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The Girl From Laapataa Ladies, Heeramandi

May 06, 2024 15:02 IST
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'I joined Heeramandi's shoot right after completing Laapataa Ladies.'
'When I landed on the Heeramandi sets, I was like, "Oh my God!" because this was for the first time I was seeing such a huge set in my life.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Pratibha Ranta/Instagram

It's a remarkable breakout year for Pratibha Ranta.

She encountered a sliver of fame with Kiran Rao's Laapataa Ladies and then some more in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar.

For the 23-year-old actor from Shimla, her transition to the big league is preceded by television.

"I used to carry this big bag and roam around Aaram Nagar (in Andheri, north west Mumbai, where most auditions happen). It had different sets of costumes -- Indian, Western, sportswear, whatever was required for the auditions. I would knock door-to-door, asking if any audition was happening," Pratibha tells Mayur Sanap/

What new changes are you experiencing after Laapataa Ladies?

The film has brought a very beautiful change in my life. It has given me the opportunity to grow as artist.

I am reading different scripts, and choosing what to do and what not to. Now whatever scripts are coming my way, they are the same level as Laapataa Ladies.

Also, the script used to come with 'for casting' written on it. But after Laapataa Ladies, the scripts have 'For Pratibha Ranta' written on them.

It means that they must have discussed about me and that's why the script is coming to me. It really means a lot to me.

How was the transition from Laapataa Ladies to Heeramandi's opulent sets?

I joined Heeramandi's shoot right after completing Laapataa Ladies.

When I landed on Heeramandi's sets, I was like 'Oh my God!' because this was for the first time I was seeing such a huge set in my life. And costumes were so brilliant!

If you are a part of an SLB project, it is a given that you will witness something larger-than-life. The best thing is that you will get to know Sanjay sir's vision and how he functions.

Each scene, each line is well thought out by him.

Mazaa aa gaya!

IMAGE: Pratibha with her sister Abha Ranta at the premiere of Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pratibha Ranta/Instagram

How did you land this role?

Sanjay sir was looking for someone to play this character, but he couldn't lock anyone for one year.

I sent my audition tape and he really liked it.

He called me to his office.

You hear so many things about him that he is a taskmaster, he is very strict.

But he is like that only at work.

When you meet him off work, he is very sweet.

This same thing I also noticed with Kiran ma'am. She never tried to intimidate us. She always made us feel very comfortable, so that we could open ourselves creatively in front of her.

It's amazing how you got to work with accomplished directors at the beginning of your career.

Now I won't be satisfied with substandard work.

I want perfection.

Both Kiran ma'am and Sanjay sir are perfectionists. I approach my work thinking how they would react to my take.

I noticed that there are absolutely no tantrums on Sanjay sir's sets. You have to be there as a raw actor.

You can't expect that things will work according to you, and this is what brings grace in your performance in his films.

Did you feel starstruck on Heeramandi's sets?

I was more starstruck looking at the set, actually.

Each department was giving its 100 per cent on sets, and that was very beautiful to watch.

The first day I walk in I am seeing Manisha (Koirala) ma'am, Richa Chadha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sonakshi Sinha, Sharmin (Segal), Sanjeeda (Sheikh)...

I initially thought they won't talk much and they would just wrap their work and leave.

But it was very nice that they made feel included in the cast. All of them made me so comfortable.

This is a thing about a Sanjay Leela Bhansali set. Nobody is seen as star there, everyone is treated as an actor.

IMAGE: Pratibha as Jaya Kumari in a BTS photo from Laapataa Ladies. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pratibha Ranta/Instagram

What was your learning lesson as actor while working on these two films?

It is very important to learn and unlearn for an actor to understand the vision of the director.

What I learnt on the Laapataa Ladies sets, I had let go of it so that I can learn something with Sanjay sir.

It is very important to listen to what your director is saying. That really works for your growth.

