Pain Is Real, But So Is Hope
Dipika is a character standing still wondering why the rest of the world is whizzing past her.
Depending on the role, there are challenges sometimes set by the author, the director, the actor, and sometimes even the audience. All of this holds true for Dipika.
Let me first cover mine – the actor’s challenge. It’s not the biggest, but it’s the most real.
As an actor my personal biggest challenge was playing any parent’s worst nightmare. I distinctly remember the night we had parents, who had lost their 2 year old to cancer, over for dinner. It had been a year and finally we had the courage – not for them, but for us – to call them over. Over paneer, puris and a bottle of good red, we dodged any mention of their child, or even ours. If they brought it up, we assumed it was a slip of the tongue and we deftly changed the topic. Boy, we were so proud of the game of dodgeball we played that night.
Until the next morning, when the mother posted (obviously a Huffington Post) article about 21 ways (always an odd number, right?) to talk to grieving parents. Where else – but on Facebook. It was like I was slapped. The #1 point was that they WANT to talk about their child. That is how they keep him alive. Ensure he is not forgotten. I could go into all the 21 points, but that’s another blog post in itself. Besides, you will be watching the play where you will see several of these.
My unnamed friends along with Dipika and Avi the parents in Rabbit Hole, have taught me about despair and how to conquer it with hope. About strength, compassion, and the power of a family.
David Lindsay-Abaire as the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Rabbit Hole has, without doubt, set up the most challenges and theatrical traps for his protagonist Becca aka Dipika Sharma.
To play a protagonist that is by design not the most likeable character despite her terrible circumstances and yet gain the audience’s empathy is the first trap for Dipika. You will find her distant from her husband, Avi, judgmental of her sister, Ishu, and rude to her mother, Nandini. Sporting a holier than thou attitude, she is not a character you will instantly fall in love with at first glance.
But that will last only until you notice how she balances her terrible circumstances with her sense of humor. How she employs it to nail-biting effect to hide her inexplicable grief. And how despite everything she manages to find irony and humor in the surreal situations of her life.
The director (as well as the author) wants her to be portrayed as someone who has isolated herself in her grief in what is perhaps her way to cope. As the play progresses, you will notice she has erected a formidable wall around her. In an age of meta-theatrics, to portray very little emotions and yet reveal the several underlying layers will be Dipika’s second challenge.
But as we peel the several layers of Dipika, you will also see that beneath all the sarcasm, irony, and nail-biting humor she has a genuine interest in the happiness and well-being of her family. In Dipika’s inimitable, blink-and-you-will-miss-it style, you will see her happiness for her sister, sympathy towards her mother, and concern for her grieving spouse.
When I first approached playing Dipika, little did I realize that there were the above said traps. I assumed my biggest challenge would be playing a role Nicole Kidman immortalized on the silver screen and considering how different the movie is from the play, I screamed foul for the comparisons and stated I’d rather be compared to Cynthia Nixon (Miranda from Sex and the City) who won the Tony for the role. Perhaps this will be my challenge from the audience.
Regardless of the challenges, dear audience, and whether we do a good job of conquering them, eventually what will endear you to Dipika is her most important quality – that she realizes that while everyone else’s grief and grieving styles are different from hers, they all have equal depth and complexity. Unfortunately for her though, she is not afforded the same luxury by her family members.
Rabbit Hole is, without a doubt, the most beautiful script in the heart-warming genre I’ve come across.
It is not an entitlement but a privilege to be playing Dipika along with a stellar cast. I hope you will come see Dipika rise and overcome these challenges. If she makes you leave with stinging eyes, and a smiling face, the credit will totally belong to David Lindsay-Abaire and our director Harish Agastya. Indiscretions, if any, will of course be mine.