'It was so nice to see that someone of her stature, where she came from and whose family she was married into and how she held herself in spite of everything that was thrown at her.'
"You don't see much of my dancing in the first season, most of my dancing is in the second season, which I am looking forward to," Regina Cassandra says of her first Hindi OTT show, Rocket Boys.
The actress plays the legendary dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai, who was married to Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India's space programme.
Regina gives Rediff.com Contributor Radhika Rajamani interesting insights into her character, saying, "It was so nice to see that someone of her stature, where she came from and whose family she was married into and how she held herself in spite of everything that was thrown at her."
What was your reaction when you were offered the role of Mrinalini Sarabhai, who's among the doyens of Bharata Natyam?
When the role was confirmed, I thought I needed to figure out how I was going to learn Bharata Natyam, as we were in the midst of the pandemic.
I learnt Bharata Natyam for four years as a child.
But playing someone who is a pioneer is something.
Mrinaliniji instigated conversations on social issues through her dance.
She had learnt Kathakali, Kuchipudi and Bharata Natyam.
I knew I needed to learn Bharata Natyam, as I knew everything else would fall in place.
I started with a teacher named Preeti Bharadwaj from Chennai. We did online classes for a few months.
Once we started shooting, I was trained by Jagdeep Master from Darpana, Mrinalini Sarabhai's academy.
You don't see much of my dancing in the first season, most of my dancing is in the second season, which I am looking forward to.
So many people have come and told me so many things about her. I studied in Lady Andal School in Chennai and her mother (the freedom fighter Ammu Swaminadhan)'s house was in the next lane to the school.
This is the first time I am doing a biopic, and my first Hindi OTT.
It was pretty exciting.
Did you do any other research as part of preparation? Did you speak to Mallika Sarabhai? How did you prepare for the role apart from taking lessons in Bharata Natyam?
There was a lot of research done by the costume team.
I asked Mallika ma'am what Mrinaliniji's favourite song was, what she loved talking about.
I read Mrinalini's book, saw whatever documentaries I could get my hands on.
During the pandemic, I did everything that I could get my hands on from home.
Every time I danced, I would picture her dance.
Did you speak to Kartikeya Sarabhai?
I spoke to Mallika ma'am and Revanta (Mallika Sarabhai's child).
Mallika ma'am has choreographed the dances.
When I walked into Darpana, there was an aura about the place. They were doing an arangetram (a dancer's first stage show), so they set up the stage beautifully.
Even though Mrinaliniji is not there anymore, I don't think the people there will ever let anyone feel her absence.
They have such nice stories about her.
About 75,000 artists have come out of Darpana. I didn't realise the place would have such an aura.
I am not emotional, but I had tears in my eyes.
It was so nice to see that someone of her stature, where she came from and whose family she was married into and how she held herself in spite of everything that was thrown at her. You can see the love and admiration in people's eyes when they talk about her.
How was it to dance on stage, wearing the traditional costume and jewellery?
It is always a good feeling to wear the traditional costume.
Mrinalini Sarabhai wore it a little different back then.
For someone who is not used to it, it is pretty difficult.
Uma Biju did the costumes and she did a beautiful job. She took the time to do research with Mallika ma'am.
She found out at what age Mrinaliniji wore what sari. If you see through the series, it changes.
There is this one sequence where I am dancing (in the second season). We shot that the whole night.
We had two days of rehearsals before and on the day of shooting also there was rehearsals.
I would be soaking my feet in hot water with rock salt and magnesium salt just to ensure I can go and be fresh. My hair and make-up would take about two and a half hours to three hours.
Did you read up on Vikram Sarabhai?
Yes. I did not have to read up too much on him as I already knew who Vikram Sarabhai was.
I was in Kovalam not very long ago and I went to the research centre (ISRO).
I could not go in, but I felt so connected.
Even while shooting, we would discuss them and their lives.
You were so elegant and it was such a nuanced performance.
Thank you. I think the co-actors are so important -- Jim (Sabh), Ishwak (Singh), Saba (Azad), Anahita Oberoi (who played Homi Bhabha's mother) and Rajit Kapur were so good.
It was so marvelous to see them doing their job.
Ishwak had also chipped in with some of the dialogues. Everyone contributed and no one said this is not my job.
I come from a different industry and all of them are theatre artistes.
I was the odd one out.
If I was good, it is because of my homework, my co-stars and our director Abhay Pannu. All our shots were three-minute long shots. They were never short shots.
What was it like working with Jim Sarbh and Ishwak Singh?
These boys were really smart actors.
Jim is a very confident actor. He knows what he is doing.
Both of them do their homework so well.
If you see Ishwak's script book, the entire page would be full of his notes written in pencil.
Watching Jim act is a lot of fun. His role was also like that -- flamboyant, likable and social.
Ishwak's character is very subdued, he is calm and composed. If he shouts, it will be a rare occasion.
Would you like to share your favourite scene(s)?
One scene which gave me goosebumps because of the scene, the music, the dialogues, everything, was during (A P J Abdul) Kalam's introduction, and the camera pans down and he is walking from the boat and the music takes it to another level.
Every time I hear it, I get goosebumps. Also the way he introduces himself.
I love the scenes of Raza Mehdi (played by Dibyendu Bhattacharya).
Were there any takeaways for you as an actor?
The way they handled their lives!
I really want to learn Bharata Natyam again (laughs).
I wonder if I will have the time to do a crash course.
After you see the second season, I can talk about my dance because it was quite gruelling. I was dancing from 9.30 pm to 7 am.
In a way, it gave me confidence and I was very happy with myself at the end of it.
I had to do it in the cold at 6-7 degrees. It was so cold!
How was the experience of doing your first OTT series?
I enjoyed it.
I got to meet a lot of nice people.
I call Rocket Boys an emotion.
All these people I have met will be close to my heart in the years to come.