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'Four women in their 60s followed me...'

Last updated on: April 12, 2024 10:18 IST

'One told me there that she had been abused by her father when she was nine years old. The other when she was 12.'

'In all these years, they had not been able to confide about it to their mothers or even their husbands.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Geetika Tyagi/Instagram

Yes Papa, a thriller-drama revolving around a survivor of child sexual abuse, her own father being the perpetrator, has been grabbing eyeballs and initiating conversation on a hereto taboo subject since its release on March 29.

Geetika Tyagi, who plays Vineeta, the daughter, has been getting rave reviews for her gut-wrenching performance.

The actress, who will also be seen in yet another gritty film called Dukaan, made the front pages when she filed a molestation case against Jolly LLB film-maker Subhash Kapoor long before the #MeToo movement.

"As Yes Papa reaches out to more people, (I am hopeful it) gives women from all strata of society the courage to speak up about the dark chapters in their lives," Geetika tells Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya in the first of a two-part interview.


Let's start at the very beginning. How did Vineeta, your character in Yes Papa, walk into your life?

Saif (Writer-Director Saif Hyder Hasan) had seen a trailer of some work I had done earlier.

A shot shook him up and he messaged, saying, 'I have to work with you someday.'

Much later, he shared that he had something to narrate and asked if I was interested.

I'm very selective and when I heard that it was a film about a child sexual abuse survivor, I was wary because such roles have to be approached with a lot of care.

The script had not been developed so Saif sketched out the story to me.

After hearing it, I had to agree because being an ex-journalist, I've always been drawn to socially relevant subjects that can start a conversation with those around.

Vineeta was very demanding, physically, mentally and emotionally, but as an actor, I've always been greedy for meaty roles, not in terms of length, but impact, and this was the protagonist's role.

IMAGE: Geetika Tyagi in Yes Papa. Photograph: Kind courtesy Geetika Tyagi/Instagram

Did you meet any survivors as part of your prep?

I spoke to psychologists, NGOs and other experts.

But they were not going to set up any face-to-face meetings with me or reveal the real identity of any survivor.

So while I waited for the script, I tried to put myself in Vineeta's ecosystem.

In the film, we show her till she is 14, then jump straight to her as a wife and mother.

During the shoot, I would have long discussions with Saif on what her college years must have been like and the people around her then, knowing they would have shaped how she dealt with the abuse and trauma.

Everyone has their own way of reacting -- some turn aggressive, nasty and rebellious, some like her keep it all bottled in.

Growing up, she experiences love for her daughter but doesn't enjoy physical intimacy with her husband whom she trusts.

We shot the film during COVID and finished the post-production only towards the end of 2022.

It was a long journey without any buzz, so in early 2023, Saif posted a few unedited visuals and some lines on the film.

I shared it.

And the responses started...

IMAGE: Geetika Tyagi and Director Saif Hyder Hasan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Geetika Tyagi/Instagram

What were they like?

Well, some complimented Saif and me for boldly taking up a subject that no one talks about.

Some called to say I shouldn't have done such a role, mirroring social hypocrisy.

One girl was very bitter and stated that something like this had happened to her too.

We didn't prod her for details, but we have let the post and her comment remain.

I travelled alone with the film to Boston, and as is usual, I stepped outside just before the last scene which really gets to me, and waited for the reactions.

I've noticed that unlike other films, the audience of Yes Papa are usually very quiet after the film, trying to absorb what they have just seen.

When no one approached me to strike up a conversation, I headed towards the washroom.

Four women in their 60s followed me there.


One told me there that she had been abused by her father when she was nine years old.

The other when she was 12.

In all these years, they had not been able to confide about it to their mothers or even their husbands.

The third, also a survivor of child sexual abuse, had confided in her best friend who lived in India because she was far removed from her immediate surroundings.

She admitted that she had opened up to me only because she would never see me again.

I'm expecting more reactions as the film reaches out to more people and gives women from all strata of society the courage to speak up about the dark chapters in their lives.

Why don't they want to speak up?

There are so many factors, like financial dependence, social shame, family and community boycott.

IMAGE: Geetika Tyagi with Ananth Mahadevan and Taru Tyagi on the sets of Yes Papa. Photograph: Kind courtesy Geetika Tyagi/Instagram

IMAGE: Geetika Tyagi with Bobby Deol in Class Of '83. Photograph: Kind courtesy Geetika Tyagi/Instagram

Was the case you filed against film-maker Subhash Kapoor playing on your mind while you were filming Yes Papa?

Well, I didn't have a direct reference point and thank God for that!

Indirect references we all have because every woman has faced such incidents of harassment or violation of rights even if they don't talk about it.

Anyone who says differently is lying.

You just have to recall such experiences from real life and multiply them tenfold to find the rage, frustration and sense of violation that Vineeta experiences.

I often wonder how someone can get pleasure from another person's torment?

And when the perpetrator is one of your own, the violation is ten times worse.

I don't want to merge the case and the film.

I'm an actor and Vineeta was a character I was playing.

I lived her, but I tried not to take her home with me,

As soon as Saif called 'Cut' I would try to leave her behind.

Of course, a few scenes stayed with me...


The chopping scene.

When I was enacting it, I was thinking of all the violations and frustration every girl has faced sometime in her life.

It's just that the monster is standing before Vineeta now and finally, she has the power to do anything she wants to him.

How many retakes did that scene require?

None, though for technical reasons, we did take a couple of shots from different angles.

I had told Saif to shoot the rehearsals too, then gave my all to the first shot knowing I would not be able to drum up the same emotions again.

There were some practical difficulties too as we were shooting on the terrace of a Noida bungalow in freezingly cold January and the unit was overworked.

Part 2: 'You've To Choose Your Battles Carefully'