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‘As an actor, I like to bring something of my own to the table’

Culture‘As an actor, I like to bring something of my own to the table’

Model-turned-actor Anchal Singh is receiving a lot of praise for her performance in the Netflix series ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’ wherein she plays the complex part of a powerful politician’s peremptory daughter who will do anything to possess the man she loves. Hailing from Chandigarh, Anchal has previously worked in various regional Indian film industries as well as in Sri Lanka. She is known for the films like ‘Dhilluku Dhuddu,’ ‘Zakhmi,’ and ‘Sri Siddhartha Gautama’ and the Sony Liv series ‘Undekhi’. She has done more than 300 television commercials.
In this interview, she talks about her part in ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’ and the preparation that went into it, the chemistry she shares with Tahir Raj Bhasin, her collaboration with writer-director Sidharth Sengupta, and her influences and inspirations.
Q. You have been receiving a lot of praise for your part of Purva in ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’. How did you get associated with the series? 
A. Well, I had previously worked with Sidharth Sengupta Sir, who is the creator, writer, and director of ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein,’ on his earlier show titled ‘Undekhi’. So while he was auditioning a lot of other people for ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein,’ I too had got a call from his team. But when I auditioned at that time I was told that there would be a lot of intimate scenes in series. At the time I wasn’t very comfortable and so the idea of casting me for the part of Purva was dropped. After a few months, I got a call from Sidharth Sir who asked me to audition again. He gave me a day to prepare and told me if everything went well then the shooting would start in six days. He also assured me that he would personally look into the scenes and address the issues I wasn’t comfortable with. His assurance gave me a lot of comfort. So I took a day and prepared for it. They liked my audition and so I finally got selected.
Q. Did you have any references for the part of Purva? Also tell us about your preparation.
A. Now, I just had a week before the shoot and I put in a lot of hard work to utilize the time. I had to do workshops with Dibyendu Bhattacharya Sir. And, I regularly interacted with Sidharth Sir and Varun Badola Sir also helped me with my preparation. Also, I took Zumba classes as it was a requirement for the part.
Interestingly, I didn’t have any reference point for Purva and that was deliberate. Sidharth Sir had specifically told me that he wanted Purva to come from within. He wanted a version of Purva that I could give him. And when your director shows that kind of confidence in you it helps you greatly. Now, from our discussions, it became evident that he didn’t want her to be cunning, bad woman. Another very interesting thing about her that was communicated to me which I also felt while I was portraying her was how sincerely she was in love with this boy. So that is not questionable at all. You can see it in her eyes, the way she looks at him. Now, I always tell that the sweetness of Purva comes from Anchal. So that was my bit which I brought to the table from my own being.
Q. What kind of off camera interactions did you have with Tahir Raj Bhasin with whom you share a very interesting chemistry in the Netflix series?
A. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any interactions with Tahir before the shot. We had formally met once in the office. Maybe we could have spent more time talking to each other but in the hindsight I feel that it was just right for our characters. You see, our chemistry is on and off. It is very one-sided. It is intimidating and weird. It is beautiful but a bit creepy. So, it actually worked that we didn’t know each other that well to begin with.
Q. Rapport and trust usually take time to build. Now, you previously collaborated with Sidharth Sengupta on ‘Undekhi’. How do you compare the two collaborations?
A. Yes, indeed. During the making of ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein,’ I had a lot more interactions with Sidharth Sir in comparison to ‘Undekhi’ as this time he was also the director other than being the writer and the creator. As of today, I completely trust his vision and I understand that he loves to tell pulpy stories with lots of complications and twists and turns. He has sort of created his own genre with ‘Apharan’ and ‘Undekhi’ and now ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’. So with ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein,’ I totally surrendered to his vision trust his vision but I did ask a lot of questions. As an actor, I like to bring something of my own to the table and as a director he gives you the space to create alongside with him. He also wants you to think about the character. How and why a character is behaving in a certain way. I have learnt so much from him while working on ‘Undekhi’ and ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’. In fact, I can say the same about Tahir, Shweta, Anant, and Surya. We all look up to him. And, he has been able to get the best out of us. When I see myself as Purva on the screen I really get amazed.
Q. Your first film ‘Sri Siddhartha Gautama’ became the highest grosser in the history of Sri Lankan cinema. What was it like to work on that project?
A. Well, it was a great experience because as an artist I never want to be confined to a certain industry whether due to barriers of language or vulture. So this was really the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone to be a part of another culture and do this larger than life sort of a spiritual film. It’s a film that’s so close to the Buddhist culture, so close to the people in Sri Lanka and in fact all around the world. I learnt so much while working on that project because it was really the first time that I was on a film set. As a matter of fact when I finished shooting for my part I stayed back so that I can observe and understand the responsibilities of different departments whether it is costume, writing, direction, or production. There was so much to learn and absorb and I am very grateful to Sri Lanka for loving me with open hearts.
Q. Tell us about your influences and inspirations.
A. Speaking of the Mumbai film industry, I hugely admire Rajkumar Hirani Sir, Zoya Akshtar Ma’am. Also adding to the Tamil industry, I am a big fan of Kamal Haasan Sir, Mani Ratnam Sir, A R Rahman Sir, and Dhanush. The list is huge. Honestly, I draw inspiration from almost everybody. And one of the reasons that I wanted to be an actor was that I realized by performing for someone you can move them, you can make them smile, and you can make them cry. You can make them feel hundred emotions while just sitting on a couch. So that power of an artist is something that I want to give because I have gotten so much from everybody, whether I have attended a concert or whether I have seen any movie about an inspirational character, or whether I have heard an inspiring speech. Anybody who does something from their heart touches me and I feel that as an artist if I can do that even to one person then I will feel truly grateful. In fact, I have been watching this series on Netflix called ‘Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,’ which is about an African American washerwoman who rises from poverty and moves to the top. When I saw that film I was in tears. So, I get influenced and inspired very easily but in the right way.

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