By now you already know that Rajneeti has become one of the biggest films of 2010. And while everyone stood out in the film, it was the supporting cast that held the film together. This includes the very talented Nikhila Trikha. The debutant actress went from young and feisty revolutionary to romancing Naseeruddin Shah to playing mother to Ranbir Kapoor and Arjun Rampal, all in one film. And while she thought her performance would go unnoticed, the actress went on to be noticed by every critic who reviewed the film. To her credit, she was described as “important” and “effective” in a role that was clearly fit for her. BollySpice chats with the newbie actress as she talks about the mechanics of Rajneeti, Prakash Jha and starring with easily one of the biggest ensemble casts of the year.
Firstly, congratulations on Rajneeti! You were outstanding. How does it feel to be receiving such accolade for your role?
I didn’t expect any of it. So initially it was overwhelming. More than anything else, I was very touched that so many people liked my role. It was very touching.
Did you need much convincing to play Ranbir Kapoor and Arjun Rampal’s mother in the film?
No not at all. You know that I believe that an actor is someone, at least for me, I can be whoever I want to be. And an actor is known to be versatile when they can perform under different garbs, under different circumstances and play different characters. So this is just the beginning for me and I think it was a brilliant opportunity for me honestly; to play young and then to play old.
What was Prakash Jha’s brief to you when he asked you to be a part of the film?
Very minimal! (Laughs) You see we don’t get our dialogues and the script in hand beforehand. I got my entire dialogues one night before the shoot. He hadn’t allowed me to go through the entire script of the film either but yes, he narrated the story to me and told me as to what part am I playing. He also told me there is a transition from young to old. And he referred to some books, told me to read some books on the Mahabharata. There is another book called, Mrityunjay, which is on the life of Karana, which I read. So a little bit of research including meeting activists in Delhi. For instance, there were some scenes that he shared with me like the pregnancy one so he suggested I talk to people. So I spoke to my friends who have been pregnant, spoke to my mom, to understand what that was like. He was very minimal in his brief.
You go from young revolutionalist to political mother of two grown men. How did it feel to make that transition in the film?
I can’t give you any specifics because it is such a huge creative process and you can’t really pick and choose on any one thing that contributes to it. As an actor, what I do is usually observe a lot, find out the characteristics which are common between myself and the character that I am playing and then the ones I cannot relate too. Then observe as much as you can and fit into it. That is the only way I that I know and I function with. And I’m still learning. It’s the first for me so I have a long way to go.
Apparently Ranbir is incredibly picky about the actresses who play his onscreen mothers but took an immediate liking to you. How was it working with him? Sources claim he was very attentive towards you.
Working with him was a fantastic experience. I wasn’t aware about this concern because as far as I knew Prakash [Jha] auditioned me and did a test. So I wasn’t aware about this until I read this in an article about his onscreen moms. But as far as Ranbir Kapoor is concerned, I think he is a brilliant actor and one of the things that I find very rare, especially in this industry, he is very courteous and respectful. He has good manners and he’s completely professional when we were on the job. It was very refreshing for me. He’s very alert; very with-it. And that was very nice.
You worked some of biggest names in the industry for your first film!
Didn’t I get really lucky? I think my god, they are some of the best in the industry. That was the cherry on the icing!
Did they give you any advice or tips on the set?
No. Not really. You know, Naseer Sir [Naseerudin Shah] initially, I did the scenes with him first, and he was such a generous actor! You know they say, and I have come to experience it now, that a scene between two people or maybe more, it comes out to its best when each actor is pure and honest to their part. With Naseer, he was 110% there. I was a little nervous when we shot and he caught hold of my hand and did some theater exercises. There are things in theater we learn to ensure that our nervous energy is dissipated when we do a shot. So he was there with me telling me to release it. Another guy who is a very generous actor is Ajay Devgn. They are the kind of actors who support each other because they know if one person doesn’t perform well, the whole scene falls flat.
You have an intimate scene with Naseeruddin Shah. Was it uncomfortable to romance a stalwart like Naseer?
Yes! (Laughs) It was a little uncomfortable. When I signed onto the movie, I thought it was a mere peck on the lips. I didn’t imagine it to be a full blown kissing scene which was decided on the sets. And you know what happens, is that there is so little time to really take the time ponder as to how am I going to do this? Or the consequences or even am I comfortable or uncomfortable? But it had to be done and so we did it. But like I said, more than anything else, it’s your co-actor who helps you build that kind of confidence, trust and comfort level. So there it was Naseer and he’s a God in acting. And he’s a superb human being.
You chose to debut in socio-political film and not in the lead role. Why is that?
I had no idea! I hadn’t imagined it. I was clueless. I had refused some work before that because I didn’t find that I could relate to it completely. And I didn’t find the range of performance either. But here, definitely there was a range of performance which comes along when you go from young to old; that itself allows you to perform in itself. And Prakash Jha is one the finest directors this country has. In fact, when he took my audition, I’m sure he was getting insights into me and I was reaching conclusions about him myself. And I realized what a brilliant director he is. He knows exactly when an actor is being honest and exactly when he is being dishonest. He can tell you when to do it from the heart; he wants honesty from the expression and doesn’t want to you to fake it. I decided that day that this is the man I want to work with and he decided three days later that he would have me in film.
Have you seen any of Jha’s previous films?
Yes, I had seen Mrityudand and I saw little bit of Gangajaal and Apaharan. Before I did the film, I had only seen Mrityudand. I wasn’t really aware of who he was and his acclaim. But when I walked into his office, I was quite surprised.
How have people reacted to your role? What kind of reactions have you been getting?
Roshni, God has been very kind! The reactions have been 90% favorable. I have seen the film myself and have critically reviewed my work, my performance and the film. A lot of people other than me have done the same. I didn’t even think that anybody would review my performance because I’m a nobody in the industry.
But you have been mentioned in every review! You did stand out inherently.
Thank you so much! It’s just that I didn’t imagine this; didn’t even think of it. I really thought this is just going to go onto my show reel as another character that I performed for a film. It didn’t even occur to me anything more than that. To me the film finished last year and I’ve been doing so many things after that. I haven’t even been in Bombay. I was living in the Himalayas, running a caf