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'I'm a fearless actor now'

By KOMAL PANCHAMATIA
May 10, 2020 11:19 IST
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'Having lived through cancer, through so many ups and downs, I'm not particularly attached to attention or success -- it's lovely if it's there, it's fine if it's not.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Pritish Nandy Communications/Instagram

Having started her career at a time when complex and layered characters for women were a rarity, Lisa Ray is happy to be a part of the shift in the cultural conversation and storytelling.

She plays a superstar reluctant to come out of the closet in Amazon Prime Video's Four More Shots Please, a story revolves around four urban women.

Lisa said Rangita Nandy, the creator of the series, had offered her roles in the past as well but she found Four More Shots Please compelling.

"Everything about the project resonated with me. The fact that it's female led, female centric, the themes and issues that are addressed, the fresh cast and of course the role of Samara Kapoor, an over the hill star," Lisa tells Komal Panchamatia/PTI.

"It's not lost on me that at 48 and a veteran of many cultural phases in India, the opportunity to tap into the current zeitgeist is an unusual honour. When I started in the '90s, these roles for women were a distant dream in India and I had to leave (the country) to find good content," she says.

IMAGE: Lisa with co-star Bani J. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pritish Nandy Communications/Instagram

Samara is the lover of one of the four main leads, Umang Singh, played by Bani J.

Lisa said she was happy to notice that people accepted it as a love story and without labeling it, which is how she also approaches her characters.

"I don't label my characters as an actor. I am simply taking on the role of wonderfully complex women. And that's how I approached Samara as well. The feedback I receive on #Umara (Samara and Umang) is that the relationship is so beautifully normalised and not played up as anything but two complex, sensitive people trying to make their relationship work," she says.

She said she surrendered to her director Nupur Asthana's vision.

"I trusted her implicitly. I'm very much a director's actor," she says.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Pritish Nandy Communications/Instagram

Lisa is happy with the response to season one and two of Four More Shots Please.

She said the sophomore season is deliciously subversive, entertaining and emotionally compelling, which appeals to a large segment in the audience if not everyone.

"We are experiencing a shift in the cultural conversation. I do believe the audience is ready and there is an audience. You can't possibly appeal to every demographic in India and we're not trying to do it with. We're staying true to our world. It's a very entertaining show that is reflecting the lives of independent, working, urban young women and as Rangita had explained when we first met...we don't see these characters explored enough in mainstream content in India," she says.

"Streaming platforms have helped promote interesting content, especially for women, something which wasn't prevalent in cinema. Digital platforms are paving the way to more varied, risky and nuanced story-telling. I wonder at the representation of women in mainstream films," Lisa says.

"I wrote about this in my book Close to the Bone, about this binary characterisation in the '90s, how you could either be the vamp or the virginal heroine.

"I also wrote: In the misogynistic system, women are more disposable than men. We were 'newspaper items.' I remember hearing 'hot until next day's news'," she says.

 

IMAGE: Lisa with her twins Soleil and Sufi and co-star Sayani Gupta. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pritish Nandy Communications/Instagram

"My takeaway (from any project) is to really let go and surrender. I suppose it's an expression of where I am in my life as well. Having lived through cancer, through so many ups and downs, I'm not particularly attached to attention or success -- it's lovely if it's there, it's fine if it's not -- but I invest in the process.

"I'm a fearless actor now and have stared down my mortality. I know that sounds dramatic -- maybe that's the Samara in me speaking," she says.

She says she is an 'accidental actress', who has managed to find work that aligns with her outlook.

"I define myself as a writer who occasionally acts and I've written a book about my unusual journey. I never aspired to be in front of the camera. I think I've managed to find work that is aligned with my outlook."

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KOMAL PANCHAMATIA
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