Bard of Blood Unit Still
“When we think of spies and agents and all these guys, they are so larger than life whether we consume them in films, books or even news channels when we hear about them, we sort of lose touch with their humanness, we forget that they are people who sweat and are scared in the face of death just like anybody else” says Sobhita Dhulipala on being about reflections that stayed with her after the show. Bard Of Blood set in Rajasthan and Ladakh and the make believe world of Balochistan narrates the story of the three agents and the many lives they cross on their journey. Excerpts from a conversation with actors Sobhita Dhulipala, Kirti Kulhari, Viineet Kumar and Emraan Hashmi tracing the journey and some reflections.
How different was working on Bard Of Blood from your previous work?
It’s definitely very different from what I’ve done before and I started only three years back but I’ve not done action before and the locations they were just so stunning that I think the locations were a character in itself and they really rendered a certain atmosphere to the whole show I really enjoyed it because it was my first time exploring the action genre with political undertones and I really enjoyed it.
Observations and learnings from set?
I didn’t grow up watching films. I think I missed out on a whole bunch of films that I would have probably liked, I watched twenty films until two years ago out of which eight are Harry Potter. When we think of spies and agents and all these guys, they are so larger than life whether we consume them in films, books or even news channels when we hear about them but we sort of lose touch with their humanity, we forget that they are people who sweat and are scared in the face of death just like anybody else and the journey of these three characters, when situations are not ideal and when temperaments are tested, I like that natural conflict that arises from those situations and since emotions are universal, I really enjoyed exploring those aspects.
How was it to play out your character?
There is so much stigma with regards to these matters- to be a woman wearing a burqa, holding a gun and shooting - it just puts so many things in perspective and the kind of looks I got from hotel guys in Rajasthan because I don’t think they knew we’re actors. It just deepened my empathy a lot more, it makes you realise that sometimes you get so caught up in being part of the majority or minority or taking a side but really at the end of the day people are just people and what we wear or how we project ourselves, I just hope people stay truly sensitive to how other people are.
Bard of Blood Unit Still
Describe the character Jannat in your own words.
Jannat is somebody who represents millions of the strong independent women that we have these days, she kind of personifies that. In an environment which isn’t ideal for a woman to be on her own and really find her full potential she fights for women's rights. She is an artist at heart and she studied in UK and she would have loved the pursuit painting as a career but seeing the situation back home she decides that she needs to stand up for whats much more important and bigger than herself and that takes a huge sacrifice from anybody man or a woman and she is someone who is very protective of her people and who can go to almost any extent to protect the people she loves.
How did you prepare for the role of Jannat?
When I was approached, it was very interesting the fact that Jannat was a Balochi girl and not an Indian girl. Because I have been playing an Indian girl and it's nice to play something else. And also I love Urdu in general and I’ve already done a play in Urdu so I had learnt a lot of Urdu then but then again this gave me a chance to do a lot of Urdu on screen which was again very exciting for me so I was learning that on the side. I watched a documentary on Balochistan and I tried to understand the way things are, the way people are, the way they talk, what they wear, what is the overall scenario in Balochistan and tried to understand it because Jannat is also fighting for the people there so i tried to understand that and tried to know a little bit more about balochistan.
The look was something that was very exciting for me, there was a separate colour pallate for the past and this was for the present and this is what has changed in her and all of that so yeah.
What’s next for you?
Four More Shots season two, I have just finished the Hindi remake of The Girl On The Train with Ribhu. I have another short film called Charu which I have done with Pravan Kripalani.
What work did you put in to create your character?
Every character is different from one another. Every character needs a preparation. Since there are seven episodes we get a lot of time to explore the layering and different elements of characters and as actor we get to dig really deep. In cinema we get a limited time but here we get more time which can be used so this gives everyone ample amount of time for character preparation. You get to know yourself as an actor and your limitations. Here I got to do a lot of things for the first time, I’ve never played a commando earlier. I’ve never shot in Ladakh before. As my character comes across different elements of Afghanistan it interacts with those experiences and learns from them and this is the kind of detailed preparation that it undergoes which obviously came with a lot of assistance from the directors, actors and writers.
What stayed with you from your shooting days?
While shooting there is trial and error but in real life there is no trial and error, one mistake and you can lose your life forever. Your family will only mourn your loss there after. They won’t be able to see you, feel you, touch you or spend time with you. And I’m aware that there are many people out there performing duties like these. My character Veer is an opium addict. I watched a lot of videos and saw the things people go through and their addiction I think that was one of the realisations which stayed with me.
Shah Rukh Khan with Emraan Hashmi
How was this character new and challenging for you?
I’ve never explored this space before, I’ve never played an espionage agent before. In hindi films I had got a couple of offers in the past, but such spaces are usually contaminated with five songs and any other things required of me, which is fine but they sometimes become speed breakers in the narrative so for this, first of all being a netflix show, so of course I was nervous. And seven episodes is a lot of work. It equals to almost two films!
Your thoughts on the Film vs Web Series debate?
In films you have to play within a certain boundary because a lot of producers are scared so they form a safety net ‘this actor has this sort of image so lets play that’ and you also somewhere get trapped into that. You might want to take a step and do something new but not many people support you on that. What Netflix gets is that creative freedom for people to express what they want completely without any sort of censorship through the writing stage of while making the film and thats been a joy. Because I feel a lot of things wouldn't have done justice in the film space.
What did you do to get into your character?
I’ve grown up watching Bond films so my preparation started in the 80s. Spy’s have come a long way. Agent Kabir comes with his own vulnerabilities, weaknesses, but the strength overcomes the weaknesses and you kind of see that journey.
I think the entire process of training for the character and getting into the zone I remember seeing an interview of an ex raw agent and he was saying that you never really know what fear is till you become a spy and no one really knows and these are the unsung heroes, in an enemy territory any slip, even the clothes you wear could give you away where there could be a bullet in the next corner. I think just understanding that we take our comfortable lives for granted living in our sheltered homes just understanding that there is a life out there that we can’t comprehend.
Text Priyanshi Jain