Purab Kohli on Out of Love: My performance got better with the presence of Rasika Dugal
The actor discusses his new show, playing a grey character, shooting in Coonoor, and working with Rasika Dugal
It’s a winter of slow disquiet. Last week, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story followed a New York couple through the transit of modern divorce. Meanwhile, Hotstar subscribers have had a chance to binge on Out of Love, an Indian remake of the British drama Doctor Foster. The five-episode series is directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and stars Rasika Dugal and Purab Kohli in the lead roles. The story centres on Meera Kapoor (Rasika), a successful doctor whose peaceful existence is upended when she discovers that her husband, Akarsh (Purab), is having an affair. What follows is the unravelling of a thirteen-year-long relationship, peppered with the doubts and insecurities of a fraying marriage and crushing parental guilt.
We caught up with Purab, who plays the repentant Akarsh Kapoor, a real estate broker struggling with a crumbling personal life, to discuss the show and its layers.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Before anything, tell us about your salt-and-pepper look in the show.
We wanted everyone to see this really scruffy man and want to eat him up (laughs). For Out of Love, sporting a salt-and-pepper beard was always on the cards. I was initially thinking of a cleaner and sharper cut. When I met Tigmanshu, he felt the scruffier look went with the character. Thankfully, it seems to have worked well with my fans.
The show opens with Meera’s perspective. However, as the drama builds, we get a glimpse into Akarsh’s side of the story.
I happened to see Doctor Foster several years back and was gripped by its story. I don’t get offered grey characters that often. People like to put me in a positive space. In this show, what I liked most was the shift — from an out-and-out ‘black’ character, Akarsh transforms into someone more complex. Also, as the story unravels, you realise Dr Meera Kapoor has grey shades too, and that everyone is twisted in this little town. So you don’t look at Akarsh in such a bad light anymore. Your perspective changes and you almost feel sorry for him near the end.
Did the mini-series format also help in fleshing out these characters?
Definitely. First off, you have much more time compared to a two-hour film. The tricky part, here, is to ensure the character is not stuck in one place. The writing has to keep moving to keep the audience engrossed. Secondly, there’s the joy of a break between two episodes. A lot of unnecessary transitioning is taken care of because of it.
Conversely, a mini-series takes about three months to shoot. There’s never that feeling of lag or holding onto a character for too long, which happens a lot in television serials and can get quite annoying. So this is a perfect format to add more layers to your part but not get bored of it.
The show is set in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. How was your experience shooting in a hill station? The atmosphere lends itself well to the story.
In the 80s and 90s, a lot of our song sequences would be shot in the Southern hill stations. But there weren’t many stories set there. Doctor Foster was shot in the northern parts of England. They did not use a very picturesque location like we did. I have always been fond of shooting outdoors, far from the city. The beautiful town of Coonoor added so much character to the show. Waking up in the misty mountains, getting to shoot early… these simple, physical pleasures make your workspace much better.
You and Rasika go back a long way.
Rasika and my cousin went to FTII together. We were both part of P.O.W. - Bandi Yuddh Ke, though in limited scenes together. Then, in Manto, she was in the main story and I was in one of the short stories. I was excited to collaborate with her in Out of Love. My performance always gets better when there’s a powerful, supportive co-actor. The chemistry between us has turned out nice. It comes from two actors who take their craft seriously and work towards improving a scene. She’s a tremendous actor and it was great fun working with her.
You also appeared in Netflix’s Typewriter this year. How enabling has the digital revolution been for you?
It’s the future, really. From a business aspect, there’s been an explosion of platforms and investment. There’s also a lot more employment. You don’t need to wait for an A-lister to get a project off the ground. At the same time, it’s a bit detrimental because of the longer commitments required for these shows. For instance, I had to let go of two films this year to finish Typewriter and Out of Love. So they feed off each other. But from a creative standpoint, the web is really pushing the envelope and opening our minds to new content.