Zoya Hussain, the beautiful and confident actress who has made her debut in Anurag Kashyap’s forthcoming film ‘Mukkabaaz’. She got candid with us and shared her experiences and learning from the film. Read on…

How do you feel after watching the film screened in the film festival and what was the response that you received?

Watching a film in a film festival is always great fun because cinema lovers only go for these kinds of things. So they scrutinize your work, it’s a great place to get feedback, and Anurag’s following is obviously huge internationally and in film festivals. So everyone was looking forward to watch this film.  The Mami was such a great experience because it was the first time when Anurag’s film was played at an Indian film festival, so it was great fun.  It was truly an experience, it was a posh and intellectual film festival, but it was like watching a film in a single screen or like cinema where people were going nuts.  They were getting all the jokes, they were getting everything about the film; the energy was just next level. It was amazing.

How did you come on board for ‘Mukkabaaz’?

I had initially met Anurag, and my background is theater so I had written something, and I wanted him to give me feedback on it and also I secretly wanted him to act in it. He hated it when he read it but he gave me a lot of feedback on it and said it’s great but just develop it. I didn’t tell him much about myself because I thought everyone must be hounding him and I was just conscious, very introvert , and it was very awkward like how would I say – I want to work with him. He saw this film that I did ‘Teen Aur Aadha’ which was in the Kerela film festival right now and various other places. He saw that and then eventually spoke about it saying I was really good in it and he will definitely work with me. So when I heard that I behaved normal because I heard that so many times before. But I didn’t know if he was being serious or no. So he sent me the script and then I read it but I was confused, because I thought ‘is he sending me the script because he wants me to be in it or he has sent it so I can give him feedback?’  Then later he called me and asked why I didn’t take it seriously. After that my reaction was completely different.  It was like I couldn’t believe.

How was it to be Sunaina Mishra in the film, tell us about her and what similarity did you find in the character?

There were a lot of similarities, the essence if I may say probably that’s why I was cast also. Sunaina even though she is mute from a small town girl she still has lot to say. She doesn’t want people to view her as mute, as being this quite demur girl because she is not, she is not obnoxious, she is not aggressive, independent but she wants her point to be put across. Because she makes an effort to understand people so why don’t they understand her, we all know what the state of a woman in this country is – it’s so extremely unsafe, it isn’t gender equal, there are so many problems, apart from the existing problems. And we all have seen in the film, such great films have been made on it. So with this film we want to show if a girl is given an opportunity if her husband is secured, if her boyfriend is secured, he doesn’t mind that she earns more than him and also her family is supporting her so she can make something as her way out; and that’s what we wanted to show in this film.  And it’s also about her frustration of being a girl, and then being a mute girl and then she is like how does she do it because she is under the thumb of her uncle for various reasons and that’s why she is attracted to Sharvan. Because the first time she sees that this guy stands up for her and not scared of anyone.

To play a mute character, what are the difficulties you came across?

To get into the character wasn’t tough in terms of essence and that’s when your director comes in and when you have Anurag, I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. The sign language part was difficult  because I was very sure I have to learn it, so I didn’t want to learn and do a half work and I didn’t want to just learn my lines because these guys are nuts at improvising , they are simply good. And I didn’t want to leave behind, I wanted to hold on. And all the actors in this film are such amazing actors so when you are in an Anurag Kashyap movie, you know you have to bring it. So preparation for me was fantastic, the sign language I learnt from Sangeeta Gala, she is fantastic; she has done all the big movies ‘Black’, ‘Barfi’,’ Shamitabh’, she is such a low profile person even though she has done so many big films.  She really helped me, she is deaf herself and spending time with her, seeing how she conducts her life; so all this was really inspiring.  A lot of that was my preparation but of course you can’t practice your emotions, but through your workshop, one can know how to tap on these, how I get into the character, switch on/switch off. So, all these things were really interesting to learn from someone like Anurag.

What’s been your learning from this film?

Anurag’s focus is to be real, honest and to be in the moment, and he really stresses on be in the moment, my biggest learning from this film has been to be in the moment and bring in most honesty in one’s performance and just be it. And to be natural and be in the moment and you really get the best then.  He is very hands on, caring, to the entire crew, and he is very open to collaboration which is – he knows what he wants and what he can do, but if  you can do something and do it in a different way and you bring it to the table, he is more than  happy; so that’s really good.

What do you think about sports drama films how important it is to make such films?

I think any movie on any topic that brings light to this country is great thing.  I think it’s really good, especially in commercial movies.  In ‘Mukkabaaz’ in particular it’s not a sports film, it’s a love story, but the backdrop is boxing and it’s a love story set in a small town. It’s set in a particular socio – economic background. It has all layered problems; it’s about a lot more.

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