Anjali Patil: Rajini sir and I bonded over spirituality
Meet the actor behind the impressive portrayal of the feisty Puyal in Kaala
Anjali Patil describes herself as a nomad at heart. "My parents wanted me to pursue medicine, but I chose to become an artiste. I enrolled in National School of Drama and studied direction eventually. I didn't want to dissect frogs and cockroaches," says the actor, who has made an impressive Tamil debut with Kaala. Curiously, Anjali says she doesn't have any great acting ambitions. "Films pay my bills, and with whatever I make here, I travel," she says. Excerpts from a conversation follow:
Despite not having a film background, you have managed to establish your presence across the country.
I am from a humble Marathi middle-class family. Naturally, arts was never considered an option while I was growing up, but I always knew I wanted to act and learn filmmaking. Everything -- be it my debut venture, Delhi in a Day (2011) or Kaala, happened by chance. I still don't know how all this has happened. I am not a planner. Being famous was not on my bucket list.
I really liked the scene where your character (Puyal) picks up the lathi and charges at the policemen.
That was one of the few scenes Ranjith narrated when I met him. I loved my character's name and how he conceived it. It was that that made me sign Kaala. Nothing else mattered. I knew I wasn't the lead, but that's all right. When we were shooting the scene, I didn't feel uncomfortable, because I am a professional actor, and I gave my best to make it appear real. Those actors (dressed as policemen) held me up in the air. I was a bit apprehensive because I feared they'd really remove my pants. (laughs)
Were you able to connect with Puyal?
She is a drastically different person from me. Truth be told, if I were caught in a similar situation, I doubt I'd have done the same. Also, I am an introvert. A part of me is, anyway. I like to keep things to myself. If I don't like something, I've a different way of saying it. Perhaps I won't even have to say it aloud. But like her, I too can't stand injustice and exploitation. I believe in voicing out my opinion, but I don't do it in the way Puyal does.
Tell us about the Superstar that you knew on the sets of Kaala.
Everyone saw Rajini sir as a god. He treats everyone like his family. It's nice to see someone of his stature being so simple and down-to-earth. He's full of stories. During the shoot, he told us a lot of information about his old films. Sometimes, I'd not understand his stories because of the language barrier. Half the time, I had Mani (who played Lenin in the film) translating.
Rajini sir and I bonded over spirituality. I told him my insecurities, fear about life and so on. He's childlike, and doesn't judge you at all. The moment he comes near you, you are happy.
You've been deeply vocal about the colour bias, which is rooted in Indian cinema. Has that got you into trouble?
I've struggled a lot due to this issue, and so won't be silent about this. What's this obsession over fair skin? Undoubtedly, colour bias exists in our society. It is a sensitive issue that leads to low self-esteem, and should be addressed. I don't think anyone has the right to make you feel bad because they think you're not 'fair'. Any form of body shaming is harmful. People need to understand that beauty is subjective, and it's high time we educated everyone on that. We need to change our views about beauty. And as for speaking my mind, it's not arrogance, and I'd like to clarify that. How people view me is really not my problem.
Be it Chakravyuh (2012), Naa Bangaaru Talli (2013) or Newton (2017) -- you've chosen some very different films.
My views on filmmaking and acting will keep evolving with each interesting film I do. Every time I take a trip, I find my thoughts changing. I am a different person every day. When I moved out of Mumbai, people thought I was crazy. They told me I won't get films. But now, I am doing at least one film a year. I live in a small town now, and that too, I keep shifting cities. I almost live like a beggar. I earn and I spend money. I live my life like an artiste in every sense of the word. People call me delusional. I know why, but that's how I am.
I grew up in an atmosphere where I took care of myself. I had my own ideas. I was a stubborn child, and began earning my living when I was 18. I read a lot, visit art galleries, museums, and I'm into world cinema, literature and music. When I started out, I didn't have my portfolio. From there, I think I've come a long way.
Any film that's particularly important in your career?
Every film is important. And every film is not important. As long as I've money to pay my bills and travel, I am cool. Having said that, I am proud of doing Newton. It has a special place in my heart.
Right now, I am in a bored space. I want to explore and take up roles that scare me. For instance, I'd love to see myself doing a historical film or an action film. Or something philosophical like Kalidas or terrific like Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider. My dad says that when he sees her on screen, he sees me.
What's up next?
I've Rakeysh Mehra's Mere Pyare Prime Minister in the pipeline. The film revolves around the lives of four slum kids, who're based in Mumbai. One of them wants to build a toilet for his mother and makes an appeal to the Prime Minister.
I'll be directing a documentary in July, which is based on unconditional love and compassion. It's inspired by real-life people. Besides these, I've a couple of Marathi films.
I can pick up languages fast, and was thrilled to dub for my character in Kaala.