In a candid conversation with life, Nair shares more about her experience of working with Meghna Gulzar and Deepika Padukone and what made her choose the role.
How was it working with Meghna Gulzar and Deepika Padukone?
Nair: Working in "Chhapaak" has truly been an incredible journey. Both Meghna ma'am and Deepika are not just at their best right now in terms of their choice of cinema but are also great human beings.
Meghna ma'am is such a sensitive and a wonderful director to work with. She is so sure of what she wants from her actors and she provides you that environment on and off the set where you can deliver your best because that's what she wants from her team. And who wouldn't be in awe of Deepika Padukone? Right from the time I met her for the first reading session, till we wrapped up the film, she was an amazing co-actor and is a wonderful human being.
At no point did we feel that we are working with Bollywood's superstar or one of the producers of "Chhapaak". She would be the first one to arrive on the set everyday as her prosthetics would easily take three hours and would also give us cues on pure close ups. She was there for everyone and everything.
What made you choose "Chhapaak"? What stood out for you as an artiste?
Nair: Well quite frankly, "Chhapaak" choose me and I did not choose "Chhapaak". I mean as an actor, I didn't have that option. I think it just came in my way and I am most thankful for that. I auditioned for the part of Shiraz Jamshedji and there it was. That's how I got the role. I am most grateful to the casting director Gautam and Meghna ma'am for picking me up for the project and so it is not the other way round. Shiraz's ideologies resonate with me. Her selflessness approach to help those in need resonated with me. As an artist, that is what made the role even more special.
Did you interact with real-life acid survivors who were part of the movie? Or any special session conducted by the team for the same?
Nair: Unfortunately, the day that Lakshmi Agarwal, the acid attack survivor, visited our set, I wasn't shooting and so couldn't meet her. We also have four real acid survivors who have acted in the film.
These women have been a part of the film promotions and social drives such as "Ab ladna hai" and "Muh Dikhai" along with Deepika Padukone. Besides this, Meghna Gulzar and Deepika Padukone, also as the producers, have been doing lot in terms of spreading the awareness about the acid violence against women on various platforms also.
Do you think these kind of real life stories will inspire people to stand up and fight against the injustice?
Nair: When real stories turn into cinema, they do spread awareness and definitely make people conscious. It also inspires them to take up the issue in whatever capacity they can. After the release of "Chhapaak" in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry, the government declared the film as tax free in their states. The state of Uttarakhand announced pension scheme for acid survivors. So this is a landmark... the change should and will happen. Maybe slowly, but it's inevitable.
After the movie, you think more actions will be taken and laws will be strengthened to punish the culprits?
Nair: Stricter laws and punishment is needed to check these crimes. Despite Supreme Court's ruling to regulate the acid sale in the country, it's shocking that it's still easily available over the counter. However, at the very core, it is the mindset of people that needs to change. Society needs to stop treating women as a commodity and gender equality is the need of the hour.
Do these movies help in changing the society?
Nair: Cinema is not just about entertainment, films such as "Chhapaak" can and has started a dialogue to bring about change in the mindset of people at large and especially policy makers.
Any future projects?
Nair: There is so much exciting content today. Waiting for filmmakers to offer good and meaningful roles to me. I am so hungry to do good work. I think this is the best time for actors.
(Puja Gupta can be contacted at puja.g@.in)
( With inputs from IANS )