Revathi Pillai: Social media plays a huge role in the life of an actor

Actors Anushka Sen and Revathi Pillai discuss their latest young-adult drama alongside director Debbie Rao, the childhood visits to their grandparents, and more
Revathi Pillai (left), Anushka Sen (middle), and Elisha Mayor (right)
Revathi Pillai (left), Anushka Sen (middle), and Elisha Mayor (right)

Nostalgia can bring some short-lived joy. It can be induced by certain sights, like the street that leads to your school or the familiar bells of an ice cream seller. It is also invoked through specific instances, as in Prime Video’s Dil Dosti Dilemma, where the lead character Asmara, played by Anushka Sen, visits her grandparents for the summer vacations. There is an element of sweetness and old-school comfort attached to it. Even for Sen, when she was a teenager, her holidays were spent with her grandparents. “I used to play cards and go out shopping with them,” she says. However, with time, the visits became less frequent as she started acting in television shows like Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli (2009) and Baal Veer (2012), among others. “Once the promotions for Dil Dosti Dilemma are done, I will go and watch the show with my grandparents,” she says with an earnest glow in her eyes.

For Revathi Pillai, who plays Asmara’s best friend Naina in the show, visiting her grandparents during holidays involved taking Malayalam lessons from them. “They used to force me to learn Malayalam. And eventually everyone gave up on me, and we just started talking in Hindi. So, today, if my Hindi is good, it is only because of them,” she reflects. Over the years, the actor has featured in many young-adult shows, but she is primarily known for playing Vartika in TVF’s Kota Factory (2019). In Dil Dosti Dilemma, her character is caught in the middle of maintaining a certain image on social media, which pits her against her friends. The show talks about superficial appearances put on by youngsters online and how these appearances affect their interpersonal relationships.

Pillai and Sen are quite active on social media themselves and are regular in posting updates about their upcoming projects, among other details from their personal lives. Pillai feels that social media plays a huge role in the life of an actor. “For the longest time, I thought that what you bring on the screen is what matters, but times have changed,” she says. “Instagram didn't play a major role 10 years ago, but now it does. I look at it as the only place where I can remain close to the people who like to watch me on screen.” On the other hand, Sen thinks of it like her journal. “It is like a diary for me, and that’s why I post a lot on Instagram. If I am travelling or doing something, I want to share it with my fans because they are like my friends.”

The lives led on-screen and off-screen become the cause of some trouble in the show. Asmara lies to her friends about being in Canada by video calling them every day with an image of skyscrapers in the background on her walls. The stay at her grandparent’s place is not a casual, yearly visit; it is a punishment for her rude behaviour. Asmara’s parents want her to go back to her roots and understand life beyond the many privileges she enjoys. The show is adapted from Andaleeb Wajid’s coming-of-age novel Asmara’s Summer, and director Debbie Rao was concerned not to portray Asmara as an entitled brat. “The challenge of adapting the novel for the screen was that the characters at no point should feel like they are reductive and one dimensional,” she says. “That is why we also cast the actors close to the characters, which helped in making it easier,” she adds. Sen had always dreamt of being part of a show set in this world. “Me and my best friends would watch these rom-coms featuring sweet boys, nice girls, and their friends and family,” she says. “It was really comforting to watch and felt like an escape to another world. I wanted to do something like that as well.”

The development of the show had begun two years before Debbie came on board as a director. She hadn’t read the novel then. “When I read it, I found that there is a certain complexity lying in the simple world of the story,” she says. “On the surface, it is about love, relationships, and friendships. But there are so many layers. That’s why I loved the potential of the novel to be turned into a show.” She feels that the show gives a new flavour to the novel by presenting it in a different manner. “All the major characters are taken from the book, but the storylines were presented in such a way that each character has a journey and moments of learning. The book focused more on Asmara, but the show focuses on everybody,” Debbie says

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