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Amyra Dastur Interview: It was Emotionally Draining to Play Ada in ‘Tandav’

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For years, actor Amyra Dastur’s character arcs have followed a generic trajectory. The actor who has played the role of a happy-go-lucky in the past has broken away from familiar territory to be Ada, a dark and mysterious character in Tandav, an upcoming Hindi political drama series on Amazon Prime Video. 

The show, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, is a fictional tale about the power politics in India. Dastur’s co-stars in the show include established Hindi actors like Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Sunil Grover and Tigmanshu Dhulia.

Dastur, who first made her debut with Ishaaq in 2013, says she is beyond thrilled to be working on OTT platforms since its boom in consumption among Indian audiences. 

Although she has played many critically acclaimed roles like Tara in Rajma Chawal (2018), Siya Verma in Mr. X (2015), Madhu in Anegan (2015) and web series like Ira in Trip 2 (2018), she speaks to Silverscreen India about the experiences she had on the sets of Tandav

Amyra in the role of Ada

 

Ada seems to be different from all the characters you played before. What conversation did Zafar and you have before you were confirmed for the role?

I loved playing something that I had probably never played in my entire career. I remember meeting Zafar and asking whether he was sure since I had never played a character like this before. Surprisingly, he showed a lot of confidence and said that was why he wanted to cast me. He said to me that as a director he wants to put actors in situations where they aren’t comfortable. For instance, Sunil sir’s character is not something he has done before. That’s what Zafar has done for all of us. He said, “Let’s just throw that out of the window and put you in situations that will make you uncomfortable”, thus giving us a chance to prove ourselves.

How similar is Ada to you? 

She was absolutely different from and anything I have ever done. She is the opposite of who I am. It was definitely a challenge for me, a great challenge. It was emotionally draining to play her. I am so used to sort of playing myself on the screen which is a little more bubbly, fun and positive. But with Ada, it was a complete shift in personality. As you know, something really horrible has happened to her and there’s this dark thing looming over her all the time. So, to be a character which is sort of paranoid constantly doesn’t help putting one in a good space.

After coming back to Mumbai, I felt very down. I went back to my parents’ house and my sisters and brother came, just talking to them brought me back to Amyra. I am glad I had them around because getting out from Ada was definitely a task. 

How did you overcome the challenge and prepare for the role? 

I didn’t have to do much research. I just put myself in a shell of sorts. I literally disconnected from everyone in my life for a month. I remember texting all my friends and my mother one day. I said, “Mumma, I am sorry, and I love you but I just want to be in a place where I am completely alone”.

It helped me relate to Ada as she is an introvert. She is someone who is very guarded and has had a dark past. I wanted to create a space where I felt very low. That is basically how I prepared for this. I remember speaking to Zafar sir and Himangshu (Himangshu Kishan Mehra) about giving out more details regarding my character. They said that they needed to keep my character under lapse as much as possible because she is extremely instrumental in the series. As the series progresses, you will see why we have hidden Ada away.

When we see the teaser of Tandav, it has many political vibes. What were some of the issues that you discussed while shooting? 

I know, the trailer makes it look like it has lots to do with politics, but Tandav is essentially a lot about the characters. The story is more about the people, their hardships and the situations that one often finds oneself in.

Yes, there is an amazing political backdrop and we did shoot in Delhi, which is the base of politics. However, I would not say that it’s only about politics. You have to see how each character progresses. That is what Tandav is. It’s more of a battle with self than any sort of political battle that everyone is seeing. The show is about a family with a strange sort of love. It also asks how far one will go to take care of the people that they love.

You play the role of Kritika Kamra’s sister in the series. What was the on and off-screen chemistry with her? 

She is a very good friend of mine, I absolutely adore her, and I think she is a brilliant actress. When we found out that we are going to play sisters and she was like, “Ooh, that’s going to be easy. That’s not a problem”. Her character and mine are very different. It’s her character that really takes care of Ada in the series. I think that came out really well in the show and at the end of the day, off-camera, we had lots of fun. 

Kritika Kamra is from Delhi. Which new places did she introduce you to during the time of shooting in Delhi? 

Kamra was in Delhi before me, and the first thing that I told her was, “Babe, I want my golgappas”. Kamra knows Delhi very well. She took me to many foodie places. I have a thing for silver jewellery, so she took me to narrow lanes, where she used to shop during her college days. She took care of me as a sister would. You will see that bond and chemistry on-screen too. 

You have been in loads of feature films and this is one of your major OTT releases. How was the experience, in terms of dealing with a single character for a long time? 

At the end of the day, it’s really hard because you are playing one character for a slightly longer time than the amount you put in for a feature film’s character. But when it comes to Zafar’s direction, I remember we would pack up two or three hours before the scheduled time. And I was so surprised. It’s the first time in my life that we have not worked overtime and we have finished earlier. 

I think it usually depends on the director. Zafar would decide, plan on the rehearsals before shooting. He would direct us and plan the camera work in such a way that we would never lose time. We saved so much time during the shoot. It was a lot of fun.

What do you feel about the release? Are you nervous?

I am not nervous at all. I am super excited because I finished binge-watching everything online.

Talks were on, to name the show Dilli instead of Tandav. Which name were you in support of? 

No, no, it has always been Tandav. Though there was a lot of chitchat on naming the show Dilli, then finally we came back to Tandav.

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