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Sana Jafri acts in ‘Gidh’ teleplay, calls the hybrid theatre format exciting

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Sana Jafri acts in 'Gidh' teleplay, calls the hybrid theatre format exciting Sana Jafri acts in 'Gidh' teleplay, calls the hybrid theatre format excitingBy Siddhi Jain

New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANSlife) Pakistani actress Sana Jafri, who features in Zee Theatre’s latest teleplay ‘Gidh’ — the story of two women’s lives connected with one man — says that she could feel her character in her bones by the end of the shooting.

Saleema’s mundane life is disrupted after an unexpected visit from Salma who claims to be her sister-in-law. As the plot unfolds, both the women share the miseries of their respective lives caused by the same man – Junaid, Salma’s brother and Saleema’s husband. Together, they decide to put an end to their suffering. What in fact transpires changes one of their lives forever, but not in the way that she had expected. This engrossing thriller stars Sana Jafri, Raasti Farooq and Adeel Afzal.

The filming director for ‘Gidh’ is Kanwal Khoosat and the play can be watched on Tata Sky. The play will be aired on Dish and D2H Rangmanch on January 31.

An IANSlife chat with Sana Jafri:

What was the brief that Kanwal gave you for your character? How did you understand and ‘get into the character’?

Jafri: Getting into character honestly was not very easy for me because the character had a lot of layers and it was very complex. The dialogues were taken from mundane, routine situations so there was no direct conversation. It was hard to gauge what the women were actually feeling and what their emotions were. So, it was very difficult to pull it off as an actor but the greatest thing about this whole experience was that Kanwal sat with both me and my co-star Raasti, discussed these characters and related them to our lives and to the lives of all the other women we know. Be it our mothers, our grandmothers, or aunts. We see these women as normal and domesticated beings at home but not as complex characters. Kanwal wrote these two women very intricately and once I was in character, it was very hard for me to get out of it even after the play ended.

We made our own backstories that we could really relate to. And once we embodied the backstories, we became the characters and didn’t really have to act. We just had to react to what was happening before us. Kanwal never told me how to act but we just knew what the motivation for a certain dialogue or certain scene was. And we would just perform within that framework authentically. We did not care how it would look but how we felt while performing a moment. It was important to do justice to the characters and feel truthful.

Salma has a hard to define personality with many layers. What was your take on her?

Jafri: Salma’s character is definitely hard to define. She seems very fierce and sure of herself on the outside but on the inside, she’s vulnerable and scared. She’s been through more traumatic experiences than Saleema and she has built this defence mechanism and a facade of a strong, almost feelingless person who’s constantly taunting Saleema whenever she gets the chance. That’s because she has suffered so much and has been betrayed by every person she has ever trusted be it her brother or her husband who was also her rapist. In order to protect her core, in order to survive, she has had to become this hardened person. This dichotomy between what she is actually feeling and what she says is what I really wanted to explore. There was hardly a dialogue in the script that Salma spoke with a single motivation . There were always multiple motivations behind each dialogue and this helped me create a nuanced performance.

Tell us about the powerful scene where Salma and Saleema break down on the floor together.

Jafri: First of all, thank you for saying that it was a very powerful scene. I am very happy to hear that and I also feel very humbled because I have not seen the teleplay myself yet. I have goosebumps thinking about those hours when we shot it and what we felt during that time because it was all so real. There was so much truth to it. My co-actor Raasti and I were both on that floor for about four hours and all those tears were real because we had fleshed out our characters so much and had talked to each other so much. Theatre and these different characters that you play kind of give you the liberty to share things and bond with co-actors, directors and the crew in a way you wouldn’t otherwise with anyone else. We would all sit in a circle and everyone talked about how they could relate to Salma or Saleema or share something about their mother, aunt or grandmother. We shared so many stories with each other and created this unique bond that just connected us even though we are all so different. At the end of the rehearsals, I knew who Salma was and could feel her in my bones.

There’s always a constant pressure of performing for society and hiding your true emotions and running away from your own self and the truth. These two women Salma and Saleema start by trying to dominate and taunt each other to win arguments. I think they hardly ever let their guard down until they realise that they share a strong bond and what bonds them is their misery and the fact that the source of their misery is the same. Until this point, the two women have hid their misery very well not just from the world but also from their own selves.

What are your views on the teleplay format?

Jafri: The teleplay format is a very intriguing medium for us actors. It is a hybrid form combining theatre and film and we were more than excited to experiment and explore. We got to dig deep and add nuance to our performances since we had a lot of time to rehearse, to get to know our characters, and build a strong bond with the co-actor before the performance. But since we were going to be performing for the screen, we had to measure all our movements and contain our energy. As a theatre actor, it was a little challenging for me to not be larger than life and restrain myself. But that worked out really well and was a learning curve for me as a performer to strike the right balance.

What was the experience like to act in a teleplay? How does the format differ for an actor? Is it more challenging to work in a setting where the focus is only on the actors and the lines being spoken?

Jafri: The biggest challenge I would say was the format that we were supposed to follow because honestly, we did not strictly follow any. I have been doing theatre for the last 10-12 years. I have also written and directed for the screen. I understand both of these mediums really well but to be able to create a bridge between the two was the biggest challenge. This challenge though became our biggest strength because unlike in television where actors get virtually no time to rehearse or to internalise the character, we got ample time. And unlike theatre, that restricts intimacy because we see no zoom shots or closeups, we had the liberty to break the fourth wall and get up close and personal with the characters. Also our audience is much bigger when we perform theatre for television so that was another advantage.

How did you personally interpret the story of ‘Gidh’? How do you think the audience will react to it?

Jafri: Filming ‘Gidh’ was a great experience for me because it wasn’t a theatre play or a soap opera. It was, as I said before, a hybrid format between theatre and TV. What made it so special was that we could blend the best of both worlds. As in theatre, we went through a process of extensive rehearsals and developing the back story of a character. And when it was time to film the story, we didn’t have any certain set of rules to follow because with a new kind of medium that is still evolving, we had the freedom to do what we wanted. We had a lot of room for experimentation so filming it was a very interesting, exciting, and challenging experience. As an actor, it was the best experience of my life so far.

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