I was inspired by a chameleon: Amruta Subhash on her role in Sacred Games 2
You probably know her for her role as Ranveer Singh’s mother Razia in Gully Boy, but Amruta Subhash, 40, was well known in Marathi films and theatre long before that. Her first film, Shwaas, was India’s official entry to the Oscars in 2004. Now, she’s in the headlines for her powerful, understated portrayal of the no-nonsense RAW agent Kusum Devi Yadav (KDY) in Season 2 of Netflix’s Sacred Games. As gangster Gaitonde’s new handler, Yadav swears like a mob boss but doesn’t raise her voice, never has to issue an order twice, and throws in fistfuls of Marathi for emphasis. Excerpts from an interview…
You say you have three inspirations as an actor…
Yes. Three mentors — my mother, Jyoti Subhash [a renowned Marathi actor, who also played her mother-in-law in Gully Boy], theatre director Satyadev Dubey, and actor Naseeruddin Shah who taught me at the National School of Drama. They are the reason I have got where I am today.
What’s the switch to Hindi films been like?
I’m very proud of the fact that most of the film roles I have got so far are through auditions.
After doing my first Hindi film called Chausar, which unfortunately wasn’t released, I auditioned for Nandita Das’s Firaaq in 2008. The audition happened in actor Smita Patil’s sister’s house in Mumbai. Afterwards she gifted me a dupatta that belonged to Smita Patil and said ‘pass it on to whichever actress you feel can carry forward her legacy’. I was overwhelmed.
Did you get the role in Gully Boy through an audition too?
The film happened because [director] Zoya Akhtar seen me in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0  and Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City . Zoya was a little apprehensive about my age if I was to play Ranveer Singh’s mother, but I convinced her I could pull it off.
Tell us about your Sacred Games 2 journey.
I want to experiment, do different types of roles. I had just cut my hair short, for the first time in my life, when I met Vikaramaditya Motwane and Varun Grover at the premiere of Nandita Das’s Manto. I later got a call from their casting director.
Before I went to audition for the role of KDY, my husband [actor-director] Sandesh Kulkarni, who played Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s father in Season 1, advised me to underplay it, don’t try to be a hero. RAW agents never have to display how extremely powerful they are, he said.
I got the role after one take. The greatest achievement for me is that this role is male in the book and the writing team made it female character, and it came to me.
How do you prepare for a role like this?
I always try to create as many details as possible. Before I started shooting as KDY, I was in Sri Lanka for a British web series and I saw a chameleon. Its eyelids were downward and I thought, this is KDY’s energy. While playing KDY I kept my eyes dull, spark-less, and it worked.
I have to manage my time more efficiently so that I get more time to sing and write. I had a column in a Marathi newspaper on mental health issues and also had a book on it. I want to meet Deepika Padukone and work with her on mental health issues. When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it was very difficult for me to handle. Playwright Vijay Tendulkar suggested psychotherapy and it helped me connect with my self and deal with life.