'The shoot started six days after my audition. I was not even given the script.'
'I had no workshop, no rehearsals before the shoot.'
'To my own surprise, I was very comfortable facing the camera on the first day of the shoot. I felt I was finally home, like this was my calling.'
Sobhita Dhulipala makes her debut with Raman Raghav 2.0.
The gorgeous Sobhita Dhulipala made her debut in Anurag Kashyap's Raman Raghav 2.0, and she's making waves already.
The Miss Earth India (2013) winner won a nomination at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, in the Critics' Choice Best Performance category.
In this telephone interview with Patcy N/ Rediff.com, Sobhita introduces herself, and chats about her Bollywood debut.
Tell us about yourself.
I come from Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. My mother is a teacher and my father is a chief marine engineer. My younger sister Samantha is studying medicine in Pune.
After school, we moved to Mumbai so I could go to college here.
I did not grow up watching films or even television for that matter.
I was fascinated by modelling and acting but I felt like an outsider. I felt I would never belong in the industry; it was a completely different world.
One of my classmates was working with Femina Miss India and she told me to apply.
Everyone hopes that they will make it, but I was so new, tomboyish and nerdy, that I didn't expect to make it.
How did your parents react to your choice of modelling and acting?
My parents have always been supportive. I come from a very simple middle class family, where the upbringing is very traditional. So for them to given me the kind of freedom to exercise my choices is very fortunate for me.
As a kid, you learnt Bharat Natyam and Kuchipudi. Did you ever think of the performing arts as a career?
No way! I was an average school kid. When I came to Mumbai, it was like a culture shock.
I wanted to explore myself and live in a metropolitan city and experience that life.
Until Miss India happened, I loved academics. But then I discovered that here is a field which seems a possibility and I wanted to explore that.
How different was your life in Mumbai?
I spent three years in college in Mumbai. I woke up at 4 am, walked, took a bus to the station, then a train and travelled for an hour to reach Churchgate (in south Mumbai) and walked again to reach college for a 7 am lecture.
It was a shock that this city is so huge. In my hometown, one could reach the other end of the city in 15 minutes.
My entire family moved here for me. My sister was in her eighth grade. It was amazing that my parents showed such confidence in a 15-year-old. At the end of the day, you get exposure to a metropolitan city, and that is a great investment for the future, so it seemed like a good thing to do.
You had no modelling experience before you entered the Miss India contest. You claim to be a shy person. How did you gain the confidence for this?
I am so socially awkward, you have no idea (laughs).
When you are thrown into the middle of the sea, you have no choice but to swim.
I won the Miss India title when I was 20. I was willing to learn. I hadn't seen any of this before, not even on television, so it was like exploring a whole new universe.
It was not a cakewalk. All my classmates were having fun while I was doing research and trying to walk even to the washroom. And there is a lot of competition.
What did you do next?
I didn't know acting was my thing, so I travelled, wrote and danced.
I wanted to explore fashion and after Miss India, it looked like a comfortable transition. Initially, I enjoyed it but after a certain point, I couldn't connect with it anymore.
Then, the auditions happened.
How did you start?
I started approaching agents and casting directors. I would go from studio to studio everyday, and give my portfolio pictures. If there was an audition, I would give that too.
I did not give film auditions; I gave auditions for commercials. I got to do a couple of ads like Mehaka Jewellers and Hero bikes. I also did a digital campaign for Maybelline.
I gave auditions for almost a year. After I gave my first film audition, I got it. I am very lucky to get my first film in a year.
How did you get Raman Raghav 2.0?
I got a call from the office of Mukesh Chhabra (casting director) to come for an audition. I did not know what the film was about, who the director or actors were.
He gave me the scene on the spot and I just did it. I was so thrilled to have done it because it was such an intense scene. I felt the rush inside.
What was the scene?
There is a scene in the film where right after the intimate scene between Raghav (Vicky Kaushal) and Simi (Sobhita), there is an argument. My audition started from the intimate scene to the end of the argument. It was a very fiery scene.
I was on my way home after the audition when I received a call saying 'Come back, Sir wants to meet you'. I did not know who this 'sir' was.
Anyway, I went and saw Anurag Kashyap, who I have looked up to for so long. We discussed dates and costume measurements, and soon after that I met Nawaz Sir (Nawazuddin Siddique). After that, I went to the Phantom Films office. That is when I realised I had been locked for the part.
How was your first day on the shoot?
The shoot started six days after the audition. I was not even given the script. I believed in Anurag Sir's vision. He had a lot of confidence in me and I trusted him.
I had no workshop, no rehearsals before the shoot.
To my own surprise, I was very comfortable facing the camera on the first day of the shoot. I felt I was finally home, like this was my calling.
How was it working with Anurag Kashyap?
He is amazing! He is so warm and interactive. He treats his actors preciously and nurtures them.
He allows them to grow and explore the character on their own. It's a huge learning platform. I have discovered a lot about myself through the shooting.
I am very fortunate to have worked with him so early in my career. The same goes for Nawaz Sir and Vicky. They are actors of such merit that you learn by just looking at them.
What exactly did you discover about yourself during the shoot?
I realised that I need to believe in myself and stand up for how I feel about things.
I am a shy person and so much of an introvert that everything is very internal...it's all in my head.
The process of the shoot has given me the confidence to stand up for myself and to believe in myself and be motivated enough to keep delivering.
Nawazuddin is a brilliant actor. What did you learn from him?
He does a lot of homework even though he is so senior and such an outstanding performer. He is very focused on his part. He is completely aware of everything about the character.
At the same time, he is very spontaneous. He has a great sense of wit. He really imbibes the character.
The same applies to Vicky, even though he is much younger. Both of them are dedicated to their craft and very passionate.
What is the best compliment you have received for this movie?
Getting the movie itself is a huge compliment. Nawaz Sir and Vicky have been so supportive and they have shown so much confidence in me.
Anurag Sir would jokingly say, 'Arey yeh toh one-take artist ban gayee'. That was really special to me because they gave me that value and never made me feel that I was a newcomer.
When I went to the Cannes Film Festival, which is such a great platform, and when I got to know that I was nominated in the Critic's Choice best performance category, I was shocked. I wondered what I was doing there after just one film.
You are into poetry as well?
I started writing poetry when I was 13 or 14 years old. It became my outlet, as I am shy. Whatever I have written has been very personal and not more than two or three people have ever read it.
Is there any director you want to work with?
I have a long list: Dibakar Banerjee, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Vishal Bhardwaj, Vasan Bala, Vikramaditya Motwane, Zoya Akhtar...
Any role in a contemporary film you would have liked to enact?
I would love to do a period film because I enjoy that world. I adore the sense of time travel.
I would also love to do an out-and-out action film or a sports film.