Actor Lara Dutta says she is at a stage in her career where she is in search of characters that promise to leave a lasting impression rather than chase prime roles.
Lara Dutta has been working in the industry since her big-screen debut in 2003 with Andaaz and has featured in several successful films in the last two decades.
In an interview with PTI, the actor said what gets her to board a project today is the script, the people involved in mounting it and the scope it has for her to try something new. That is why, she said, even a film like BellBottom which was headlined by Akshay Kumar, got her excited as she got to play the role of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
“It is the content that is being made, what the character is doing is what excites me. I have gone long past the phase where I want to play the lead or the prime character, because at the end of the day, I genuinely feel you will be limiting yourself greatly if you are going to come with that mindset.”
“There are some incredible characters that leave an indelible mark on your mind, long after a show or a film is over. Playing Mrs Gandhi in BellBottom is a fine example, where the film was led by a top hero. But I knew if I had the opportunity to play her, I would do it in a way she would never be forgotten on screen,” Dutta said.
The 43-year-old actor said she isn’t just keen to experiment with her characters but also switch genres in the digital space, since her OTT debut in 2020.
While her debut series Hundred featured her as a cop, her 2021 follow-up with Hiccups and Hookups saw her in the role of a single mother navigating the world of dating.
She is now gearing up for the release of her third OTT outing, Kaun Banegi Shikharwati, which stars Naseeruddin Shah as an eccentric king in search for his heir apparent – one among his four daughters, played by Dutta, Soha Ali Khan, Kritika Kamra and Anya Singh.
Directed by Gauravv Chawla of Baazaar fame and Ananya Banerjee, the series follows the daughters, as they compete in a series of royal games, the winner of which will be chosen as ‘king’.
Dutta, who plays the eldest daughter Devyani in the ZEE5 series, said since her character already considers herself as the heir apparent, she finds fighting for the throne “completely bizarre”.
“So their coming together to play these games with each other, leads to a lot of comedy, fun and quirkiness. I loved the opportunity to step into a world like that. Have this crazy family led by an eccentric king,” she added.
For the former Miss Universe, who was born in Uttar Pradesh and later lived in Bengaluru and Mumbai, understanding the world of royalty was not a task. She said she has seen that life through her friends, who are members of royal families.
“They live in fancy areas of Mumbai and Delhi, lead a cosmopolitan life but the moment they go back to their kingdom and principalities, they have to wear these saris with ghunghats (veils). They live in a different world for that amount of time that they spend there. These royal families do exist, who are caught in a time warp. They exist in their own little world which is separated from reality,” she added.
But the series, backed by Applause Entertainment in association with Emmay Entertainment, follows the lives of a fictional royal family through humour, she said.
“The show sounded quirky, fun, and different from anything that was on the OTT space already. We have seen a lot of dysfunctional families on screen before but this is set in a dystopian setting… Almost in a Wes Anderson type of a world.”
The series also gave the actor an opportunity to star alongside acting greats like Shah and Raghubir Yadav, Dutta said.
The idea to share screen space with the veterans was initially “scary as hell”, she added.
“I have a line on the show, where I look at Raghubir ji and Naseer saab and say, ‘Kya tum dono buddhe paagal ho gaye ho?’ (Have both of you old men lost your mind). I was like, I just can’t say this to them, I said ‘Can we please rewrite it?’ But both of them were like, ‘Just have fun with it.’”
“There is a tremendous amount of nervousness and anxiety when you are facing an actor like that. Naseer saab is lightyears ahead of us in terms of his craft. But what an incredible opportunity to watch, learn, observe and imbibe. One of the biggest reasons for me to do the show was that he was in it,” she added.
Kaun Banegi Shikharwati will premiere on January 7.