From Mirzapur to Gandi Baat and now, Hai Taubba; Amika Shail has been taking on roles which are not only unconventional but also breaking the stereotype. With more projects showing a strong female voice in her upcoming projects, Amika is ready to take on the road less chartered. International Business Times got in touch with the actress to talk about her roles, her family's reaction to her characters and more.
Tell us about your decision to come to Mumbai and try your luck at acting.
My decision to come to Mumbai was overnight. I realized that I will not be able to make a career in singing by just sitting in Kolkata. I conveyed this to my parents and they supported me fully in this. It was after coming to Mumbai I realized that this fight has to be fought alone. I knew nobody and nothing about this industry. I had just 2 options - staying here and making my mark in the industry or go back to Kolkata. But I selected the first one and the rest is history.
Then I got the opportunity to playback for a movie. I had struggled a lot for it and after years of hard work, I could finally achieve it. People started recognizing me as a singer. I was among the top 20 YouTube singers in the country. But then the transition from singing to acting happened. It was like starting my journey all over again. All these years I was putting in efforts for singing and then suddenly acting happened.
Stepping into the world of acting was accidental for me. Yet I have strived hard to make a place for myself in the acting industry. From doing TV, to web series and a movie, the journey has been equally exciting and difficult.
What do you think was the point where people started recognizing you?
If I talk about acting in specific, then I think my role in Mirzapur2 was recognized highly by the people. I was part of this song Titar Bitar wherein I played the role of a bar singer. The role came naturally to me since I have been a singer all my life. I became emotional when the news broke of my confirmation in Mirzapur. I had watched season one in 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed it, just like the millions of fans the world over. However, being a part of the show was magical. My pulse went ticking when on my first day on the sets I saw Kaleen Bhaiyya (Pankaj Tripathi), Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Munna (Divyendu). I loved working with the stellar cast and crew. I learned a lot watching Pankaj ji acting as he has a very raw way of doing things. His perspective as an artist is amazing. I shared the screen Divyendu and that particular scene has become a hit among the audience.
After Mirzapur 2, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of many good series like Chattis aur Maina on Disney Plus Hotstar and Gandi Baat 5 and Hai Taubba on Alt Balaji, and the movie Laxxmi with Akshay Kumar. God has been really kind to bless me with such roles.
While there are many who don't prefer going bold given the fear of being stereotyped. Did you have to overcome any such thought, advice?
My entry into acting had been very unplanned. I have no formal training in acting which is contrary to my singing career. I have been training as a singer since the age of 5. However, when I was called for the first acting audition and then I decided to step into the acting world, I never had these preconceived notions. Acting just happened and I bagged one role after the other.
I never have faced this fear of being stereotyped. All the roles that I have played to date are very different from each other. I have done horror, I have done comedy, I have done thrillers and none of them was a repetition of what I have done earlier. Even if I have played a role that requires me to give bold scenes on the screen, it has always been only for the demand of the script. All these scenes were never imposed in the script or done just for the sake of it.
But yes, there is always a fear of the way these scenes would turn out on the screen. Most of my bold shots are only suggestive. I make sure I discuss my comfort level with the production before the start of the shoot. I believe the kind of roles I have been offered are purely on the basis of my performance. All my characters have always been very strong on the screen and it has never happened that I am being approached just for the bold scenes.
How were you approached for Hai Taubba? You play a bisexual. What was your initial reaction to the role you were offered?
I was approached at the very last moment for the role in Hai Taubba. The rest of the team had already finished shooting 1 sequence in Delhi till then. So I had to start with the shoot immediately after I was cast for it. This left me with very little time to prepare for the role. I prepared for the script in the very limited time that I had. However, I must say that the character that I play on screen is that of a very strong and empowered woman and I was able to do justice to it. People are loving my character and I have heard some great reviews. This could only have been possible because of my crew and the amazing co-stars.
Every character that an actor plays on screen has its own challenges. And playing a bisexual character on screen comes with its own set of preconceived notions and judgments. As a society, we still haven't fully accepted people with alternate sexuality. So it becomes difficult to accept such characters on screen as well. When you are a part of a show whose storyline revolves around bisexuality and same-sex partners it becomes essential to be very sensitive in the way you perform it on screen. Anything that you say or do shouldn't affect your audience in the wrong way. Also, it is important for the audience to accept such characters with an open mindset. A person's sexual needs are very sacrosanct to himself/ herself. I believe nobody should be judged or grouped on the basis of it.
I always believe in researching a lot before portraying a character on screen. But with Hai Tauba, I was cast at the last minute and that did not leave me with much of time to prepare for my role. However, I had played a character of a homosexual girl before and that came to my help. Also the entire lockdown I had spent a lot of time watching movies and series, trying to understand the different emotions and shades of the characters. All this helped me to play my part in Hai Tauba. It is one of my best-played characters till date.
How does your family react to your choice of roles?
My family has always been my great support. As I have already mentioned that my decision to come to Mumbai was overnight. It would not have been possible without my parent's support. I come from a middle-class family and my mother helped me with her savings money when I told her about my plans to go to Mumbai. Other than my parents I do not give much importance to what my relatives have to say about my acting skills or the kind of roles that I perform on screen. I discuss all my roles with my parents. It is never that any of my roles have come as a surprise for them. They have always believed in me and my decisions. They have been like a guide to me. Whenever I am in a soup and unable to take a decision I definitely discuss it with them and they show me the way forward. They have always asked me to remain focused on my goal and keep putting in my efforts for the same.
Do you think issues like LGBTQ, Women's Right, and Gender Issues often made a mockery of on our small screen?
LGBTQ , Women's Right and Gender issues have always been in the limelight on the screen whether big or small. Yes, earlier they were made mockery off. The way these issues were portrayed on screen was very conventional and stereotyped. But things have changed now. Especially after the advent of OTT platforms. They are open to experimenting with different kinds of stories and varied characters. The way they bring out these issues on the screen has also changed. Most of such relationships shown on screen are not just for showing sexual inclinations but also for giving out a strong message to society. Also most of the time it is the main or lead character of the series that is shown having alternate sexual preferences. That also helps in giving out a strong message to the audience. I have also played similar kinds of roles. My character in Gandi Baat 5 was a lesbian and the one in Hai Taubba is a bisexual. But both the characters are very strong, they are very empowering and they do not fear coming out as somebody that has alternate sexual preferences. They are very open, vocal and confident about it. So I believe, things are changing for good and people are also welcoming this change.