Mita: The scene stealer
Seldom are 30-plus female actors in Bollywood given a chance to prove their worth as dependable characters who could carry a film on their shoulders. Save, perhaps, the quintessential mother who mopes, wines and mouths lengthy monologues or the do-gooder bhabhi who sacrifices her last penny to bail out her family’s honour (yawn).
It thus comes as a surprise to see an immensely gifted but neglected actor like Mita Vasisht hogging a major chunk of screen space in debutant director Deepak Tijori’s Oops!- a film hyped as a sleaze special.
And what a delight she is, paving the way for 40 plus actors to carve yet another niche for themselves, a la Shabana in Godmother, Kiron Kher in Sardari Begum or a Jaya Bachchan in Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa.
In the past, she has been applauded for her work in Mani Kaul’s Siddheshwari and Khayal Gatha, The Idiot and Kasba, Govind Nihalani’s Drohkaal and in small but important roles in Vikram Bhatt directed Ghulam, Mani Rathnam’s Dil Se, Nihalani directed Drishti, Subhash Ghai’s Taal and Mahesh Manjrekar’s Pitaah. Yet stardom eluded her always.
Sadly, she has always remained in the sidelines while sometimes getting a raw deal too, when her presence made the lead actors insecure, leading to her power-packed performances getting axed at the editing table to accommodate more saleable names’ future.
Categorising her in the midst of star-performers may not be done, since her repertoire is small. And she hasn’t exactly hit the bull’s eye ever with fans thronging at the theatres to see her face. But then that is where her strength lies – for she is non glamorous, never the type to ooze sex appeal in a rain drenched sequence and even then, has an arresting persona with tremendous screen presence.
In Oops!, Vasisht, who plays mother to Vikas Sethi, another debutant who enjoys dancing for a lark, despite belonging to a comfortably rich family, is not the archetypical Hindi film heroine here. Neither is she Mother India, whose life history is chronicled from 16 to 60.
What could have easily turned into a negative role has her playing a loner-a wife whose husband and son have no time for her even on her birthdays – who walks away with all the viewers’ sympathy as she communicates passion, disgust, loneliness even lust with her mesmerizing and hypnotic appeal of her eyes alone.
And while living the role of this woman who pines for sexual gratification, Vasisht offers no moral judgement, nor justification for her actions. Despite all this, she remains the controlled desirous society woman, who finds a way out to kill her ennui and boredom.
Any other actor with a lesser degree of competence would have reduced the role to mere wickedness. But Vasisht rises above the script and delivers a fine balance between her longing and shrewd convenience of an opportunity when a young man catches her fancy as a tool to satisfy her subdued desire, little knowing that he happens to be her son’s ‘best’ buddy.
When the truth dawns on her about the young man’s identity, her seasoned expressive range captures every subtle nuance that a woman, rather a mother - would experience, both emotionally and physically without resorting to melodramatic histrionics.
Surely, in the overcrowded world of either skimpily-clad starlets who make a living out of their pelvic thrusts and gyrations, or the two-song-and-one dance-in-the-Alps-and-two scene-wonders, Kareenas and Amishas, Vasisht comes as a whiff of fresh air, raising hopes that all is not decaying or dead in Bollywood.
Clearly, a winner all the way. A dark horse who takes over. And a ‘star’!