Chhorii actor Mita Vashisht never knew she won award for Drishti: 'I read it online 20-25 years later'

  • Mita Vashisht, who plays a prominent role in Nushrratt Bharuccha-starrer Chhorii, talks about her work and how it has changed.
Mita Vashisht and Nushrratt Bharuccha in a still from Chhorii. 
Mita Vashisht and Nushrratt Bharuccha in a still from Chhorii. 
Updated on Nov 28, 2021 07:12 AM IST
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ByRuchi Kaushal

Mita Vashisht, who plays Bhanno Devi in latest horror film, Chhorii, has come a long way in her more than 30-year-long career but still believes in doing her homework for every single character she plays. Mita is seen with Nushrratt Bharuccha in the film which was shot during the pandemic in sugarcane fields. A familiar face, Mita has played all from a negative character in Taal to a terrorist in Dil Se.

In a chat with Hindustan Times, Mita shared her experiences: from shooting her latest release Chhorii during the pandemic to how things have changed for her over the years. Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us more about Chhorii and your role in the film?

Nushrratt has come to a strange forest, trying to find some security. The name of the forest is Bhanno Devi, which is also my character, if I talk allegorically. She is powerful and like the dark force of nature. She is like a mysterious Amazon forest. While the forest is very powerful, you can either feel safe in that power or feel a little scared in that power. There is nothing about her that is ordinary in many ways. Whether Nushrratt's character gets nurtured or is devoured will be known only in the film. 

Was the film shot in a forest?

We shot it in sugarcane fields in Madhya Pradesh and the sugarcanes were very tall – 7-7.5 ft tall. A little clearing was made and the set was created amid acres of sugarcanes. Nothing was around except sugarcanes, a town was there atleast a kilometre away. 

Did you face any difficulty in shooting at such a location?

We shot during the pandemic and our producers were super protective. We were flown to Bhopal in a private aircraft. Every actor was given a separate car with their staff, there was no mixing up so in case anyone got Covid, they knew which section to isolate. Fortunately no one was infected. Everyone, including the director, was wearing PPE suits and it was so hilarious because after some days of wearing those suits, the guys from the makeup department had made little frills at the base of his PPE suit and slowly people had started making geometric patterns in their suits. 

You play a policewoman in new web show, Your Honor. It’s a powerful role which you have played quite a few times. Do you do some sort of research or it just comes to you now since you are an expert in the field?

As an actor I am trained and have a lot of experience but of course I do a lot of home work. There is lot of hard work which is pure labour that goes into preparing for every role. For Bhanno Devi, I worked a lot on the language even though I am half Haryanvi and familiar with the language. I brought some of my own experiences of listening to my grandmother and added certain phrases which were not a part of the script. But other than that, it’s pure labour. You have to sit and do the physical learning of lines, making sure the accent is correct. I like to work on the nuances of a character that the audience is left happy and have been surprised and haven’t got that they are used to getting. 

Are you satisfied with the recognition that comes your way or you feel your talent needs to be recognised more when we talk about awards. 

Not really. The funny thing is I didn’t know I had won the Film Journalists' Association Award years ago for 1991 film Drishti as Best Supporting Actress. I read it online about 20-25 years later. I called up director Govind Nihalani to confirm. I don’t know why that happened. I was about to google something and got to know two decades after winning it. It’s funny. My award is you asking me this question. 

May be if I had done roles – I think roles get awarded for what they stand for. I don’t think about it anymore. When you are much younger, you want awards and recognition. Over the years, you realise your body of work is nurtured, celebrated and being talked about 20-30 years later. Not just a role here or there but every role being seen as nice or award worthy. 

Sometimes there is a lot of calculation behind it. I have been on juries of some film festivals and I know, sometimes, awards are quite random. It’s like – we have given an award to lead actor for this film, can’t give supporting actor as well – give that to some other film. If I am up for an award for the second lead, I know I will not get the award until the lead actor gets an award for the film. Its like bad policy for a lot of reasons. It’s okay. 

You have worked for more than 30 years. What change do you find in working on Swabiman, Dil Se, Taal and now with the younger generation in Your Honor or Chhorii. 

Technology is the main changeIn early days, they had 35mm which was expensive stock. It changed the way people treated every single thing on the shot. You couldn’t run the camera endlessly. You had to calculate how much is that role going to cost you. In that sense, all my art films were shot on the basis of 2:1, i.e. you get two-three takes, you don’t get 20 takes to get it right. The onus on getting the take right was huge on me as a young actor. But there was a certain sense of excitement, when the film camera rolled, there was a certain sound ‘grrrr’, you could hear the film rolling. That was an amazing experience. It was like a countdown to a rocket launch. It used to make a difference to everybody’s work. 

Also read: Chhorii movie review: Nushrratt Bharuccha’s feminist heroine shows rural horrors their place

There wasn’t a video to go back to see how was I looking. Now even when the director asks me if I want to see the shot, I say ‘no’ because I don’t want to. 

Digital allows you to do different takes and experiment right there. It gets a little physically exhausting, if not a little irritating, if the director isn’t prepared about the details and wants shots from different angles. Since the equipment is so easily available now, I have to ask many more questions even they are offering a lot of money. Who are they, can I see their earlier work, what is it like, I have that where they are planning to release it, who is the producer.

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Friday, January 21, 2022