You once said that your audition for Laapataa Ladies felt like it was made for you. Can you elaborate on that?

When I first auditioned for Jaya's part, I was given the climax scene where she tells her life story. I could totally relate to that.

When I was in Shimla, I was also trying to convince my family about my acting aspirations.

For them, it was a far-fetched thought because you don't get to see shootings in Shimla. My family was a little scared.

They were saying things like, 'You are so young', 'You are so naïve', 'People will cheat you'.

I have realised in life that you grow only when you step out of your comfort zone.

So when I was mouthing Jaya's dialogues about her life and family, that felt really right.

To play Jaya's character was challenging but it is also very close to my heart.

What conversations did you have with Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan about this character?

I remember meeting Aamir sir on a very first day of my dialect training.

He was simplifying what the dialect coach was explaining to me.

Sometimes a director talks in their language and it takes time to process that. Because Aamir sir is an amazing actor himself, he was talking to me in the language of an actor.

Kiran ma'am does very good acting, too. She would come to us and enact the scene for us to show how it can be done.

We used talk a lot about how Jaya should look and speak like. She is from a village, but she has a mind of her own.

What was your parents' reaction like when they saw you on the big screen?

My entire family came down from Shimla. When they saw the film, they were so happy.

My dad was so happy. In some way or the other, even he wanted to be an actor.

I did not see the film with my family because I knew they would get emotional.

I saw the beginning with them and then came back at the end. All of them were crying, and I was like, 'Control guys!' (Laughs)

I felt so nice because I used to behave so rebelliously back in Shimla. When you are so stubborn, you feel you must have disrespected your family.

After the screening, I felt it was all worth it.

They were happy, I was happy.

Now they constantly ask me what next is coming. They love coming to Mumbai for premieres.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Pratibha Ranta/Instagram

When did you come to Mumbai and how did you navigate through the initial challenges?

We have an apple business in Shimla and my parents live there in the farm house. I was brought up by my grandparents.

I told them I am going to Mumbai for further education after my 12th class.

I came to Mumbai in 2019 for my graduation, but my main ambition was to pursue acting here.

The initial period was spent just to understand how things work in this city.

I used to carry this big bag and roam around Aaram Nagar (in Andheri, north west Mumbai, where most auditions happen). It had different sets of costumes -- Indian, Western, sportswear, whatever was required for the auditions. I would knock door-to-door, asking if any audition was happening.

This continued until I landed a TV show. That gave me financial stability because TV pays really well.

This financial independence also took off the stress of my family and they stopped complaining about my acting dream.

Did you enjoy working in television?

Yes, there was so much to learn.

TV teaches you to be on your toes.

Your learning power improves a lot. When I auditioned for Laapataa Ladies, I was given long scenes of eight pages.

Somehow it didn't feel like a problem.

I understood and memorised my lines and then gave my audition.

This is where TV helps you a lot; it strengthens your memory. You learn your lines well and can perform with full focus.

What's the best compliment you received for Laapataa Ladies?

It was from Piyush Mishra sir.

I love his songs and we used to listen to his songs early in the morning while going for our shoots.

I was surprised when he texted me on WhatsApp saying, 'What  a lovely performance Pratibha, you completely nailed it.' He texted my co-stars also.

The premiere night was quite overwhelming.

Konkona (Sen Sharma) came to us and she had tears in her eyes! She said, what magic you have created, guys.

IMAGE: With Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao and co-stars Nitanshi Goel, Sparsh Srivastva. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pratibha Ranta/Instagram

Do you see Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao as your mentors?

Of course! I always used to think that my first break would happen with Aamir Khan Productions.

I had seen Dangal, Secret Superstar...

Aamir sir believes in the talent of newcomers and trusts them with good scripts.

Even now I ask him what I should do next, how I should groom myself. He has different tips for all of us.

I also share a warm equation with Kiran ma'am because there is great comfort with her. I don't hesitate to ask her about anything.

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