From Dipika to Ruku under Harish Agastya
May 14, 2016 Harish Agastya / Kamala Subramaniam / Michael Frayn / Noises Off / Rabbit Hole
It has been my greatest pleasure to essay two roles under the excellent tutelage of Harish Sunderam Agastya. Two roles on either end of the spectrum. From vastly different genres. With the same OCD, minute-detail-picking, exasperating-with-accuracy director. And to detail every little nuance in Noises Off takes all these qualities and more. I couldn’t think of anyone else better fit for this job. One must think I have sadomasochistic tendencies. Perhaps, I do, but if it leads me to being a better actress, I’ll take it.
When I got chosen to play Dipika in Rabbit Hole, Harish asked me to take my usual self, put it in a bottle, and stay contained. If I were to cry I could only have a tear brimming on my lashes. Tears falling over would be an effrontery to the character of Dipika. Anger could only be reflected with a cold, low-decibel tone. Hands needed to move not more than 2 inches from the body.
When I got chosen to play Ruku in Noises Off, Harish asked me to take my usual self out of the bottle and run around like a headless chicken that had just overdosed on meth.
Dipika was not very far from my regular self. She was in her 30s, with kids the same age, living in a similar place, with the same familial ties. She was dressed in my favorite colors of grey and white and had a darkness that was both scary and soul-stirring. Ruku, my God, is a character larger than life. She is dressed in colors I wouldn’t be caught dead in – vivid hues of orange, red, and leopard. She is younger, with big hair, wide stretched arms, crazy laugh, and an over-the top personality that is so different from my regular self. Which is why it is a TRIP playing her!
To portray Ruku who has been cast in Nothing On (the play within Noises Off) as a bad actress only with the help of a couch, is hard. We are accustomed to delivering lines that way it was written, but playing Ruku means you must cast away that natural tendency of trying to act good, and be really bad.
Ruku does everything a bad actor will likely do – establish eye contact with the audience, Dipika taught me to grow as an actress. To have that character on my resume, is an honor. Ruku teaches me to grow as a person. Each time I slip into Ruku – who is dumb as a bat, unapologetic to a fault, unfazed when the world around her is collapsing, and comfortable in her own skin, I learn that being yourself is the best gift you can reward youself. Because Ruku teaches all of us that what others think of you, is simply none of your business.