Anjali Patil

“I hadn’t seen his films. You told me about his work," Anjali Patil, who was most recently seen in Newton (2017), remembers when I call her to ask if working on Pa. Ranjith’s Kaala was on the lines of what she had expected.

“His politics was good enough for me to say ‘yes’. Also, when you have heard so much about Rajinikanth, you want to see for yourself all the things said about him and want to experience them first-hand. As an artist, when you meet, you learn by just looking at him work," she says.

Anjali Patil.
Anjali Patil.

Can we look at Kaala without the lens of politics? No, says Patil. “Everything is political. A man-woman equation is political. I can’t say I don’t want to be political and I like it when the roles I pick reflect a political reality— whether I’m playing someone from the Tamil minority in a Sri Lankan film or a Marathi girl in a film based on the migration of Tamil people to Dharavi here. There’s politics involved," she says.

“But then, I haven’t seen the film and don’t know how deep it would be, but I am not expecting it to be hard-core. It’s not a film that will lead to a huge liberation or something. Nor did Newton. But I can say this. There is a lot of pressure for Ranjith to take someone like Rajinikanth and make something issue-based. But I think there’s balance. From what I’ve seen, Ranjith has managed to keep the nuances in relationships between people real," she adds.

Huma Qureshi

The women in the film are strong characters, believes Huma Qureshi, who plays Rajinikanth’s romantic interest in the film, and hadn’t watched Kabali until much later into the shoot of Kaala. “Even if it’s a masala film, the heart of the story is pure. There was a certain clarity in terms of how Ranjith Sir saw the world. It is a very, very political film, at this crucial time of what’s happening in the country, in terms of moral cleanliness…so even if it politically touches upon a lot of things, it is emotional and entertaining. And the most important thing, it’s not preachy."

Huma Qureshi.
Huma Qureshi.

When she got a call to do the role, she thought Dhanush, the producer of the film, was joking. “To do a film with Rajinikanth is in every actor’s bucket list. It was something I had to be part of. I signed the film and I saw Kabali much later," she adds.

Is Kaala very different from Kabali? “It’s different. It’s more impactful, I think," says Qureshi.

“I don’t want to give away too much of the story or the plot. So I can just say, there’s a lot of meat to the character I’m playing, which can loosely be called love interest. She is strong and endearing. She’s politically aware and there’s a tenderness to her. Good writer-directors like Ranjith Sir write strong roles for women. And Zarina is absolutely that," says Qureshi.

Qureshi, who lives in Mumbai’s Bandra suburb, says the entire experience of shooting in Dharavi was an eye-opener. “I live close to it…. We shot the film in the heart of Dharavi. I got an insight into how people live, how people work and how people of different communities live together…. There were Tamil (colonies), Telugu communities… I never knew there’s so much going on there that we don’t even realize."

‘Kaala’ is scheduled to release worldwide on 7 June.

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