Watching her film "Manto" on the big screen during its world premiere at the 71st Cannes Film Festival was "special and surreal" for actress Rasika Dugal, who says having her movie at the prestigious event marks a check out off her bucket list.
This was Rasika's second time at the Cannes. Last year, the team of "Manto" -- director Nandita Das and lead actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui -- had introduced the movie by sharing its first look. This time, the film premiered.
"I could feel that the audience was with the film and the story while we were watching, but I was overwhelmed by the warmth with which the audience came up to us after the screening.
"People seemed to have genuinely connected with the film and were quite moved. That is all you want from a piece of work you do...that it should shift something in the audience while they are watching and hopefully stay with them. I felt that," Rasika told IANS on phone and social media.
"Manto" is a biographical film based on acclaimed late Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Nawazuddin's portrayal as Manto and Rasika's act as his wife Safia garnered positive reviews at Cannes.
"The kind of respect that the Cannes film festival has and considering how well-known it is in India, it helps create a better buzz for the film abroad and in India too, getting more people interested in watching the film," Rasika said.
How is the visibility at the Cannes film festival going to help her career?
"It gives me a big check on my bucket list. Closer to the announcement of the Cannes line-up, I was trying to tell myself that even if it doesn't happen, it's okay... I was trying to console myself. But I realised it would have been a big setback for me because having a film at the Cannes film fest was clearly on my bucket list, and I was like this is the closest I've got to it... If it doesn't happen now, then it may be difficult to happen.
"The fact that it made it has given me a lot of encouragement. So, I hope I get to come here many more times. And like Nawaz, I hope I also get to go to Cannes some eight times," Rasika said with childlike excitement.
At the film gala, she also joined 81 women film industry professionals from different countries to show solidarity against the gender discrimination at the platform. To become a part of the "historic moment" with names like Cate Blanchett, Salma Hayek, Jane Fonda, Patty Jenkins and Nandita, was a moving experience for her.
Rasika has clocked a decade since joining showbiz. A Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) alumnus, she started with roles in films like "Anwar", "No Smoking", "Hijack" and "Tahaan", before she landed a lead role in "Kshay" and then a plum part in Anup Singh's "Qissa", which amplified her presence at film festivals. She has also dabbled in theatre, television and web series.
Looking back at the journey, she said: "When I first joined the industry after FTII, I was advised not to take up smaller parts as people told me I will never be able to transition to bigger roles. I really felt that at that point, the only way I knew how to connect for my work was through showcasing my work. So I thought I will take the risk and take a chance and I'll see what will happen.
"At that point, I wasn't able to understand if I was ready to take a lead part myself when I was out of the institute. I wanted to make sure I was skilled enough for having an entire film resting on my shoulders. I decided to do things my way and as per what seemed right to me."
She's glad it worked out well.
"I don't know how things would have turned out if I had not taken that route... But I think while there have been a lot of rejections, there have also been a lot of things which miraculously worked. For 'Qissa', somebody else was cast, and last minute something didn't work out and I was cast. Nandita saw 'Qissa' and decided she wanted me to do 'Manto'."
Rejection, she says, still affects her, but she feels she is better at dealing with it today.
"I feel like it's going to be a part of the deal, so might as well make it a little friend that you will walk along with in the journey."
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at email@example.com)