, it is quite simply about having the courage of conviction as well. In a sense, Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) also has great courage of conviction. She chooses a certain life and a certain way of operating life and she stands by her conviction wherever it takes her. And so does Karuna. I love the fact that Karuna is not a whimpering sister who is not doing anything in life.
What I appreciate about the writing of the show is that one thing doesn’t become the entire character as it never is in real life. And that’s what distinguishes MIH from the rest.
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What have you noticed in MIH co-creator Zoya Akhtar that you haven’t in other filmmakers you have worked with?
Pravishi Das: I found Zoya very warm, respectful, and very precise. Zoya has a lot of clarity and when you’re working with someone with that degree of clarity it’s like when the sky is lit up the ground will be illuminated. She would literally give me one word. ‘This’ and not ‘that’. And I would get the drift of the entire scene.
Let’s rewind the clock. How did you come to Mumbai?
Pravishi Das: I came to Bombay because of Mr. Shekhar Kapur. His sister Sohaila Kapur was my theatre director and I have done many plays with her in Delhi. Mr. Kapur was in town and he was staying with his sister. One evening, he walked into the living room where we were rehearsing and then he left inside after a while. The next day Sohaila tells me, “You know, Shekhar saw you and heard you and he thinks that you should be in Bombay.” I was like, “Are you kidding?”
Sohaila said, “If you don’t go to Bombay, I’m going to boycott you from everywhere.” That was her way of encouraging. She said, “If you don’t go now, you’ll never go. Shekhar said that he’s in Bombay and he’s gonna meet you there.” So, that’s how it began. It was really because of Mr. Kapur and Sohaila that I found myself in Bombay.
I met Mr. Kapur in Bombay and he was encouraging. He said, “I have seen something and I know you’ve got it. I want you to go out there and do your best. Go and meet anyone you want and say that Mr. Kapur has asked me to get in touch.” These were very kind things.
Even Lushin Dubey, my other theatre director introduced me to Balaji Telefilms. She got me introduced me to her sister Lillete Dubey in Bombay. People have gone out of their way to support my dream. I cannot not acknowledge that.
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And how has been your experience of working in the film industry?
Pravishi Das: I feel that I have been very fortunate. I have worked with the best human beings – thinking people, people who care, people who wish to nurture people and are interested in craft and story. For me, it has never been like a big project or a small project. It has always been about working with good people and people I know I’m gonna learn from. As an actor, you cannot make that choice but when it comes to you, you can make the best of it.
I have worked with Mr. Bhansali on Saawariya. He is one of the most nurturing people that I have met and he was so kind. I was from Delhi and nobody knew me in Bombay. He saw something in me and he called me for his other projects also.
Fortunately, I have not experienced sleaze. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen. I am only speaking about my experience and I do consider myself lucky.
What were your dreams when you were a child? What did you want to become when you grow up?
Pravishi Das: It is going to sound like I’m some braggart or a crazy person. But disclaimer: “I was just a kid.” I think it was basically love for people. I always had a strong love for people and whatever I did, I wanted to make people happy. When I was very young, I wanted to become a doctor. But then that changed around Class 4-5.
My sister still jokes about it to the day. When we will be walking on the road randomly or going or coming back from our Tennis practice in Delhi, I’d say, “These people don’t know but the future prime minister of this country is walking amongst them right now” [laughs].
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Are you content with whatever work that came your way so far or do you wish you had got more roles to play?
Pravishi Das: Of course, I wish I got more roles. Any actor will say that. No, I haven’t done the work that I would have liked to have done by now.
As an actor, I’m into expressing and emoting on behalf of those who have forgotten how to or who don’t get the opportunity in life to stop and think. So, to be the conduit between someone’s life and someone’s expression of their life… you’re not getting a chance to just stop and look at their lives but you’re living it. An actor of a certain calibre does that for you and that’s cathartic.
The purpose of art is to entertain and educate… about our emotions. The problem with the world today is that we’re not able to identify with our own emotions.
What kind of roles you’d like to do more?
Pravishi Das: I am not married to the length of a part. I’ll be happy to have a substantial part. But when you ask me for a part, it could be anything from a comedy to a historical to a thriller. There’s a certain joy in slapstick too. Anything can appeal to me if it doesn’t go against my politics or sensibilities or my emotional self.
For instance, I won’t be dancing in a song where the hero is lifting my skirt or crap like that. Also, I said No to so many fairness commercials. I am a normal dark-skinned Indian person. I was hungry for work and money but there’s no way on planet Earth that I’ll endorse it.
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You’ve grown up in Delhi and have been living in Mumbai for a long time. How have these two cities shaped your life as an actor?
Pravishi Das: Delhi is home and it’s family. I don’t know whether it’s the same Delhi now or not. And I’m not generalizing it either because there are all kinds of people in Delhi. But for the majority, it was a very aggressive culture towards women when I was growing up. You never felt safe, you could not look over your shoulder. There was constant trauma about hearing things in the news or things that would happen to friends like casual eve-teasing on a daily basis.
It turned me into a certain kind of personality. I always thought that I was an aggressive personality. You can’t really relax in the truth of who you are because you don’t even know yourself to be any different from your experience every day.
I didn’t know how tightly I was holding myself until I came to Bombay. For example, I had a certain way of dressing in Delhi and I believed it to be my style of dressing. When I came to Bombay, my entire sense of style and fashion completely changed. And I realized who I truly am because I was able to relax, not worry about the length of my skirt. I didn’t have to be constantly in the ‘taekwondo mode’.
I find that Bombay has such an individualist culture that people are not threatened by someone else’s individuality which might be radically different from their own. I feel like I have managed to quieten down as an artist in Bombay. I can self-reflect and I feel I can nuance my characters a lot more because I am able to stop and be as opposed to an overdrive of defensiveness.